Andrew Hawkins’ Royal Ascot: Day 3

Race 1

Royal Ascot Day 3 begins with one of the races I’ve been most excited for all week, the G2 Norfolk Stakes for the two-year-olds over the same track and trip as Asfoora’s victory on Tuesday. It’s been 11 years since No Nay Never produced the fastest ever performance by a two-year-old over the Ascot five furlongs in this event and his son WHISTLEJACKET looks one of the bets of the week here. The form may not have stacked up that well on Tuesday when Cowardofthecounty, who defeated him on debut, finished seventh in the G2 Coventry Stakes. However, their match-up at the Curragh in April was on wet ground over six furlongs. He was so good when dropped back to five furlongs to win the Listed First Flier Stakes and should improve again on top of the ground. He’s an exciting prospect. SATURDAY FLIRT runs for trainer Wesley Ward and jockey Joel Rosario – both who combined to win this race with No Nay Never as well as Shang Shang Shang in 2018. It is perhaps surprising that she runs here rather than the Albany but, with Ward sending out the highly touted Burning Pine there, she drops in trip for this event. He has taken the blinkers off and has also indicated she will be ridden with cover, so expect her to be finding the line late. It perhaps negates the biggest advantage of the American juveniles, their natural speed, but if she adapts to that pace she will be right in the mix. MOVING FORCE can figure for Richard Fahey, while SHAREHOLDER – who beat Moving Force on debut – meets him seven pounds worse at the weights but looks to have more scope.

Numbers: 13-14-8-10

Suggested Bet: Whistlejacket WIN (Best Bet)

Race 2

The King George V Stakes, a handicap over the mile and a half for three-year-olds, has a long history as a stepping stone to Australia. Both Give The Slip and Beekeeper were placed in the Melbourne Cup the year after winning this race, with Caulfield Cup runner-up Dandino also among the winners – in fact, a slew of Caulfield Cup runners-up are graduates of this contest including Homesman, Scottish and Trip To Paris. The race also produced Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter and beaten favourite Deauville Legend, while other notable Australian winners out of the race include Land Legend, Post Impressionist, Military Mission, Just Fine, Francesco Guardi, Downdraft, Homesman, Shraaoh, Arab Dawn, Spillway, Muir and Fantastic Love. Put simply, expect to see a few of these horses in Australia in the years ahead. Now, to this year’s race. GALLANTLY actually is closely related to Scottish and is bred in the purple, being by Frankel out of the French 1000 Guineas winner Precieuse. He’s taken time to hit his straps but he looked really good over 2100m last time out at the tight-turning Chester, suited not only by a step up in trip but also quicker ground. He should get the same here, with the extra 300m even better for him, and he comes through a maiden that has produced a winner of this race recently in 2022 victor Secret State. While he may appear the Ballydoyle second-stringer, he goes on top. GILDED WATER, a half-brother to Sydney Cup winner Circle Of Fire, could potentially give King Charles III and Queen Camilla a second straight success in this race after Desert Hero took the spoils last year. He looks like he should relish this tip. London Gold Cup placegetters PONIROS and CHANTILLY are next best.

Numbers: 13-6-8-3

Suggested Bet: Gallantly EACH WAY

Race 3

The G2 Ribblesdale Stakes, for the three-year-old fillies over a mile and a half, is quite often a bridge between the G1 Epsom Oaks at the start of June and the G1 Irish Oaks deep into July. This was the race won by Magical Lagoon in 2022 before she took the Irish Oaks – she would go on to have six starts in Australia in 2023, finishing sixth in both the G3 Neville Sellwood Stakes and the G3 Geelong Cup. DIAMOND RAIN looks a very exciting filly. A daughter of Epsom Oaks winner Dancing Rain, she ran right away from Ejaabiyah – a daughter of Golden Slipper winner Estijaab – in a Listed race at Newbury last time out. Ejaabiyah has since won in a canter at Salisbury and is a leading Irish Oaks contender herself. Everything points to Diamond Rain scoring her first Group win here. If one can beat her, it’s KALPANA. She won by 10 lengths at Newmarket two starts back before going down at a short quote in the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes last time out. She’ll appreciate getting up to 2400m and she’s the main threat. Next best, although some way behind, are the other Juddmonte filly SIYOLA and her stablemate DANIELLE.

Numbers: 2-6-12-1

Suggested Bet: Diamond Rain WIN

Race 4

The G1 Gold Cup over 4000m is the oldest surviving feature at Royal Ascot, having been run since 1807. KYPRIOS, so impressive in winning in 2022, returns this year in an attempt to join multiple winners in the last 40 years like Stradivarius, Yeats, Royal Rebel, Kayf Tara, Drum Taps, Sadeem and Gildoran. He’s won both starts this year comfortably, although he hasn’t been anywhere near the Kyprios of 2022 – he hasn’t had to be. This will be his litmus test and, although he’s a contender, he’s worth opposing at such a short quote. Instead, side with his G2 Long Distance Cup conqueror TRAWLERMAN. This will be his biggest stamina test as he stretches beyond two miles for the first time but he’s going to get his favoured ground (although Dubai stewards reported last time out that he found it too firm, something of a surprise). If he can quicken at the end of the 4000m the way he can quicken at the end of 3200m, he will be a major player. VAUBAN is somewhat maligned down here now after his lacklustre performance as Melbourne Cup favourite last year. All roads apparently lead to Melbourne, though, and his extraordinary win in last year’s Copper Horse Handicap has to make him a player here. His stamina is an unknown factor – he was so good in the Triumph Hurdle over 3400m at the stamina-sapping Cheltenham on good to soft ground but was well beaten by the freakish Constitution Hill at the same track but on soft ground in the Champion Hurdle over 3300m. On top of the ground, you’d have to think he can see out this trip. Kyprios is next best, just ahead of the honest COLTRANE.

Numbers: 6-8-3-1

Suggested Bet: Trawlerman WIN

Race 5

The Britannia Stakes, a handicap for the three-year-olds over the straight mile, has a reputation as a Hong Kong auction race given so many runners end up heading to Sha Tin to chase their four-year-old riches early next year. It can produce Australian horses too, though, with last year’s winner (and Tuesday’s G1 Queen Anne Stakes runner-up) Docklands set to become the second winner in the last five years to come down under (after Biometric). A jockey familiar to Hong Kong punters, Neil Callan, can take the prize in the Sheikh Obaid colours of last year’s Melbourne and Caulfield Cup winner Without A Fight. He rides VOLTERRA, who was ever so impressive over the Rowley Mile at Newmarket last start at what was his three-year-old debut. He got a fair whack in the ratings for that, going up from 82 to 91, but that still sees him getting in with 8st 12lb (56.25kg) in a race where the spread ranges from 61.24kg topweight to 54.89kg bottom weight. He looks capable of taking his rating into triple figures before too long. MICKLEY will almost certainly head to Hong Kong, given he is now owned by prominent owner Siu Pak Kwan. He was strong enough at Doncaster at his handicap debut to suggest that he can handle a mile and he’s drawn the right spot to be able to react to however the race develops. Juddmonte’s STARLORE and the Australian-owned SIR LES PATTERSON are others to consider in an open event.

Numbers: 21-23-5-30

Suggested Bet: Volterra EACH WAY

Race 6

If there’s a race that can rival the Britannia Stakes as a Hong Kong guide, it is the G3 Hampton Court Stakes over 2000m – restricted to horses who have not won at Group 1 or Group 2 level. Winners like Collection and Russian Emperor have struck success at the highest level in Hong Kong and last year’s winner Waipiro was expected to do the same before he was injured and retired. This year’s race looks all about KING’S GAMBIT and FIRST LOOK, both with plenty of upside. Personally, I wanted to be with First Look, coming off a second in the G1 Prix du Jockey Club. That was on heavy ground and his sole attempt on a good track saw him finish second to Darlinghurst, disappointing in Tuesday’s G1 St James’s Palace Stakes. However, he’s improving with every start and he just gets the tick here. King’s Gambit was so good in winning the London Gold Cup – have a look at how Poniros, Chantilly and Persica perform in the King George V Stakes earlier in the card because that will probably determine his price. The London Gold Cup can often throw up nice types for this race – take 2010 when eventual Melbourne Cup winner Green Moon defeated subsequent Dubai World Cup hero Monterosso. Even accounting for all of the top-class winners in recent years, he is the highest-rated winner of the race at least since 2008. He’s a rightful favourite but I have him and First Look closer than the initial market does and so I have to be with First Look. Really, it is about those two with JAYAREBE and CAVIAR HEIGHTS as place chances behind the two favourites.

Numbers: 5-7-6-4

Suggested Bet: First Look WIN

Race 7

The Buckingham Palace Stakes is a seven-furlong handicap which was first introduced in 2002, removed in 2015 and then reinstated in 2020. In 2021, it saw future four-time G1 winner Highfield Princess defeat G1 Al Quoz Sprint winner Danyah, so it shows the calibre of horse that can end up in this 1400m contest. While all four races since its return have gone to four-year-olds, it might be worth looking at the older horses this time around. The Australian-owned GORAK had no chance from a bad draw in this race last year. He’s drawn the other side this time around, which may not be better, but he is nine points better off in the handicaps and he’s been really good in two runs this season. He goes on top of the 10-year-old SUMMERGHAND, who doesn’t often run over 1400m but who has been so good at 1200m through his career. He’s a three-time stakes winner and was just beaten in the Wokingham at this meeting too. He can surprise. Last-start Chester victor PERCY’S LAD and the quirky BARADAR deserve respect too.

Numbers: 17-22-9-6

Suggested Bet: Gorak EACH WAY

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