With Royal Ascot fast approaching, our man Alan Dudman highlights three ante-post markets for the meeting with a trio of bets for some of the best Flat racing in the world....
"The form of that race looks excellent with Clive Cox's speedster winning by four-and-a-half lengths. Five of the six rivals vanquished in that held three-figure BHA ratings. The time was none too shabby either in smashing the course record."
It is no surprise that Aidan O'Brien's Order Of St George is the favourite here at 5/4 on the Sportsbook, but I think the race has a bit more depth than last year. O'Brien has dominated this in recent seasons with seven victories in the last 11 editions. Order Of St George is seeking back-to-back glory after winning in 2016 in soft ground.
That was quite a rough affair when he beat Mizzou by three lengths, and his season looks after itself with a nice build-up to this following a routine spin in the Saval Bag last time at Leopardstown.
Second favourite here is Vazirabad who is one of the top stayers in Europe. When outlining previously that this contest has more depth, that does depend on ground with this Aga Khan-owned horse, as he would need a bit of cut.
His jockey Christophe Soumillon gave him a wonderful ride out in Meydan to win the Group 2, and on turf he has a fine win record of 11-16. But the ground is a worry backing ante-post.
The other ground-dependant horse is Big Orange - whom I discovered was a bit of a worrier earlier on in his career. Remarkable considering his globetrotting exploits.
The 'Big O' is a 10/1 shot and he wants it rattling fast. Talking of rides, Frankie Dettori gave a bit of a masterclass when winning at Sandown in May from the front. It was Dettori at his best.
One horse that doesn't appear to be reliant on a particular surface is David Simcock's Sheikhzayedroad, and it's great news he stays in training at the grand age of eight. That's not to say age is creeping up with him, as he enjoyed something of a breakout season in terms of staying races in 2016 when landing the Doncaster Cup and Long Distance Cup on Champions Day.
He needs delivering late and doesn't do an awful lot when he gets there, but he has raced a fair chunk of his career over shorter and he has a burst and change of pace for a stayer. He was third behind Order Of St George in last year's race (where he came from a long way back). Compared to the favourite's price, I like Sheikhzayedroad at 14/1.
If your need for speed is greater than your need for stamina; this is the race for you. The 6f Commonwealth Cup potentially throws up the clash of Caravaggio versus Harry Angel, the added possibility of Godolphin pair Dream Castle and Blue Point and the mouth-watering prospect of a flying-machine from Wesley Ward. What a race in store.
Firstly, let us deal with the fastest ever horse Aidan O'Brien has had. Not my words of course those of AOB, but Caravaggio can back up the hyperbole. O'Brien boldly stated how quick he was with speeds reported of 45mph burning up the gallops at home. I suspect many of you do not buy into those sorts of sound bites, but there is no denying the qualities of this Ballydoyle sprinter.
He is already armed with the biggest Timeform rating of any three-year-old at the moment with 128p (the p being the frightening thing), and he blew away a three-figure-rated horse in the shape of Psychedelic Funk by nearly five lengths as if he was a space hopper in sand at Naas. Added to his leading juvenile status with a rout in the Group 1 Phoenix - it is no surprise he heads the Sportsbook market at even money.
Next best in terms of price is Harry Angel at 7/2, and that could be a bet after a scintillating performance last time in Haydock's Group 2 Sandy Lane. The form of that race looks excellent with Clive Cox's speedster winning by four-and-a-half lengths. Five of the six rivals vanquished in that held three-figure BHA ratings. The time was none too shabby either in smashing the course record.
Granted the ground was firm and he had a chance to run to that sort of figure on the stopwatch. However, he marked himself down as a potential top-notcher, and his trainer said afterwards: "Awesome, wasn't he?"
He is only 1lb behind Caravaggio in terms of Timeform ratings, with his figure bumped up 9lb after his Haydock rout. I am just as excited about him as Caravaggio, so that makes him the bet.
Godolphin could be double-handed in the shape of Blue Point and Dream Castle. The former beat Harry Angel at Ascot but I don't think he'll beat him here. He is 11/2 and a lot shorter than Dream Castle who (if lining up) comes down to 6f for the first time. That is worth a go considering his Frankel and Sand Vixen pedigree. It screams tearaway and pace, and whilst he still may stay a mile - he continues to be a work still waiting to blossom. The talent is there, and these two are not back-markers.
And how often would you see two Wesley Ward flying machines available to back at double-figures for a sprint? Last year's Queen Mary winner Lady Aurelia is a 20/1 poke for this but is 4/1 for the King's Stand. Shorter in the market is Bound For Nowhere at 12/1 - who has won both starts by an aggregate of nearly 11 lengths. This could be one of the races of the meeting.
This might not be everyone's number one ante-post Royal Ascot race, but the 4/6 favourite Winter has looked brilliant this year. She was ultra-impressive in Newmarket's 1,000 Guineas, and she subsequently swatted aside Roly Poly in the Irish version. Her Timeform rating of 121 sets her apart as the best three-year-old filly this year, and she will be very difficult to beat here.
But that's not to say we shouldn't have a crack at the race.
I thought the Owen Burrows-trained Talaayeb posted a fine performance in the Newmarket Classic behind Winter, and Talaayeb is a 12/1 chance for this.
She went into the Guineas with just one run (and an impressive Newmarket maiden win), but for a large part of the race she belied her inexperience and travelled very strongly to the near side. However, at the Dip she was just caught out and her light race profile showed. To me, she looked well up to Group 1 standard and if she gets quick ground at Ascot, she might get closer to Winter.
Her pedigree is all fast ground, and her half-sister Ghanaati won this race in record time back in 2009. I like the fact she has skipped the Oaks, and this looks the perfect race.
I would also look out for Sea Of Grace at 12/1 and she showed she is up to Classic level too with a fine second in the French Guineas. The ground was right for her there, as she appears to be at her best with cut in the ground. Her potent turn of foot is a weapon still waiting to be used.
She was too keen in the Nell Gwyn, and many of her trainer's horses (William Haggas) have been fresh first-time-out. The ground was also against her at HQ but that form looks fine with Daban running third in the 1,000. However, the caveat is she will want rain.
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