Our first selection Ervedya ran well enough and two furlongs out looked like she might get involved in the finish, but when asked to quicken she just stayed on at the one pace to finish 5th. It was noticeable all day that making up ground was a tough ask in conditions and horses that raced prominently fared much the best. Caravaggio was a worthy winner even though Ryan Moore had to plough a lone furrow down the middle of the course, he won convincingly by two lengths and looks a young colt with a big future. The biggest disappointment of the day was Mecca's Angel who although heavily supported in the market ran no sort of race. She was up with the leaders early on but was being pushed along at halfway and met trouble when drifting back through the field... but it was all over by then and she was eased down to trail in 16th.
James Doyle decided to track across behind the field from his low draw and Penglai Pavilion ended up in a poor position at the rear of the field which is fatal on the round course. Come the business end of the race he stayed on pretty well and passed a lot of the field to finish 7th, so with a better draw he would have been a lot closer and who knows may have even got into the places. But there's no point dwelling on the past so let's get onto tomorrow's selections... although we have a bit of ground to make up we are confident of getting back amongst the winners and finishing the meeting with a decent profit.
The team at Cleeve
2.30 Ascot Jersey Stakes (Group 3) (CLASS 1) (3yo)
Top 4 rated:
1) Gifted Master
3) Ibn Malik
4) Herald the Dawn
I was very tempted by Herald the Dawn here mainly due to the success of New Approach as a stallion in this kind of race at Royal Ascot. He will be suited by the drop in class and the underfoot conditions… plus the stable is in great form. He does need to improve again to beat our selection though. Castle Harbour is two from two and the Gosden/Dettori combination is listed as favourite in the early markets. He does need to improve by about a stone to challenge some of these and it will be interesting to see how he runs.
Thkriyaat is also unbeaten with three wins and he should handle the going here; however he’s another that needs to improve and he has only won his races narrowly. It’s interesting that Paul Hanagan takes the ride on this one instead of Ibn Malik who is shorter in the market. On breeding I think Thkriyaat will be better when stepped up to a mile or further, so the uphill finish should help his stamina come into play. Ibn Malik has been ridden by Paul Hanagan on four of his five starts so it shows what the Hamdan Al Maktoum team think of Thkriyaat with Hanagan switching over to him. Ibn Malik won last time and looked good winning by two lengths; however he is held by Gifted Master on their Newmarket running over a mile.
Gifted Master had dropped back to 6 furlongs this season winning twice, prior to running into an impressive third behind Quiet Reflection at Haydock. Last season Gifted Master won over both 7 furlongs and a mile, and I think that puts him in a strong position over this trip with the uphill finish. He goes well for Pat Smullen who is adept at finding gaps when necessary and he can win this at a decent price from Thkriyaat.
3.05 Ascot Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2) (Fillies) (CLASS 1) (2yo)
Top 4 rated:
1) Al Johrah
Seventeen two year olds running on soft ground in front of a raucous crowd is not one for my money! If I was forced to pick one it would be Kachess who impressed at Goodwood… albeit in a much lower class race.
3.40 Ascot Duke of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2) (Fillies & Mares) (CLASS 1) (4yo+)
Top 3 Rated:
2) Miss Temple City
3) Always Smile
I had advised Usherette at 4/1 as part of our Lucky 15 ante post bet and I have not changed my mind especially as the main challengers that I had listed in my write up run elsewhere (as I suggested). Both Miss Temple City and Always Smile are at their best on fast ground so will find it very difficult to handle both the conditions as well as the need to improve 7lbs to beat Usherette.
Main dangers to Usherette are likely to be Blond Me and Jazzi Top even though the latter named was well beaten by Usherette in the Dahlia at Newmarket in May. Jazzi Top pulled too hard that day on her first run of the season and will hopefully be a bit more settled this time. Blond Me looked a much improved horse when winning a Listed race on seasonal debut but I do have concerns about her coping with cut in the ground as all her winning form has been on good or faster. If her trainer lets her run then she won’t be far away, and her sire won on both heavy and good to soft.
Usherette looked to have improved when winning the Dahlia and beat some good fillies that day. If she runs to her form she will be very hard to beat and my biggest concern is that I don’t like her jockey Mickael Barzalona. I prefer a jockey to be able to settle a horse better than he does and to not take positional risks otherwise Usherette would have been a maximum bet.
4.20 Ascot Prince of Wales´s Stakes (British Champions Series) (Group 1) (CLASS 1) (4yo+)
Top 3 rated:
1) A Shin Hikari
3) The Grey Gatsby
I would have been interested in New Bay if he had run but A Shin Hikari has frightened off most of his likely challengers after his spectacular display in France recently and it is hard to see the favourite losing here, but saying that but he is no value at 4/6. If I had to play a straight forecast it would be A Shin Hikari to beat Found.
5.00 Ascot Royal Hunt Cup (Heritage Handicap) (CLASS 2) (3yo+)
Top 4 rated:
1) Librisa Breeze
2) GM Hopkins
3) Carry On Deryck
4) Secret Brief
I am keeping staking to a minimum in what is a very difficult handicap. I have gone with two selections having started with a shortlist of five before eventually ruling out Portage and Secret Brief due to a penalty for the former and too long a break for the latter. I also think they are at the higher end of the weights than where the winner will come from. The final horse I ruled out was Can’t Change who has an attractive weight along with decent draw and Jamie Spencer on board. He put in an improved performance at Goodwood last time and won comfortably; however I do think he is a bit more exposed than most and may struggle to put his best foot forward at this trip with it’s quite stiff uphill finish. GM Hopkins won this for Cleeve Members last season but he is now even higher in the weights which makes his task look very tough; however he does well in these big fields and might run into a place.
Carry On Deryck was of plenty of interest as he is definitely an improver, but a break of 118 days is not ideal. He is one to watch out for later in the season as I think he can win one of the big handicaps.
I had initially ruled out Librisa Breeze as he won his last race on the all-weather which is usually a negative for Royal Ascot. But I eventually went for him as I think he looks like a plot horse, and shrewd trainer Dean Ivory’s string is absolutely on fire at the moment. Librisa Breeze stays further than a mile and should handle the going and I think has plenty more improvement to come than he has shown the handicapper so far.
Donncha sits just outside the top four rated but I think he has it in him to win one of the top handicaps at Ascot, as he always seems to run well in big fields on this course. He finished 3rd in the International Stakes last July and 4th in the Balmoral Handicap in October. He handles all types of going but handles soft really well. He won twice in June last year and I am hoping that he can emulate that form tomorrow. He gets in here off a reasonable weight and Tom Marquand takes off a further 3lbs which could make all the difference in what i bound to be a tight finish.
5.35 Ascot Sandringham Handicap (Listed Race) (Fillies) (CLASS 1) (3yo 0-110)
Top 4 rated:
3) Mix and Mingle
4) Pure Diamond
I was quite tempted to put up Czabo here as I think she is gutsy and will not mind the ground, it will certainly take a good one to beat her … but at the current odds there’s no value edge and witrh plenty more racing to come and better opportunities for us I’m happy to keep a watching brief… so there’s no selection for us.