The third day at Royal Ascot starts with the five furlong Norfolk Stakes. Not much form to go on with these two year olds so let’s look at some of the wider factors. Glory Fighter broke the track record for his age group over the same trip at Lingfield last time, while it is also probably worth bearing in mind that Vintage Brut was bought for £280,000 after scoring at Sandown in a Listed race. Shang Shang Shang won on dirt for Wesley Ward on debut so it’ll be interesting to see if she takes to turf.
There are a couple whose breeding I like. The first is Konchek who is sired by a Diamond Jubilee winner, Lethal Force, who Clive Cox did so well with. His dam won the G3 Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot and also the Lowther at York, so there is bags of speed on both sides of the pedigree. The other is Land Force who is sired by No Nay Never who won this very race. However, his dam generally produces horses who like longer trips than this. I’m going to go for Konchek.
Next up is the Hampton Court Stakes. Hunting Horn wasn’t far away in the French Derby in sixth and is well worth considering. Godolphin have good claims too with Key Victory who was two places further back. National Army is nicely bred from a good family and 14/1 is too big a price. Vintager would need more than his third at Sandown although the form looks red hot after the winner also landed the St James’s Palace Stakes earlier this week. I’ll just edge for Hunting Horn but Vintager may outrun the odds.
Next up is the Ribblesdale. At longer odds Dancing Brave Bear looked good at York before just fizzling out close to home. She travels well and I can see her getting in the frame. Magic Wand has some ability as she showed in the Cheshire Oaks before probably not enjoying soft ground at Epsom. Wild Illusion brings good form with a 4th in the 1,000 Guineas and runner-up in the Oaks at Epsom. However, I am going with one I think has huge potential in Sun Maiden. She has amazing breeding, by the mighty Frankel and out of an excellent dam called Midsummer who wasn’t a star on the track herself but is the mother of three black type horses. Sun Maiden also shone in a runaway success at Salisbury last time on only her second start. I think she could be a superstar.
Next is the feature race of the week, the Gold Cup. Vazirabad is a very good horse on his day with a lot of 1s next to his name. He’s in good form this year, including wins in Dubai and France. The question mark is quicker ground. If he handles it then he will very likely be in the first three home. Stradivarius has never raced over this far in his career, but does look like he will stay the distance. He will set a stern challenge for previous winner Order Of St George, who is in good heart and has raced well enough in two prep races in Ireland. Take your pick of the three, but if I had to choose I might just plump for Stradivarius.
Richard Hughes is very keen on one he trains in the Britannia called George Of Hearts, but it’s a lottery race. As is the last race the George V Stakes, where I you can make a case for many but Joseph O’Brien’s Downdraft has been progressing well and could be in with a chance.