Neil Morrice brings us his best bets and tips for Day 3 of the Royal Ascot Festival.
Race 1 NORFOLK STAKES (Group 2)
Trainer: Wesley Ward – Jockey: John Velazquez
Ward has suggested LUCCI is more forward than barn mate NAKATOMI which leans me towards the former, an impressive winner on debut in New York. John Velazquez teams up with the selection, while owners Qatar Racing have Oisin Murphy aboard Keeneland scorer Nakatomi. No Nay Never triumphed in this back in 2013 and his son CADAMOSTO also enters calculations for Aidan O’Brien, though his winning introduction was on Polytrack at Dundalk.
Prediction: 1st LUCCI, 2nd Nakatomi, 3rd Cadamosto
Race 2 HAMPTON COURT STAKES (Group 3)
Trainer: William Haggas – Jockey: Jim Crowley
Connections of MOHAAFETH will be keeping fingers crossed that Ascot is spared any rain. Easy conditions brought about the Frankel colt’s withdrawal from the Cazoo Derby and this looks a more straightforward assignment for him to try to make it four from four this year. SECRET PROTECTOR is a solid win and place alternative to the selection but has all of five lengths to find with him on Newmarket running in early May. Although yet to win this year, ROMAN EMPIRE is a name to conjure with, especially if going forward from his encouraging earning effort in the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York.
Prediction: 1st MOHAAFETH, 2nd Secret Protector, 3rd Roman Empire
Race 3 RIBBLESDALE STAKES (Group 2)
No11 NOON STAR
Trainer: Sir Michael Stoute – Jockey: James Doyle
If the rains come it might see NOON STAR going off one of the shortest priced favourites on Day 3. Her three and threequarter length defeat by Snowfall in the Musidora Stakes is looking very strong form in the light of her conqueror’s freakish success in the Cazoo Oaks. Cut in the ground is important to the selection, who is strongly fancied to bounce back. At a price, TWISTED REALITY needs a market check. She has work to do with ESHAADA on Newbury running in May but looked as if that race would do her the power of good, while her trainer Ralph Beckett always needs respecting with his distaffers at Ascot. Eshaada puts a two-race unbeaten record on the line for Roger Varian and if repeating the Newbury run should be in the thick of things at the business end.
Prediction: 1st NOON STAR, 2nd Twisted Reality, 3rd Eshaada
Race 4 GOLD CUP (Group 1)
Trainer: Mark Johnston – Jockey: Joe Fanning
If there’s a horse that could prove a thorn in the side of record breaking favourite STRADIVARIUS then SUBJECTIVIST is probably the one. Importantly he has never squared up to John Gosden’s champion until today, and points towards the highlight of the week on the back of a most impressive triumph at the Meydan Carnival back in March. Stradivarius would equal Yeats’s record of four triumphs in the blue riband, and on the basis of his wide margin success here 12 months ago the prospect of easy ground will not overly worry his connections. But Subjectivist has really captured the imagination since moving up to the Cup distance, landing a Group 1 at Longchamp in the autumn and returning to rout his foes in a Group 2 in Dubai. TRUESHAN is much improved and interestingly is also having a first shot at Stradivarius. He is going to get better, and did nothing wrong chasing home Japan on reappearance at Chester.
Prediction: 1st SUBJECTIVIST, 2nd Stradivarius, 3rd Trueshan
Race 5 BRITANNIA HANDICAP
No10 AERION POWER
Trainer: Sir Michael Stoute – Jockey: Silvestre De Sousa
Without question the most difficult handicap to unravel during the whole week, this impossible puzzle might be best left to AERION POWER. The Kingman colt has done nothing wrong in completing a hat-trick and might have got lucky bagging stall 1 on the far side. What he doesn’t want, however, is for the ground to soften. George Boughey is a name that has captured the imagination of the racing public this year and he has a chance to get into the argument with lightly-weighted AIR TO AIR, on whom Jamie Spencer will play a waiting game. After a couple of expensive defeats, Air To Air put the record straight with back-to-back triumphs at Newmarket and Doncaster. ROYAL PLEASURE is lightly-raced and enters calculations for Sir Mark Prescott and Luke Morris even though taken down by Red Mirage when backed as if defeat was out of the question at Kempton last time. Last year’s winning trainer Roger Varian has a definite chance with the Amo Racing-owned RAADOBARG, who needs inclusion in all exotics as he tries to make it four from four this year.
Prediction: 1st AERION POWER, 2nd Air To Air, 3rd Royal Pleasure, 4th Raadobarg
Race 6 KING GEORGE V HANDICAP
No7 JUST FINE
Trainer: Sir Michael Stoute – Jockey: Richard Kingscote
This could become a ‘Hats Off’ triumph for the Queen with her brave little gelding JUST FINE. His disappointing comeback effort at Newmarket is best forgotten, as a subsequent gelding operation has seen him turn the corner in his work, which has been of a high order. He has a very good draw and is the type to put his head down and battle in a tight finish. NAGANO has landed some good bets with his wins for Roger Varian at Nottingham and Newcastle and should relish the step up in trip. Godolphin’s SISKANY is a pea out of the same pod, and certainly wasn’t stopping up the final hill when scoring by a wide margin over a mile and a quarter at Sandown for Charlie Appleby. At a much longer price, SURREY GOLD is of interest. He bolted up at Newbury last time, loves to get his toe into the ground and trainer Hughie Morrison is always dangerous to rule out, especially with his handicappers.
Prediction: 1st JUST FINE, 2nd Nagano, 3rd Siskany, 4th Surrey Gold
Race 7 BUCKINGHAM PALACE HANDICAP
Trainer: William Haggas – Jockey: Jim Crowley
A provisional choice in the nightcap is ALDAARY, but soft ground would bring about a drop in confidence about the colt. He hacked up over seven furlongs here in early May but couldn’t get his feet out of the testing ground at Goodwood last time. Given good or faster ground, this lightly-raced son of Territories could easily bounce back. In contrast, MILLTOWN STAR would relish the soft and is a possible joker in the pack for Mick Channon. The light-framed individual has not quite reached his potential but remains a lightly-raced improver, who if the rain arrives needs a market check. Prolific scorer BOARDMAN has greatly impressed in completing a hat-trick on Grade 1 courses and could be a Group class performer, while BLUE MIST would get into it if recapturing his best form from here last July. Ryan Moore is an eye taking booking for the Roger Charlton-trained runner.