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.

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