Saturday Racing Tips: Kew Gardens looks primed to push Stradivarius

Ryan Moore rides Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens winning the St Leger (in better weather than you'll get at Ascot tomorrow)

It's been pouring down all week so the ground will be soft for Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday. But Tony Calvin has still found five bets for a fascinating afternoon of racing...

"I have been nibbling away at Fleeting ever since Aidan O’Brien indicated on Tuesday evening that she was on target for the Fillies And Mares Stakes at 14:45 and I have no hesitation in recommending her at 13/2 each way."

Soft ground will challenge leading contenders

You can expect to be arrested if the punting police get hold of you but surely Kew Gardens each way in the Long Distance Cup at 14:10 is the height of thievery.

The obvious issue with him is the ground, so the switch to the hurdles track (which is currently described as good to soft, soft in places) earlier in the week was a big positive as to his chances.

But even the inner course could turn on the testing side if this rain persists into Saturday, and that wouldn't be ideal for him, for all he has won on soft and you can partly excuse his Chester run in May on account of that being his first start since his seventh, beaten just four lengths, in the Arc.

Ascot RAIN.jpg

And the Chester ground that day was apparently particularly nasty.

Mind you, as Ascot are declining to update Wednesday's going stick readings until Saturday, despite getting another 5.5mm of rain into Friday morning, we are all guessing. Not a good look on a flagship day of racing.

In addition to the wet weather, I suppose Stradivarius is a rather big stumbling block, as he is simply a winning machine, and a consistent one at that.

But the odds-on favourite is a mere 3lb superior to Kew Gardens on official ratings - and just 1lb if you go back to Aidan O'Brien's colt mark at the start of the campaign - and the prevailing surface wouldn't be the preference of Mr Gosden either.

Indeed, the lofty handler is set to walk the course before racing on Saturday morning.

I think it's heavy odds-on the green light will be given, but Stradivarius wasn't at his best when winning this race last season and it was in this contest two years ago that his colours were last lowered, in a soft-ground third to Order Of St George.

Kew Gardens can produce another eye-catching run

Anyway, back to Kew Garden's claims. He is 5lb and more clear of the rest of these on the book, and you sometimes forget just what an impressive St Leger winner he was last season.

He went off the radar after his Coronation Cup second at the end of May - he traded at 1.01 in the run there and was said to have come back with an issue - but he was a massive eye-catcher on his first run since when runner-up to the big improver Search For A Song in the Irish St Leger last month, shaping exceptionally well from miles off the pace.

I imagine this has been a long-term plan for him and I fancy he will give the favourite all the trouble going if handling the ground, as he is a fresh horse with as much class on the evidence of that Classic win (and his Arc run over an inadequate 1m4f wasn't too shoddy).

The Sportsbook are currently 4/1 on the fixed-odds front and the issue is whether to back him there, and take a slight loss if he places, or play win-only at 5.85/1 on the exchange.

Either is acceptable, but I am going down the latter route (and it will help keep the old accounts open, too...).

O'Brien's Fleeting the each way bet against too short favourite

Aidan O'Brien and Derrick Smith 1280 .jpg

I have been nibbling away at Fleeting ever since Aidan O'Brien (pictured above, left) indicated on Tuesday evening that she was on target for the Fillies And Mares Stakes at 14:45 and I have no hesitation in recommending her at 13/2 each way.

Star Catcher fully deserves to be favourite and she could get the run of the race out in front, even from her wide draw in 11, but no way should she be around 7/4 given the depth of the opposition.

Sure, she is a dual Group 1 winner on the up, but she is 1lb inferior to her Oaks-winning favourite Anapurna, and I don't agree with the difference in price between her and Fleeting.

The score may currently be 3-0 to Star Catcher, but Fleeting did not get an ideal passage when a one-and-a-half-length second to her in the Ribblesdale and then she got within half-length in the Irish Oaks when coming from too far off the pace.

She again was too far out of her ground when a strong-finishing, short-neck runner-up over 1m2f in the l'Opera last time - Hydrangea also finished second in that race before coming on to win this in 2017 - and I am banking on her luck finally changing here.

I am convinced she has the necessary Group 1 class and, although it sounds trivial, I think the 1m3f133yd trip (the race distance was reduced by 78 yards when they switched tracks, with the Long Distance Cup also losing 82 yards) could be important as Donnacha O'Brien can ride the filly much more aggressively or prominently here, with stamina no issue whatsoever.

I don't want to die wondering here again, Donny, so sit handier....

At a bigger price, her stablemate Delphinia could be troublesome, but I was hoping she would go down the staying route and the lessening of the trip is not in her favour.

Librisisa Breeze could win 'war of attrition'

Earlier in the week I was leaning towards Sands Of Mali in the Sprint at 13:35, but it really does look a very tricky puzzle to solve now with 17 runners standing their ground in what could be pretty desperate conditions. That straight course could be barely raceable, and pretty brutal.

This could be a war of attrition then, and you want a 7f horse on your side over this 6f. Looking at the current prices, Librisa Breeze fits the bill. And the more I looked, the more I liked.

Trainer Dean Ivory was going through a barren spell before Lordsbridge Boy won at Kempton on Tuesday and it has been a quiet time for his 7yo too, as he hasn't been seen since chasing home the gambled-on Glorious Journey on his belated reappearance in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury in August.

Several of his best efforts have come at this track in testing ground, most obviously when winning this Group 1 prize two years ago, and he charts the same path to this race as he did last year.

He only finished 11th to Sands Of Mali when an 11/2 chance then, but crucially he ran poorly at Newbury beforehand, while this time he clearly ran a lot better - it wasn't that far shy of his best, in fact - and he comes here a fresh horse.

In fact, I have also just noticed that he finished second in the Hungerford before winning this race off a two-month lay-off in 2017, so this must surely have been the plan. In fact, his profile suggests he is very well suited by a break between his races.

So, while accepting this looks a devilishly-difficult race, I am more than happy to back him at 16/1 each way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook, even though that draw in 17 of 17 worries me. I have had a fair go at him, in fact.

Lord Glitters - fair price in a big field

Lord Glitters looked big at 10/1 in a place for the QEII on Tuesday and he still looks a fair enough price at 7/1 in the 15:20, although I wasn't expecting such a big field given the ground.

Like Librisa Breeze, the Queen Anne winner loves this track and has form figures of 212261 here, including a sixth in this race last year and a Balmoral win at this meeting in 2017.

He looks very solid after a fair run in the Juddmonte last time - to be beaten just four lengths over an extended 1m2f there was no disgrace - and while this was a race I was preparing to leave alone, I'll be backing him at 7/1 each way, four places, so I am happy to put him up here.

Irish 2000 Guineas winner Phoenix Of Spain is probably the overpriced one at 20/1+, but he has never raced on anything close to this ground, and the other one that also interested me at a similar price was Century Dream.

His record on soft or worse reads 1041113 (the third was this race last year) and his course form figures are 5614424, so he has definite each way claims here. But, going into Friday, the stable hadn't had a winner in October and we haven't seen the horse since March.

There is a very disappointing turnout for the Champion Stakes at 16:00 when you consider that the winner will snaffle £770,000 for his or her connections.

The 122-rated Magical is much the likeliest winner, as her price of around 7/4 suggests, especially as I thought she may well have been used to try and soften up Enable in the Arc. So I am willing to forgive her modest fifth there.

A winner of the Fillies And Mares on soft ground here last season, she is at home in the conditions and a reproduction of any of her opening seven performances in this campaign will probably be good enough. But that isn't a given following that tough Arc run.

The betting is basically pretty much as you would expect here, though Deirdre has far better form claims than her price suggests - her connections would love an updated going stick reading I am sure, as the drier the better for her - and Mehdaayih is a lot, lot better than she showed in France a fortnight ago.

Fox Tal is the unexposed one, but nothing is grabbing me for a bet.

Circus Couture is well worth a bet

Royal Ascot wide shot 1280.jpg

I put up Waarif and Mitchum Swagger at 33/1 and 25/1 respectively for the Balmoral in Tuesday's ante-post column and they remain available at those odds in the 16:40.

I am obviously not deserting them now, as both will relish the ground and are in the form to take advantage of fair marks.

I came to the race fresh on Thursday afternoon, though, and one thing is for sure, and that is that Lord North is surely a rank price, even at 4/1 on the exchange (predictably the best odds in the marketplace at the time of writing). He may well go and win by two lengths, but he will be doing so without my money in this ground.

I can fully see the case for the early-week mover Glen Shiel and last year's runner-up Escobar is a contender, as he did really well to finish third to Kynren over 7f here last time, considering he was disadvantaged by racing towards the centre of the track and didn't get an ideal run-through.

Escobar may just be too high in the weights now, but Circus Couture looks attractively weighted off 96. Connections have already had one slice of luck as he got into the race as a reserve on Thursday afternoon after Dunkirk Harbour pulled out with a temperature.

He has had a largely unproductive season but he won at Nottingham three starts ago (where he ran in a first-time visor, and did well to win after being hampered a furlong out) and is already 1lb lower, and he comes here after being gelded since his last run in July. Hopefully, that has had a positive effect on him, and the handicapper has given him a big helping hand, too.

He had a fair record fresh when trained in Italy, he finished third in the Hunt Cup over course and distance last season off a 10lb higher mark than this, and one of his better career efforts came in heavy ground over 1m at Haydock last year (and he also has won in bottomless ground, too), when he split mudlark Here Comes When and Regal Reality.

If he reproduces that run, then he has a massive chance of a mark of just 96. He is well worth a bet at 50/1 each way, five places, with the Betfair Sportsbook. You will get a bigger win-only price on the exchange, obviously.


April 14 2017 to Oct 18 2019 inclusive (all recommended exchange bets are settled at Betfair SP)

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