Ouzo was quite progressive last season, rising from an initial handicap mark of 71 up to 91. He won handicaps at Nottingham, Sandown and Newmarket on both good and soft ground. Versatility with regards ground could be important, as there is some more rain forecast at Ascot on Wednesday.
Ouzo ran a cracker on his reappearance at Newmarket where he really should have won, being caught on the line by Bell Rock and both were clear of the third. He is 5lbs well in today as the handicapper would have put him up that amount if he was allowed reassess him before this race. He has what looks a favourable high draw, Ryan Moore is on board and definitely looks the one to beat.
First Receiver ran an eye-catching debut at Newmarket last season when running on strongly in third in what turned out to be a very strong maiden. The winner Al Madhar won next time, the second Al Suhail was Group placed and there were five subsequent winners in behind First Receiver.
He was second on his second start over a mile at Kmepton and it was his third start back at Kempton that marked him down as potentially a Group horse. He won by seven lengths and the time wasn’t much slower than Nazeef (won the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes yesterday) who a Listed race at Kempton the following day. First Receiver looks sure to improve for stepping up in trip and having Frankie Dettori on board is no negative.
Win O Clock showed a bit of promise in three starts in maidens over a mile on the all weather and he was noted running on well at the end of his races.
Being by Australia the step up in trip was always going to suit and he stepped up to ten furlongs on his handicap debut at Haydock a couple of weeks ago off a mark of 75 and he made a mockery of that mark, winning easily without the need for Jason Watson to use the whip. He carries a 4lb penalty today but the handicapper has put him up 9lbs, so he is 5lbs well in.
Roger Charlton has a decent record in this race with a small number of runners and with Paddy playing 5 places, he looks sure to go well and be involved at the finish.
Japan is the one to beat but the combination of easy ground and the drop to 10 furlongs may not be ideal for him so I think it’s worth taking a chance of Headman. He won two Group 2’s in France last season and he ran better than his finishing position suggests when fifth in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
He fly-jumped at the start and lost ground and made a big move wide at the hottest part of the race. His effort flattened out in the final furlong but he was only beat three and a half lengths by Magical. The bit of easy ground will be no inconvenience to him at all and he may be up to causing a mini-surprise in the highlight of the day.
Paddy is paying a massive 7 places online in the Royal Hunt Cup and Fox Premier makes plenty of appeal each-way. Slow to get the hang of things, he didn’t win any of his first four starts in maidens and novice races but his first handicap start was when it all came together, winning at Chelmsford over 10f off a mark of 79. He followed up at Sandown off a 6lb higher mark when beating Sameem and that horse would go on to win at Listed level just three starts later, which suggest that they were two well handicapped horses that day.
Fox Premier was only 9/1 for last years King George V Stakes at last year’s Royal meeting but got no luck in the run, getting hampered on several occasions so a line can be put through that run. He was then second is a strong 10f handicap at Goodwood when behind Forest Of Dean who followed up on his next start and is now 16lbs higher, so Fox Premier faced an impossible task that day.
He has only gone up 2lbs for that run, has been gelded and looks to have the best of the draw in stall 24. He should go well at an each-way price.
There is even more guesswork than normal involved in the two year old races at Ascot this season with such little form to reference. Astimegoesby ran a lovely race on debut at Newmarket when sharp from the gate and looked to have nicked the race a furlong and a half from home.
He traded at nearly ‘even money’ in the run and was just collared in the final half furlong by Modern News and Noble Dynasty. They are two lovely horses, with Modern News ante-post favourite for the Chesham Stakes later in the week. Noble Dynasty cost 3.6 million guineas as a yearling, so is clearly well thought of.
The drop to 5f looks a decent move and while I would have preferred if he was drawn higher, with Paddy paying 4 places Astimegoesby looks a punt each way.
Richard Hannon’s Floating Artist has a decent each-way chance in the final especially with Paddy paying 5 places. Two runs last season suggest he is well treated.
The first was on his handicap debut at Ascot over a mile and a half when he gave Faylaq 7lbs and a beating. Faylaq was very highly regarded by connections going into that race and now is 12lbs higher, being rated 105. Floating Artist then went to Goodwood for a mile and a half Group 3 race, the Gordon Stakes. He ran a cracker beaten only a length and a half in fourth and that form has worked out really strongly.
• Winner Nayef Road was 3rd in the Leger and won the Sagaro Stakes this season
• 2nd Constantinople was 2nd in the Voltigeur and is now in Australia
• 3rd Spanish Mission won a Group 1 in America
• 6th Technician won a Group 1 in Paris on Arc weekend
• 8th Leo De Fury won a Group 2 last weekend in the Curragh
That run suggests a mark of 105 is more than fair for Floating Artist and he looks to have been laid out for the race, having a spin at Newmarket two weeks ago to leave him spot on for this.
He will do for me.
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