They often say ‘it’s grim oop north,’ well given I am currently sat writing this in glorious sunshine on North Tyneside, and having just received a text from a friend who lives in Wimbledon saying ‘it’s a monsoon here’ – then perhaps we should revisit that phrase!
What is clear though, is that conditions at day four of Royal Ascot will be about as far removed from the first three days as is possible. The ground is being described as ‘soft’ all over, and that is before the extra few hours of rain before racing begins. It is going to take a re-assessment of the type of horse needed to prosper, and also perhaps an open mind as to various other factors like track position, pace biases etc.
With that in mind, I am hoping that being drawn on the far side on the straight track is not going to be a disadvantage in the opening race at 2.30pm – Albany Stakes. Impressive Goodwood winner Flotus is drawn on that side, so I am going to suggest backing my selection in the market ‘without favourite Flotus’.
Simon and Ed Crisford’s two-year-old will be extremely hard to beat, but Kevin Ryan’s Lady Ayresome has been significantly overlooked in the market, and at 22/1 each-way with Boylesports in the market ‘without favourite Flotus’, she is a corking value bet.
Three starts at 5f have been progressive and gradually given her a greater test of stamina each time, and it is noticeable how she has improved with each one, culminating in a resounding victory in the Hilary Needler trophy at Beverley, when she seemed to relish the stiff finish and the soft ground. Stepping up to 6f at Ascot, she will improve again.
Moving through the card, and most races look tricky. I was keen on recommending Dragon Symbol in the Commonwealth Cup at 3.40 and also Alcohol Free in the Coronation Stakes at 4.20, but with worries about price, ground, draw in varying measures for both of them, I have moved on to the very last race on the card for the next selections.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes at 6.10pm was introduced last year, and is a great addition, providing three-year-old sprinters who fall just below the top level an opportunity on the big stage.
The ground will be atrocious come this stage, and it will be well worth siding with horses who are hard-fit, conditioned and likely to handle the heavy ground. Step forward Mo Celita at 11/2 each-way and Dream Composer at 17/2 each-way, both with William Hill, who are offering 6 places.
You can get slightly better prices if you shop around, but the extra place is like gold dust to me. The case for both Mo Celita and Dream Composer is very similar – they are just in rampant form, haven’t suggested that their respective rates of improvement have plateaued at all, and both have form on the likely ground.
To finish today, a quick bonus selection from elsewhere, as conditions will be similar down the road from Ascot at Goodwood. As such, I see plenty of upside in backing Cold Stare at 4/1 each-way with Paddy Power in the opening race – Back To Goodwood Apprentice Handicap – on their evening card at 5.40.
Cold Stare is a course and distance winner, will skip through the mud, and has a nice wide draw to perhaps allow Dylan Hogan to tack across to the stands side in the straight – often the place to be on heavy ground at the Sussex venue.