Royal Ascot 2019 begins in a fortnight’s time with three Group 1’s on the opening day including the King’s Stand Stakes over five furlongs. Recent Temple Stakes winner Battash is 2/1 favourite at BetVictor and his clash with last year’s winner Blue Point – 7/2 with BetVictor – promises to be one of the races of the week.
A couple of jumps cards this afternoon and at Bangor-on- Dee I am looking forward to the hurdles debut of Gunnery (2.00) who has not seen the track since finishing down the field in a Newmarket Group 3 back in July 2016 when trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam. The selection is a half-brother to a winning hurdler/chaser and still runs in the colours of Mrs Fitri Hay. Let’s hope connections patience is rewarded although he did pull hard on occasions on the level which is a slight concern.
There is a very competitive 3m Handicap Chase and Deputy Commander (3.30) will appreciate today’s additional half-mile having stayed on well when beaten less than 2L in third behind Steel Wave – 3lbs worse off today – over 2m 4f here last month. The selection was returning from a long lay-off on that occasion, but it should be noted that he has a good record when fresh and might not improve a great deal for his reappearance.
Loud As Lions (4.00) has to brush up his jumping, but looks well handicapped if he gets his hurdling together for Tom Symons who looks sure to have extensively schooled his 6-y-old after a poor round at Southwell last time. Nemean Lion looked to be coming to hand at Stratford last time and looks a very big danger.
Scartare has finished runner up over today’s C&D on his last three starts and he certainly deserves to get his head in front although he is 10lbs higher today than he was for the first of those starts. If the ground is genuinely good or quicker, I am going to take a chance on Royal Magic (2.45) who was ill at ease on the rain-softened ground last time.
The selection is 13lbs better off with Global Domination on Marker Risen running in April when he travelled like the best horse in the race but didn’t get home over that near 2m 6f trip.
Whenhellbrokeloose pulled too hard at Exeter on his Rules debut in an Exeter Bumper; no surprise to see Alan King fit his charge with a hood for his hurdles debut. Stony Stream (3.45) is no star but showed a good attitude when making all in a Stratford Bumper last time. This step up in trip will help on his hurdles debut and he can make all for Gavin Sheehan.
Three of the six Mares’ who line up for the 2m 4f Handicap Hurdle were last time out winners and that does not include Late Night Lily (4.15) who was just about to take it up when coming down two out at Market Rasen from a 3lbs lower mark.
At Lingfield this evening I am interested to see the lightly-raced Harry’s Bar (7.10) revert to the minimum trip having been too keen on turf at Doncaster last time. Oisin Murphy takes over in the saddle and the selection has a good draw in stall two.
I hope to see a big run from Affair (7.40) in the 2m Handicap for Hughie Morrison. The mare is only 3lbs higher than when scoring at Chelmsford over 1m 6f back in November and had a good pipe-opener when 4th at Bath returning from a break over 1m 5f last time.
I expect to see John Gosden saddle the winner of the 10f Maiden but preference for First In Line (8.10) over Harrovian is marginal. The selection was slowly away but finished well when runner up at Nottingham on debut and I expect to see Frankie Dettori make plenty of use of his filly from her plum draw in stall one.
Tamooz (8.40) steps up in trip for his handicap debut having been slowly away at Windsor last time before staying on steadily over an inadequate mile. The selection is out of a 12f winner and this evening’s step up in trip should see him in a much better light for Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni.