Sometimes the high-profile flat meetings can be slightly more po-faced compared to it’s more bucolic national hunt cousin, but last weekend’s Epsom two-day Derby meeting had so many heart-warming stories that you could have been forgiven for getting a little misty-eyed at some of the results and narratives.
So, with that satisfying glow still fresh, it’s time to move on to the mid-season summer behemoth that is Royal Ascot. A couple of weeks ago, I made my excuses for having a quiet couple of months when it came to ante-post recommendations, by suggesting the first long-range Royal Ascot fancy – Masseto at 14/1 for the Coventry Stakes on the Tuesday.
It seems the Marble Hill Stakes at the Curragh is the form that punters want to concentrate on, as Masseto himself is now into as short as 6/1, while his Curragh conqueror Castle Star is similarly priced – the pair are vying for joint favouritism. Now we just need a little favour with the draw, which can be paramount.
The St James Palace Stakes, run slightly later than the Coventry Stakes on day one, at 4.20 on Tuesday, has often historically been a benefit of the protagonists from that season’s 2,000 Guineas. However, the last few years the winner has come from elsewhere – witness the last three victors Palace Pier, Circus Maximus and Without Parole not even running in their generation’s 2,000 Guineas.
A Newcastle handicap, the Derby and the Listed Heron Stakes at Sandown were the respective last ports of call before those three won this race – and John (and now Thady) Gosden bid to do exactly the same as Without Parole, by aiming their Heron Stakes winner Mostahdaf here. He is to be respected, along with the Godolphin runner-up of that race Highland Avenue.
But, wind back one further year to 2017, and you’ll find the ready winner of the St James Palace Stakes was Barney Roy, then trained by Richard Hannon, after running an eye-catching race in the 2017 2,000 Guineas, when palpably not handling the track at Newmarket.
I feel there is a good chance of history repeating itself in 2021, as Richard Hannon’s Chindit has a great chance of claiming this Group 1, after a massive run in the 2,000 Guineas. At Newmarket, he was trapped away from where the main action was developing, didn’t handle the dip, and so any chance Chindit had of winning was long gone.
At 12/1 each-way with Bet365 to win the St James Palace Stakes a week tomorrow, Chindit is far and away the pick of the current prices, and can go two better than sire Wootton Bassett’s son Wootton, who finished third in this race to Without Parole in 2018.
In the 2,000 Guineas, on exiting the dip, once Pat Dobbs had regained his mount’s balance, Chindit ran on nicely into fourth behind the better-drawn 1-2-3 of Poetic Flare, Master Of The Seas and Lucky Vega.
Poetic Flare and Lucky Vega could re-oppose but both have been kept busy since, and aren’t guaranteed to confirm the form, given Chindit will be much better suited to Ascot and will arrive fresh and ready to run for his life.
The Ballydoyle pair of Battleground and Wembley will garner massive respect certainly, but they have been bitterly disappointing this season. Of that pair, perhaps you can forgive Battleground more so, and he did win at Royal Ascot as a two-year-old. While St Mark’s Basilica surely won’t pitch up after his Chantilly heroics at the weekend.
A glance at the bigger priced potential runners, and there isn’t much else to be worried about. So, it leaves the way clear for Chindit to run a massive race at 12/1 each-way with Bet365, back at a track that he won impressively at as a two-year-old. In fact, his only defeats have come at Newmarket, and on both occasions, he has had significant and legitimate excuses.
This is a seriously good horse, and the market doesn’t reflect that at his current odds of 12/1.