Kevin Blake is trying his hand once more as we reach the penultimate day at Royal Ascot. He's found three horses worth backing...
"Prettiest was expected to need the experience on her debut over an extended five furlongs at Navan last month, but she produced a very professional performance to make a winning debut in fine style."
Day four at Royal Ascot is now a lot clearer than it seemed after racing on Wednesday, as the feared thunderstorms haven't materialised at the time of writing (Thursday morning), so we can proceed on the assumption of ground that is at least good if not firmer.
Navan run was impressive
The Albany Stakes (14:30) is our first port of call and the one I'm siding with is the Aidan O'Brien-trained Prettiest. She is without doubt the best-bred filly in the race, being by Dubawi out of the three-time Group 1-winning miler Alice Springs.
One might think that such a pedigree is that of one that will be at her best at a mile as a three-year-old, but Dubawi has seemed to have bred sharper horses as his stallion career has progressed, producing top-class juveniles such Too Darn Hot and Quorto in recent years. He also sired the winner of this race in Kiyoshi back in 2013.
Prettiest was expected to need the experience on her debut over an extended five furlongs at Navan last month, but she produced a very professional performance to make a winning debut in fine style.
She showed a particularly likeable way of going on that occasion and she appeals as being an exciting prospect. Whether she is sharp enough to come out on top amongst a field of fillies that are more precociously bred than herself remains to be seen, but I'm willing to take the chance that she will be.
Tasman to step up once more
The King Edward VII Stakes (15:05) is a tricky contest to decipher and I'm taking a chance on the Sir Mark Todd-trained Tasman Bay. The son of Le Havre is a big, rangy colt that has been a work in progress on the track.
He has improved with each of his four starts, very much shaping as though a thorough test of stamina would suit him well. He hasn't yet had such a test, as his last two runs over a mile-and-a-quarter have been steadily run.
Despite that, he kept the well-touted John Leeper honest in a Listed race at Newmarket last time.
This longer trip and stiff track will play to his strengths. He can be expected to take another step forward here and the hope is that he will improve enough to put himself right in the mix at the finish.
German 1000 Guineas winner appeals
The Coronation Stakes (16:20) brings together most of the best three-year-old fillies in Europe over a mile, but the fact the betting is so open illustrates that we have yet to find a clear leader in the division. There is a temptation to side with Pretty Gorgeous or Shale to recapture the form that saw them dominate the Group 1 scene for fillies of this type last season, but I have ended up deciding to take a flyer on German raider Novemba.
The daughter of Gleneagles had looked just a useful filly until absolutely bolting up by seven-and-a-half lengths in the German 1000 Guineas at Dusseldorf on her latest outing. When one looks through the form of the fillies she left for dead, they are far from back numbers, and the style in which she did it was taking.
Fast away from the gates, she made all the running in enthusiastic style and had a lot of her rivals in big trouble well over two furlongs out. She was very strong in the final furlong and it seemed like a much-improved effort that puts her in the mix with the pick of these fillies.
Most importantly, there isn't a lot of pace in this race and with her being likely to be underrated by the local jockeys, it wouldn't be a shock if she is given a freebie in front. If she gets that, she could well prove difficult to peg back.