Saturday Racing Tips: Five bets for a stunning day of action at Ascot

Stradivarius horse
Will Desert Skyline get the better of Stradivarius at Ascot?
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It's British Champions Day at Ascot and Tony Calvin is not short of a bet for a huge day of racing at the Berkshire track...

"We know what a good stayer Desert Skyline is on his day, as she showed when beating Thomas Hobson pretty easily in the Doncaster Cup last season, and don't forget what a big race he ran against Stradivarius at York in May."

Soft ground offers Desert Skyline a major chance

I am not sure if I am going to Ascot yet - my car is being looked at on Friday, and I despise train travel if the motor is not given the green light in time - but one thing is for sure and that is a fair few punts on the Champions' Day card are in the offing, starting with Desert Skyline in the opener at 13:30.

The horse owes me a fair few quid after blowing out totally in the Gold Cup, and the concern is that he isn't at his best on the track, and maybe is suited to a longer straight.

But he ran okay behind Torcedor here under a 5lb penalty on his reappearance in the Sagaro Stakes, and he was beaten only just shy of four lengths in a Queen's Vase.

If you look at his best form though, he is no 40/1+ chance, and I have been gnawing away at him during the week.

The each-way element has unfortunately disappeared with just the seven runners, so it's a win-only bet at [42.0] or bigger on the exchange now.

There was certainly a lot of promise in his fourth over 1m3f at Newbury last time as he was never going to be seen to best effect over that trip, but he stuck on really well against much pacier types. And the bare form makes for pretty impressive reading.

The third Desert Encounter won the Grade 1 International in Woodbine at the weekend, while the fifth Euginio was impressive in a Group 3 victory at Newmarket on Saturday, too.

We know what a good stayer Desert Skyline is on his day, as she showed when beating Thomas Hobson pretty easily in the Doncaster Cup last season, and don't forget what a big race he ran against Stradivarius at York in May.

He was giving the winner 3lb when a three-length second there, and he had Call To Mind, who won a Grade 2 at Belmont next time out, back in third, with classy stayers Max Dynamite and Count Octave in fourth and fifth.

He handles soft ground well enough, and he looks a huge price.

Stradivarius looks a horse to take on at the prices if you ask me, not least because he has been beaten every time he has raced with soft in the going description (four times).

I wouldn't go overboard about that stat as he ran perfectly well when a length third in this race last season, and there was cut in the ground when he was an excellent third in the Leger, but his best efforts have been on quick ground and I thought he was a little laboured when picking up Count Octave, and his £1m bonus, at York last time.

The other horse to touch on in the race is Sir Erec, who proved a revelation when beating 100+-rated horses over 1m4f at Limerick at the weekend.

The way he finished off that race suggests the quick turnaround and a step up to this 2m trip is well worth trying - his dam is related to a Queen's Vase winner and Leger runner-up Mahler - and there was little surprise to see that he has been nibbled at during the week. I think his revised mark of 105 underestimates that Limerick form.

Tasleet to end run of second-places in Group 1s

No-one is going to argue that The Tin Man doesn't deserve to be favourite for the Sprint at 14:00 but a price of 3/1 hardly gets the juices flowing.

That said, he is by far the most solid proposition, having gained compensation for unlucky runs in the Diamond Jubilee and Prix Maurice de Gheest when winning his third Group 1 at Haydock last time, and he also won this race in 2016.

However, Harry Angel is clearly a huge threat if coming back to his best - and, yes, we know he is 0 from five at Ascot, thanks - and Librisa Breeze looked a star when beating Tasleet in a very quick time in this race last year.

But both have been below par of late, and I am putting up Tasleet win and place, at [11.0] and [3.6] respectively.

I think the first-time blinkers, replacing cheekpieces, can see him shed his nearly-tag in Group 1 sprints (three seconds so far), he should relish the ground and has run crackers on both starts at Ascot (he also finished second to The Tin Man in the Diamond Jubilee here last year).

On the face of it, he was very disappointing behind The Tin Man and Brando (another each-way contender) at Haydock last time but he got tightened up badly approaching the furlong pole, not that it affected the result in any way, and I am willing to forgive him that below-par run.

And that was his first run since May, so he could have needed it, more than expected, in the deep ground. Hopefully, a draw in one is no massive inconvenience, as the pace is on the opposite side.

Magical my each-way play against Lah Ti Dar

Lah Ti Dar is another understandable favourite in the Fillies And Mares at 14:40 but I feel she is a rank bad price at around 11/8 in a field that doesn't lack depth.

John Gosden's filly sets the race up nicely for an each-way bet against her, and there are several candidates. None more enticing than my big-price Arc fancy Magical at 15/2 with the Betfair Sportsbook.

Her juvenile form, the best of which came on soft ground, and her recent Group efforts over 1m and 1m1f is not far off that posted by the favourite and the likes of Coronet and Kitesurf, and I thought she ran a blinder from a wide draw and from well off the pace at Longchamp.

She never got into the race on her first start over 1m4f, but she stayed on steadily on the outside, and I think we will see a more aggressive ride here. Well, perhaps not aggressive given some of her stablemates will go forward, but she will hopefully sit a lot handier from stall six.

She has a similar profile to Hydrangea, who won this race stepping up in trip to 1m4f last season, and I'll be a fair bit poorer if she doesn't hit the frame.

Roaring Lion changes shape of the QEII

The betting complexion of the QEII at 15:15 has been totally changed by the appearance of Roaring Lion re-routed from the Champion on account of the testing ground.

On form grounds, he is fully entitled to be as short as 9/4, but you are a braver man than I if you are willing to back him at that price coming back to 1m on soft ground, and drawn on one of the wings in 15 of 15.

The pace in the race is all drawn low to middle, and that isn't ideal.

I backed Lightning Spear, in the same colours, for the race earlier in the week, as someone kept on offering him at [34.0] on the exchange, and I was happy to oblige.

That was a massive price but someone suggested to me that perhaps Lightning Spear would go forward from stall 13 to help out his "ownermate", and that has got me worried. He won't, will he?

I will just stick with my ante-post bet and not go in again - and it is a devilishly difficult race to solve - though Century Dream, at 25/1 each-way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook did catch my eye, too.

His stable is in red-hot form, he ran a screamer when fourth in the Queen Anne and loves deep ground and this track.
Cracksman is yet another Gosden favourite for the Champion at 15:50 and he surely has to be taken on at around 10/11 given that he hasn't run since Royal Ascot and wears first-time blinkers.

I will balance this by saying that the horse has won two Group 1s, and been second to a subsequent King George winner on his other start, in three runs this season and Gosden knows what he is doing when initially putting on blinkers.

He is 30 from 197 with this option since 2006, and his Jack Hobbs won in them in the Group 1 Sheema Classic last year. What you oppose Cracksman with is the difficulty and, if pressed, it could be that his stablemate Monarchs Glen provides the best each-way punt at around 12/1 in the dead-eight contest.

He won his only start on soft ground, and he did really well when defying a 5lb penalty with some ease in the Wolferton at Royal Ascot.

But we have not seen him since then either, and that is obviously worrying. I am not getting involved here on the tipping front, but I will probably personally end up laying Cracksman at evens or shorter, I imagine. Or I could just leave the race alone.

Two to play in the closer

I took a flier at a massive price with Via Via in the Cambridgeshire and I was surprised that he remained a general 14/1 chance on Monday for the Balmoral at 16:30 after Ryan Moore was booked.

I was even more shocked when the Betfair Sportsbook briefly offered him at that price again on Thursday afternoon, and five places to boot, but I am content to put him up win-only at [14.5] on the exchange.

He was on offer at [100.0] for the Cambridgeshire when my copy went live a few weeks back, mainly because it was assumed he needed soft ground, but he proved that wrong when running a stormer to finish third at Newmarket on good to firm.

He has gone up just 2lb for that run and gets his soft ground here, and his earlier second to Argentello on the July Course - when he raced in first-time blinkers, which have made a difference it seems - was franked when the winner followed up in style at Kempton earlier this week.

Argentello is a big runner here - and it is no surprise that the 14/1 in the marketplace soon became 10/1 on Thursday afternoon - but Via Via is now 10lb better off with him for a length and that gets my betting vote.

I can't resist a saver on South Seas at [17.0] or bigger, though.

He ran a decent second at Goodwood last time but I think the combination of a strongly-run race in a big field on soft ground could be the making of him.

He ran a decent second at Goodwood last time but I think the combination of a strongly-run race in a big field on soft ground could be the making of him.

He was a big eye-catcher off a 3lb higher mark than this at Sandown in July, and let's hope the first-time cheekpieces can also help unlock that potential. If you can get 16/1 on the Sportsbook, it's worth an each-way punt as well as the win-only on the Exchange.

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