Robin of Navan, Robin of Navan, Robin of Navan. Get the message? Before the gamble arrives make sure you back this classy charge in the Royal Hunt Cup next Wednesday.
The six-year-old has all the back form you need for a race of this ilk, acts well at Ascot and looks well handicapped when you look at his recent form especially that abomination of a ride he was given at Newbury last time out, a race he should have won and won readily.
However, the fact that Ryan Moore couldn’t make up his mind what to do from fully three and a half furlongs out on this scopey six-year-old could play out in our favour, as he has no penalty and will run off an eye-watering mark of 105 in the 8f cavalry charge.
His form behind Zaaki in the Paradise Stakes at the track has been well and truly cemented and it was as recently as autumn that he ran two cracking races at Group Three level. The recent rains are a positive and anything in double figures makes him the each-way stand-out wager during the five days of action. Favourite and progressing at a rate of knots, New Graduate, is the biggest danger and may well be worth having a saver to your stake on the selection.
I am a huge fan of the filly AGROTERA, as she landed one of my biggest winning bets for some time when she hacked up in last year’s Sandringham. Her comeback run in the Snowdrop at Kempton shows that she remains on an upward curve and she can take another step forward by landing the Group Two Duke of Cambridge Stakes on Tuesday to set us up for the week.
HAZAPOUR is an each-way wager to nothing in the opening Queen Anne Stakes on Tuesday 14.30 now that the value has gone from last year’s winner Accidental Agent.
Dermot Weld’s charge ran an unbelievable race in last year’s Derby, looking the likely winner two and a half furlongs out before his stamina ebbed away. His comeback success in the Amethyst Stakes was as smooth as silk and I suspect that there is an awful lot more to come from this classy son of Shamardal over what is quite obviously his newly found optimum trip.
There are plenty of national hunt horses set to line up to ‘steal’ the Ascot Stakes Handicap prize money at 17:00 over 2m 4f on the opening day, but BILLY RAY, trained by Mick Channon, has been crying out for this kind of test. As long as connections persevere with hold-up tactics, I think he can build on his recent run at Newmarket where he could never get into the contest. This extra yardage looks sure to play to his strengths and I suspect 33/1 plus will be available on the day.
Now the bad news. I have a bee in my bonnet, and excuse the pun for the lovely ladies at Royal Ascot with their excruciatingly expenses hats, but that angst is with the greatest trainer on planet earth, Aidan O’Brien.
I fully understand that Capri is being trained for the Ascot Gold Cup and despite two poor runs this season, the Ballydoyle trainer remains steadfast in that aim.
And I also get it that Saturday’s Hardwicke Stakes is up for grabs and could well be the poorest renewal of this 12f event for many years, but it still makes no sense to my mind that the exciting ‘stayer’ Southern France is set to run in that Group Two race , when he could be a real player for the feature event of the whole meeting, in Thursday’s Group One Ascot Gold Cup.
His battling second behind Stradivarius in the Yorkshire Cup is one of only a handful of pieces of evidence that suggests two and a half miles around the Berkshire track will prove his cup of tea.
The most damning piece of evidence was his strong finishing placed effort in the 14f Queen’s Vase at last year’s meeting where, after being outpaced down the side of the track, he roared home to be beaten four and a half lengths by Kew Gardens and then just over six lengths by that same stable mate in the St Leger, a stop-start race certainly not run to suit his style.
My reasoning for an assault on the marathon championship is that this mountain of a colt would only reach his zenith in his fourth or even possibly fifth year of life as he strengthens up and fully grows into and is able to carry his mammoth frame.
A sub-standard Hardwicke may well be within his compass, but as it stands on current form as well as looking on an upward curve he has a better chance of landing O’Brien an eighth Gold Cup than any of his stablemates entered.
Anyway, the Ascot Gold Cup remains a race with plenty of ‘ifs and buts’ and even if Aidan O’Brien has broken my ante-post punting heart by ruling out Southern France, there remains more than a modicum of value about RAYMOND TUSK for this lung-bursting staying event.
He was really staying on nicely behind Dee Ex Bee in the Sagaro Stakes over two miles at this track and I was more than a bit taken aback when Hannon subsequently ran him behind Crystal Ocean over 1m 4f in the Aston Park Stakes. For the record, he was far from disgraced that day, but staying is his game and although it would be more than a shade fanciful to suggest he could land this crown, I think he could hit the frame at a huge price.
*Prices and runners’ entries correct at time of publishing