Royal Ascot Lays: Sceptical is no Diamond geezer

It's the fifth and final day of Royal Ascot 2020
There are eight races on the final day with Frankie Dettori aiming to catch Jim Crowley and finish top jockey

It's the final day of Royal Ascot and Patrick Weaver has looked through the card and come up with three fancied horses to lay...

"It is impossible to fault his attitude, and we've probably not seen the best of him, but should Sceptical be favourite for a Group One?"

The headline lay has to be Sceptical in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at 15:35. It is not a strong renewal of this Group 1 sprint, but Frankie Dettori's mount has no experience of this level of competition.

The former Godolphin four-year-old has only been racing for the last eight months and is unbeaten since his trainer decided to put a tongue strap on Sceptical on race days. He won a maiden and two handicaps at Dundalk before stepping up to Listed class at Naas, where he quickened up nicely for a comfortable win.

It is impossible to fault his attitude, and we've probably not seen the best of him, but should Sceptical be favourite for a Group 1? That depends on the strength of the opposition and it's not that bad.

One Master has won the Prix de la Foret over seven furlongs two years running and was only beaten a length when dropped back to six for the British Champions Sprint here at Ascot in October.

The previous month Hello Youmzain and The Tin Man fought out the finish of the Betfair Sprint Cup on soft going at Haydock. Dream Of Dreams started favourite for that Group 1 but did not get much luck in running and only beat three home.

Khaadem won the Stewards' Cup at Goodwood on fast going but has come up short in Group 1 company, finishing well adrift of One Master, Hello Youmzain and The Tin Man.

I would sooner back the outsider Shine So Bright each-way on his return to sprinting than Sceptical. He was placed in three Group 2s as a two-year-old and last year ran well in defeat in the 2,000 Guineas before edging out Laurens on her home turf in the Group 2 City Of York Stakes over seven.

All things considered, Sceptical looks plenty short enough for the day's feature race.

Don't give in to Pier pressure

There will be plenty of pundits tipping Palace Pier for the St James's Palace Stakes at 15:00 but he is a lay in my book.

John Gosden's runner was impressive when winning a handicap at Newcastle this month, but look at the quality of the three that finished immediately behind him.

Acquitted, Yoshimi and He's a Keeper were beaten a total of 150 lengths in their races on Thursday. Quite possibly their owners felt that if Palace Pier was 4/1 for a Group 1 on the final day then it was worth their while running in a handicap. Well, it wasn't. It was a waste of money for all concerned., but we can benefit from their mistakes and lay the son of Kingman for a place.

The first two in the betting are the colts that came second and third in the 2,000 Guineas - Wichita and Pinatubo. That's two Classic-placed colts versus an improving handicapper. I know which I would prefer to lay.

The good news for Palace Pier layers doesn't end with Wichita and Pinatubo. They can also expect Threat to finish in front of Dettori's mount as he won over a quarter of a million last year with seconds at Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood before winning Group 2s at York and Doncaster.

Positive and Royal Dornoch are the only colts to have beaten the 2,000 Guineas winner Kameko - Positive at Sandown; Royal Dornoch at Newmarket. The effort in doing so appears to have taken its toll as neither troubled the judge on their next starts but they still have higher international ratings than Palace Pier.

It would seem the Dettori factor has reduced Palace Pier's odds massively, as there is little risk in laying the in-form handicapper for a place.

Nelson can be toppled in the Coventry

The Coventry Stakes at 13:50 looks wide open. There's both quality and quantity, so Admiral Nelson doesn't deserve to be as short as 5/2.

Ryan Moore's mount is one of nine winners in the line-up and his odds do not reflect that he needs to improve to follow up last week's victory at The Curragh.

Admiral Nelson wasn't the shortest-priced of Aidan O'Brien's three in that maiden, yet he had little trouble going past his better-fancied stablemate Merchants Quay, the 11-10 favourite. He has had little over a week to recover, so this Group 2 may well come too soon.

Qaader dominated the closing stages of his race at Newbury, just as Lauded did in his novice event at Haydock. Both recorded wide-margin wins in fast times. Tom Dascombe had marked this race out for Lauded prior to his easy debut success and regards him as among the best two-year-olds he has trained.

Godolphin do not have that many two-year-old runners at Royal Ascot but Charlie Appleby was quick to nominate this race for Creative Force after he made all at Newmarket. He quickly got to the front on the stands' rail there, travelled well and found plenty without being hard ridden. He has had two weeks to get over that, compared to the favourite's one.

I wouldn't rule out Army Of India or Science. Only a short-head separated them in their Kempton maiden, and they are both 12/1 on the Sportsbook.

Talbot clocked a fast time over five at Lingfield and should be suited by the extra furlong. He is another who could keep Admiral Nelson out of the winner's enclosure.

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