Churchill can transfer work form to the track
All eyes on the opening race of the final day of Royal Ascot will be on the two sons of Frankel Cunco and Frankuus who both made impressive debuts when winning at Newbury and Haydock Park respectively. At the time of writing, however, there is more heavy rain forecast for Friday afternoon and their chances could easily be comprised if the ground was genuinely soft.
Cunco is 3/1 at BetVictor for the Chesham Stakes and was the first of Frankel’s progeny to run when showing a blistering turn of foot to win over 6f. His father did win twice on soft ground but was considered at his best on good or faster ground, if the rain stays away he will be hard to beat.
Churchill (2.30) represents Aidan O’Brien and looked a sure-fire future winner when third on debut at the Curragh and the winner - Van Decken - franked the form when running well in defeat when fifth in the Coventry Stakes on Tuesday.
The selection was backed from 25/1 to 16/1 for next year’s Guineas at BetVictor earlier in the week and is reported to be working well at Ballydoyle. He just gets the vote in a top-class renewal.
The first Group race of the day is the Hardwicke Stakes/ I’m a big fan of last year’s St Leger winner Simple Verse (3.40) and, whilst I hope she doesn’t have to make her own running, expect Oisin Murphy to make sure it doesn’t develop into a sprint having been done for a change of pace when fourth in the Coronation Cup last time.
The Queen’s Dartmouth made all under Ryan Moore in the Ormonde Stakes last time and is another who would be inconvenienced if the race is tactical. But it is perhaps significant that Moore prefers Sir Michael Stoute’s Exosphere, who is considered a big danger, this afternoon.
Do note Stoute has saddled the winner three times in the last four years and six times since 2006. Exosphere is the 5/2 market leader at BetVictor but 10/1 is too big for a Group 1 winner in Simple Verse who gets the each way vote.
Ten go to post for the feature Diamond Jubilee Stakes and it is a fabulous renewal.
Wesley Ward has already been in the winner’s enclosure this week and his Undrafted won the corresponding race 12 months ago on fast ground. He must go close to following up but marginal preference is for Twilight Son (4.20) who is taken to reverse recent York form with Magical Memory with that run under his belt on 5lbs better terms.
Interception won the Wokingham last year and is only 5lbs higher today. If the rain stays away she will be hard to beat but Brando (5.00) is a most progressive sprinter and has long been my fancy for the race.
His progression has not gone unnoticed, however, and 6/1 with BetVictor (5 places) for a 28-runner handicap looks short enough but he is the most likely winner and I will be disappointed if he is out of the frame.
Oriental Fox is 9/2 favourite at BetVictor to follow up last year’s win in the Queen Alexandra Stakes despite having to give weight away to all 19 of his rivals.
Willie Mullins saddles two with Ryan Moore taking the mount on last year’s Ascot Stakes winner Clondaw Warrior but the each way selection is Magic Circle (5.35) who lacks the class of many of the principles but looks a thorough stayer and nick run into the money (4 places).
At Newmarket, I wouldn’t want any further rain for Atalan (2.10) but he looked one to keep on the right side of when winning at Nottingham last month and I have been advocating a drop in trip for Jordan Sport (5.20) who can land the 6f sprint for Richard Fahey with Paul Hanagan taking over from Jamie Spencer.
On Sunday Banksea (3.10) lost nothing in defeat when runner up at Leicester on his first start over this 10f trip and he can beat his elders in a competitive handicap at Pontefract whilst I am looking forward to seeing the return of Kaki De La Pree (2.50) in the Novices’ Chase at Worcester.
Now a nine-year-old I was hoping at one stage he might make up into a National horse, and perhaps he might still do so, but time is running out. He must go close although he wouldn’t want the ground to dry out too much.
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