Royal Ascot Day 3 Tips: Tony Calvin's five best bets for Thursday

Royal Ascot field with empty stand
TC says Thursday is a tough betting day at Royal Ascot
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He's keeping a close eye on the ground once again but Tony Calvin returns after a winning Wednesday with five bets for Gold Cup day at the Royal meeting...

"I think you can reasonably take on Stradivarius in the Gold Cup at 15:35 after a rushed preparation - he normally has a far longer gap between his races - and Technician looks the obvious win and place play to me."

Technician in Betfair exchange each-way market at [6.0] or bigger in 15:35

It is a boring intro yet again but it's a bit of a guess-up as to how soft it will be at Royal Ascot on Thursday.

If there is any soft in the ground at all.

At a time when thunderstorms were hitting the south of the country on Wednesday, the track missed everything - at the time of writing at least - but it does look wet all through Thursday.

But we shall see.

Start with small stakes on Highland Chief

And it wasn't as if the opening 3yo 1m2f handicap at 13:15 wasn't hard enough to solve without having an accurate handle on the ground.

You can obviously see the case for the favourite Acquitted as he has won on heavy and comes here on the back of an excellent second to Group 1 candidate Palace Pier at Newcastle on his return, and fellow market leaders Hypothetical and Global Storm have plenty going for them, too.

But they have predictably been well found by the layers, and my gut feel from the start of looking at this content was to give it a swerve.

But then I landed on Highland Chief at [21.0] or bigger, and he rates a small stakes bet. He has won on soft (on debut, which is clearly no negative given that he makes his seasonal reappearance here) and finished third to Pinatubo on good in the Chesham here last year, and the step up to 1m2f should be fine on pedigree, as his dam won over 1m4f and he is a half-brother to a middle-distance winner from the yard.

And maybe the first-time cheek pieces could be a plus, even though the yard are only one from 23 with this headgear option since 2016. So not exactly a positive stat.

However, the Cole combo have had a couple of recent winners, and I will take my chances at 20/1+ on what looks a tricky punting card, even without factoring in the weather.

Mountain Angel the bet in big field

The 16-runner Wolferton Stakes at 13:50 really is a headscratcher, not least because there will be plenty of hard luck stories with such a big field, and it probably has more depth than the betting suggests, as it is 10/1 bar three (Fox Tal, Sir Dragonet and Regal Reality).

Eclipse third Regal Reality, gelded since we last saw him, is the form horse but I am worried about the weather forecast for him.

Softening ground would bring plenty of others into it, notably Mountain Angel, who looks the punt in the race at 16/1 each-way, four places with the Betfair Sportsbook.

He has an excellent record when fresh, winning first time up over 1m on soft ground here in May 2018, and he prevailed again on his seasonal reappearance at Epsom last year.

His best efforts have come on testing ground, though he won a strong handicap off 101 at Epsom on good last season, and he has a very likeable profile for a race like this.

Granted, he "only" finished fifth in this contest last season, but he didn't have a lot of racing room up the inner in the straight there and that was a very deep renewal anyway, with the first four home - Addeybb, Magic Wand, Elarqam and Latrobe - all proven Group 1 winners/performers.

Celestin the form pick in the 14:25

Boringly, I liked the second and third favourites, Molatham and Celestin, most in the Jersey Stakes at 14:25 - though there is plenty of confidence behind Monarch Of Egypt it seems - with the latter getting the nod at [8.0] or bigger.

There is no major story about him. He was a dual winner in heavy ground last season and is just about the form pick here on his recent fourth in the French 2,000 Guineas on good to soft.

He was just about in front at the furlong marker there, so the step down to 7f could prove a smart move, and hopefully the first-time cheekpieces will allow him to settle into his race a touch better.

It seems that Battleground, by War Front out of Arc winner Found, is well fancied in the Chesham at 15:00.

But regular readers will know I rarely get involved in two-year-old races - especially ones where all the runners have had just the one start - and who knows how the youngsters will cope if the ground gets bad? Pass.

Technician an obvious win and place play

The prospect of a non-runner in the eight-runner Gold Cup at 15:35 must be a possibility, so I suggest you utilise the Betfair each-way market if you want such a punt here (the original place terms stand in this market, with a Rule 4 deduction).

You may have to wait until Wednesday to play in the market, as the liquidity often comes later than the main lines, but I suggest you do and back Technician each-way at [6.0] or bigger.

I think you can reasonably take on Stradivarius after a rushed preparation - he normally has a far longer gap between his races - and Technician looks the obvious win and place play to me.

He won first time up last season and progressed rapidly through the staying ranks, notching up his Group 1 success with a defeat of Call The Wind in the Prix Royal-Oak over 1m7f in heavy ground in October.

That gives you every hope that he will stay this trip with another winter on his back, and Call The Wind, who has won twice since, is one of the best stayers in France, so the form looks very strong.

Technician could be the coming force in this division, and he may arrive here, with Stradivarius possibly a touch vulnerable after his Newmarket exertions over 1m4f less than two weeks ago. And any significant rain would obviously weaken the favourite's chance.

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Trail odds leads me to a big-price bet

I usually love a big-field handicap to solve but the Britannia at 16:10 looks ridiculously difficult this year, especially with recent form at a premium.

Path Of Thunder has a decent chance on the clock, and I adore is a good headgear stat, so that makes Dubai Mirage, running in the same colours, interesting.

He has had a recent run, when winning easily at heavy odds-on at Kempton last week, and they have put first-time cheek pieces on him here. Saeed Bin Suroor is 13 from 56 with that headgear move in recent years.

He was the most tempting at 16/1+ but he may not be ideally drawn in three and he did pick up a 5lb penalty for that maiden win, though he is not that badly treated on his York third to good horses last season.

Basically, the race looks a total nightmare though, full of unexposed 3yos, so I was going to swerve it until the Betfair Sportsbook went 28/1, six places, about Cherokee Trail.

That is worth a few quid.

He won his debut here last term, won under a penalty next time, and I thought he shaped really well for a long way over 1m2f in a Listed race at Newmarket on his reappearance. Well handicapped on his Newbury win, and back to 1m, he looks too big a price.

The draw in two is an obvious negative but I can live with it at the odds. I am sure connections will have a plan if the bias persists (and things could change with rain).

If the handicapper is right then the Sandringham at 16:40 is far more straightforward.

The 2/1 favourite African Dream is 16lb well-in here after her second at Newbury last week - it could have been more on a strict reading of the form - so the others are behind the eight ball handicap-wise.

However, it is likely to be much softer here and she has an extra furlong to travel in a race which will be run at a different tempo - she is no certainty to stay 1m on pedigree - so she could have more on her plate than the betting suggests.

Kalsara at 33/1+ on the exchange looked fair, but I would be really forcing a bet if I put something up in this handicap, too. So I won't.

Good luck. It looks a pretty tough punting day.

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