Since the end of the jumps season, the ante-post side of this column has taken a backseat – despite perhaps spending more time than ever scouring markets for potential future bets.
On one hand, it has been reassuring to be fairly restrained and careful after a decent run to close off the 2020/21 jumps campaign, but equally it would be great to have some options upcoming.
A number of factors make it much harder to recommend an ante-post bet on the flat, as there can be so many more undefined variables at play in a flat race. For instance, draw and weather are two such aspects which, in the first case, is completely absent in jumps races. While, weather can quickly have a drastic effect on the ground conditions for horses which are, on the whole, much more susceptible to contrasting surfaces.
Anyhow, fruits of my labour have happened upon one for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, due to be run three weeks today. Given how this season has panned out so far, with many winners of trial races being wildly shaved in price or introduced at unappealing odds – predictably the selection was beaten last time out, and actually pushed out a couple of points in places.
After his debut win at Navan a month ago, Donnacha O’Brien’s ability-laden Masseto was immediately mentioned in reference to the Coventry Stakes, the 6f Group 2 for two-year-olds on day one of the Royal meeting.
If you were only able to watch one furlong of the Navan maiden that Masseto won on debut, then make sure it is the stretch between the 2f pole and the 1f pole.
Once Gavin Ryan asked his debutant mount to improve his position from just ahead of the back-markers, the response was strikingly impressive. By the 1f pole, Masseto was ahead and suddenly thrust into the open air on debut, he quickly began to idle.
To be able to then be gathered up and galvanised again in order to rundown Celtic Times, (who has since proved himself to be classy, tough and straight-forward,) was indicative of a horse with a huge ceiling in terms of ability.
Strong in the market for his second start last weekend, in the Group 3 Marble Hill Stakes at the Curragh, Masseto was beaten into second by the now Coventry Stakes favourite, Castle Star. As short as 6/1 in places, Castle Star was a ready winner and is clearly a decent standard setter. The discrepancy between him and Masseto at 14/1 with Bet365, Sky Bet, Ladbrokes, Coral, Boylesports or Betway is simply too big.
However, if you watch that race intently, and with the personally-held view that being close to the near side rail that day was disadvantageous, then you can quite significantly mark up Masseto’s run in second.
Whether you can mark it up sufficiently to place him as the winner ahead of Castle Star is perhaps a moot point, but what is clear is that in terms of raw ability, Masseto is as much the equal of the current Coventry Stakes favourite as any horse that has been seen out so far this season.
Yes, there is still three weeks until the Royal meeting begins, and there could be something that announces itself as a leading player in the interim, but I’m willing to suggest there won’t be any better 14/1 each-way bets for the race at any point in time.
The clear indication from the way that Masseto has gone through both of his races is that we are yet to see anywhere near the level of ability he possesses. I sense that Royal Ascot and the nature of the Coventry Stakes could be exactly what we need to see all that Masseto has got.
Donnacha O’Brien needs no introduction as a trainer clearly, and this will be his first Royal Ascot runner as he doesn’t have an entry in the opening race, the Queen Anne Stakes, 35 minutes before the Coventry Stakes.
Given that Donnacha struck with his first ever runner on this side of the Irish Sea, when he sent Fancy Blue to Goodwood to cherry pick the Group 1 Nassau Stakes in 2020, it wouldn’t be out of his reach to hit the mark with his first Royal Ascot runner.
So, at 14/1 each-way generally, Masseto is a very appealing ante-post pick for the Coventry Stakes.