Stradivarius obviously sets a very high bar but in his three runs in this race, he has been beaten twice and was a little fortunate to win in 2018 when Frankie Dettori closed the door on Thomas Hobson in the straight and that manoeuvre was the winning of the race. It’s no criticism that he was beaten in this race twice, as they were still two very solid performances but I believe that he just runs a little below his very best at this time of year and that it brings a few others into it as a result.
The one I like is Dawn Patrol for Aidan O’Brien. He has some very solid form this season, from being a close 2nd in a maiden at Leopardstown to now clear favourite for the Melbourne Cup in Tiger Moth, to getting no luck in the run when 3rd in the Irish Derby. He was a little disappointing when 6th in the St Leger but he did prove his stamina for the two mile trip when winning the Group 3 Loughbrown Stakes at the Curragh last month.
Soft ground holds no fears for him and the booking of Pierre Charles Boudot is a huge positive. At a big price, he makes plenty of each way appeal.
Sonaiyla has improved with every start this season since moving from Michael Halford to Paddy Twomey, starting the season rated just 86, she won a listed race at Cork on her first start for the yard and has progressed with every run since. She followed up in a Curragh handicap over seven furlongs on her next start off a mark of 102 and Group company was always going to be awaiting her after that performance.
She was just touched off in a Group 3 over six furlongs on her next start and the winner, Glen Shiel, was 2nd on his next start in the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock. That suggest that Sonaiyla doesn’t have that much to find here to be competitive.
Her last start was her first run in Group 1 company and she ran a cracker when only beaten a length at the Curragh over an inadequate five furlongs but she did prove that she belongs in this grade. The step back up to six furlongs is definitely in her favour and soft ground holds no fear for her. She makes plenty of each way appeal with Paddy paying 5 places here also.
It would be a great story if Hollie Doyle could win a Group 1 here and send Ed Vaughan out on top. Dame Malliot looks to have solid credentials in a wide open fillies and mares race this season.
Versatile with regards ground, the soft ground will not inconvenience her one bit and she has run really well on all three starts this season. She was an impressive winner of the Group 2 Princess Of Wales Stakes at Newmarket in July on soft ground and just found the sharper track at Cologne against her when beaten less than a length in a Group 1 there.
She ran a cracker in a red-hot renewal of the Prix Vermeille last time, with the winner, 5th and 8th all winning group races subsequently. She holds Wonderful Tonight, Even So and Laburnum on that running and hopefully she can grab a deserved Group 1 success here.
Magical is clearly the one to beat here but it might be worth taking a chance on Skalleti hitting the frame at a double figure price. He has an impressive strike rate, winning 12 of his 15 races and ten furlongs on soft ground is definitely his thing.
He was a dual Group 2 winner last year and has improved with every start this season. He was 3rd in a Group 2 over a mile on his 2nd start this season but was only beaten 2 lengths by the top-class Persian King and then followed that up by beating subsequent Arc winner Sottsass in Deauville Group 3.
Admittedly, Sottsass was conceding 7lbs and was unlikely to have been fully fit but it still suggested that Skalleti might be capable of stepping up to this grade. He was a very convincing winner of the Group 2 Prix Dollar last time, despite meeting plenty of trouble in running and looks worth chancing each way here and I wouldn’t be totally shocked were he to give the French their 3rd win in this race in the past 10 years.
This extremely competitive as usual, but I am really keen on the chance of King Ottokar here on just his second start in a handicap. Thought good enough to contest the Vertem Futurity as a juvenile he was an excellent 3rd in last years renewal of the Hampton Court Stakes at the Royal meeting behind Sangarius.
He has struggled since but all at listed or Group company and showed much more last time when dropping down to handicap company at Doncaster. He was travelling really well when getting impeded about a furlong and a half from home and he lost all chance as a result. That was a decent handicap and the return to softer ground on a stiffer track will definitely play to his strengths, while the handicapper has dropped him 2lbs to a mark of 100. I’ll very disappointed if he can’t go very close off that sort of mark.
Melburnian won this race last year and I think she has a great chance of winning it again. Last year’ s renewal looked quite strong, with the likes of Halimi and Lynwood Gold behind but Melburnian absolutely bolted up when running off a mark of 77. She finds herself running off just 4lbs lower here and I think it is fair to say that 4lbs extra wouldn’t have stopped her winning last year.
One thing I would mention is that she probably prefer more testing ground than the forecast yielding but she has run well on good to soft previously, while she looked like she was bouncing back to form at Listowel last time in a premier handicap off a mark of 80. She was badly hampered by the slipping up Sayo and lost ground but then got herself back into things but badly hampered again just over a furlong out when Bashiry veered right into her and again she lost plenty of momentum.
She was only beaten three and a half lengths and considering how badly she was interfered with, it is not fanciful to say she may well have won had she got a clear run. She is only a pound higher now and she really should go close.
Frank Hickey’s tips for Saturday’s racing.
Ascot 13.20 – Dawn Patrol
Ascot 13.55 – Sonaiyla (5 places)
Ascot 14.30 – Dame Malliot (4 places)
Ascot 15.40 – Skalleti
Ascot 16.15 – King Ottokar (5 places)
Leopardstown 16.45 – Melburnian (4 places)
Essential reading for Saturday’s racing
- Champions Day Cheat Sheet For Ascot On Saturday
- Our Traders’ Naps For The Weekend’s Racing
- These 8 Could Be Great At Wolverhampton This Evening