Thursday, June 18, 2015

Royal Ascot Day 4 Analysis and Plays

Race 1: Group 3 Albany Stakes
Team America is back in this six furlong dash in a race in which Wesley Ward finished second last year with Sunset Glow. This year, he fields two with Back at the Ranch and our choice Laxfield Road. A mighty impressive debut winner, Laxfield Road will have to be able to transfer her speed to six furlongs on turf, but half sister To Be Determined was an easy maiden winner over six furlongs on the dirt and accounted well for herself over seven furlongs on the turf in a juvenile stakes at Kentucky Downs, so there are signs that both distance and surface can be well within her scope.

Play: Laxfield Road to win

Race 2: Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes
Ryan Moore has been on a tear this meeting, but Ol' Man River has done nothing to back up his strong juvenile form (as in not even 20 lengths of a winner this season) and has to be opposed at a short price. Festive Fair intrigues as a lightly raced type who has stacks of potential after having won its first two starts before finishing fourth behind eventual Derby winner Golden Horn in a listed event. The form of that event (the Feilden Stakes) in particular has turned out incredibly well with second place finisher Peacock winning a listed event straight after in addition to the second, third, and fourth place finishers in the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes all coming from that listed affair.

Play: Festive Fair to win

Race 3: Group 1 Commonwealth Cup 
The Commonwealth Cup looks as wide-open a race as any with several budding stars on hand for this three-year-old restricted affair. Hootenanny offers leading claims for America having been proven overseas and entering here off about as perfect a prep as one could hope for. He's no lock, however, with plenty of speed in the field and particularly on his side of the draw: Jungle Cat, Kool Kompany, and talented filly Tiggy Wiggy should all go forward and whether Hootenanny can avoid being pushed too hard in the early stages will be key to his success. While we'll use Hootenanny in this spot, top choice claims go to Tendu, a progressive looking filly who should be able to take advantage should the early speed horses go too hard out front. She's come on a ton in her two most recent starts when second to Limato after being steadied at the start and Limato was given an easy go of things out front and then just missing last time out after blowing the start over five furlongs. The step up in trip and added pace in front of her could give her the conditions in which she can show her very best. Whether that's good enough remains to be seen, but her likely price justifies the risk. Improving filly Anthem Alexander also appeals after winning the Group 3 Lacken Stakes on seasonal debut.

Play: Tendu e/w, exacta: Tendu / Hootenanny, Limato, Anthem Alexander

Race 4: Group 1 Coronation Stakes
The class of this field is undoubtedly Ervedya, but whether or not she can replicate her top class French form over firm going is a legitimate concern. Of the favorites, Lucida appeals more over this going after having an extremely tough trip when second to Legatissimo in the 1000 Guineas. We'll instead take an each-way flyer on an improving type in Sperry. She's looked a progressive type when beating Touchline, who returned to run a strong third behind Osaila in the Sandringham, and Yasmeen who also runs here. She's sharp, should love the ground, and is improving with every race -- a similar step forward would see her in with a chance to hit the board here.

Play: Sperry e/w, exacta box: Sperry, Lucida

Race 5: Duke of Edinburgh Stakes (Class 2 Handicap)

Race 6: Listed Queen's Vase
Aloft was a well regarded two-year-old who beat the likes of eventual Derby third place finisher Storm the Stars, but in what will be his first start of the season, having both cheekpieces and a tongue tie put on for the first time over a staying distance brings some doubt into how straight-forward of a type he is -- a big negative in a race where the ability to settle is paramount. At a likely very short price, he's worth taking a stand against. This is a race where several of the runners look suspect at the distance, but Fabricate offers one of the better chances to stay the trip with the Sadler's Wells influence via his dam Flight of Fancy, who was second in the 2001 Oaks. Fabricate's form has also turned out well with Yarrow, whom he beat soundly, returning to oppose him here after winning at Leicester.

Play: Fabricate to win

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Royal Ascot Horses to Watch

The esteemed Royal Ascot meeting begins next Tuesday, and among the classy horses who all plan to travel to the meeting from near and far, there are several up-and-coming or in form but overlooked horses who can make a splash at a nice price. Below are a few of the horses who I'm keeping a close eye on for betting purposes as the meeting draws near.

1. Spielberg (currently 16/1 in UK), Prince of Wales Stakes, Day 2 Race 4
Japan has yet to have a winner at Royal Ascot, but over a mile and a quarter Spielberg, one of the classier Japanese middle distance runners, looks a potential chance to become the first. A Deep Impact half brother to US multiple graded stakes winner Flower Alley and full brother to Group 1 Mile Championship winner Tosen Ra, he has had a big pedigree to live up to. After winning three straight stakes to end 2013 and begin 2014, he backed up his pedigree in a big way when taking the Group 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) over firm ground and the same distance of this race. While his most recent run left something to be desired, he was first up off a long layoff and over ground he absolutely hated (which was visibly clear on the replay) -- he should surely improve for the run. A win over Gentildonna and third to Epiphaneia in last year's Japan Cup is strong enough form to be competitive in this spot and the presence of horses like California Chrome and perhaps Gailo Chop should give him the necessary pace to run into. Expect to see him flying late.

2. Undrafted (currently 20/1 in UK), Diamond Jubilee, Day 5 Race 4
In what looked a blockbuster race on paper, the Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes' form has already begun to work out well with winner Power Alert (despite too long a trip over ground not to his liking) and third place finisher Something Extra finishing in the top four in their comeback runs in the Jaipur on the Belmont Stakes undercard. More interestingly, however, was the sixth place finisher in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint, Channel Marker, who despite a troubled trip finished the final sectional of that race in 10.99s. He came back to win the Jaipur -- the only faster finisher than him at Churchill Downs was Undrafted, who came home in 10.85s. The step up to six furlongs is right in his wheelhouse and he's run well in the UK before when a good fourth in last year's July Cup at Newmarket over ground that wouldn't have been ideal.

3. Tendu (currently 12/1 in UK), Commonwealth Cup, Day 4 Race 3
The Commonwealth Cup is all about the SPEED. With the likes of Hootenanny, Tiggy Wiggy, Home of the Brave and Luck of the Kitten, among others, this is a race that has all the looks of a pace meltdown even though it's run over only six furlongs. Tendu appears every bit an improving type and while she has a habit of getting out of the stalls slowly, dare I say that could actually work to her advantage here. Her run two back in particular was nice when finishing ahead of Adaay and one and a half lengths behind antepost favorite Limato, who figures to find himself in the dreaded position of chasing all of the early speed. While losing last start when heavily favored may put some off, five furlongs is a touch short of her ideal trip and she only lost by a neck regardless -- a stiff six furlongs will instead be right up her alley.

4. Bathyrhon (currently 16/1 in UK), Ascot Gold Cup, Day 3 Race 4
His price (and label as a non-stayer over this trip) is a mindboggling one to me and while the currently favorite Forgotten Rules is firmly the horse to beat, the likelihood of quick ground reduces the chances that he'll even run in the race. Without him (or Tac de Boistron, who also needs soft ground), Bathryrhon easily possesses the most potent turn of foot in the race, as was shown in his Prix du Cadran runner-up finish where he closed with a fury after a troubled trip to nearly beat gate-to-wire winner High Jinx, and more importantly, that race was run in a quick time. His performance in Dubai was inexplicably poor, but he came right back a winner in France. With horses like Brown Panther, who clearly won't stay the trip, sitting at half his price along with several slow plodder types sitting near the head of the market, Bathyrhon looks the clear overs as an improving type who possesses both speed and stamina in a race where the conditions should be exactly to his liking. Who knows? Maybe a trip to Flemington for the Melbourne Cup will ultimately be on the cards.

5. Sperry (currently 14/1 in UK), Coronation Stakes Day 4 Race 4
It remains to be seen where she'll ultimately run, but either way, she offers good claims either way. Should she head to the Coronation, she'll be against Found, who has yet to replicate her strong two-year-old form, and Ervedya, who would best perform over softer ground than she's likely to get. So in a race with favorites who have questions to answer, Sperry fits well as an improving type, who enters in good form, and should get suitable conditions. To top it off, being a course (round) and distance winner never hurts.