The ground looks sure to be fast for the weekend feature the Gp 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. Sir Michael Stoute first won the race back in 1981 with the great Shergar – his only 3-y-o scorer – and has saddled the winner on four subsequent occasions.
Stoute saddles 4-year-old Crystal Ocean (7/4 at BetVictor) and the year older Poets Word (2/1 with BetVictor) at the weekend and it is the former who makes most appeal at this stage. Note William Buick was confirmed as the big-race rider aboard the favourite on Monday.
Cracksman (10/1 at BetVictor) looks to need give in the ground to let himself down these days and I’m not convinced the Grand Prix de Paris success of Kew Gardens (5/1) earlier in the month was a vintage renewal of that Group 1 contest.
In the opener at Nottingham this evening I hope Castle Talbot (5.30) is more amenable to restraint than was the case at Brighton last time when he gave himself no chance of getting home over a mile-and-a-half. This drop back to 10f will suit and he is down to his last – sole – winning mark.
Antonia Clara (6.00) drops back to the minimum trip despite having stayed on well in a hot Newmarket maiden last time. Apprentice Milly Naseb takes off a valuable 5lbs for Stuart Williams and I will be disappointed if she doesn’t go close given this is a drop in grade from the maiden she contested last time.
Nyala (8.00) was last off the bridle when fourth at Bath last time over 10f and the drop back to a mile is considered a plus in the 3-y-old handicap. At the time of writing jockey Robert Winston’s last five mounts have finished 15211 and the selection has been dropped a pound in the weights since his last start at Bath.
Dream Serenade must show she can transfer her improved fibresand form back to turf and the handicapper has raised her 9lbs for her latest Southwell victory over a-mile-and-a-half. Affair is slowly coming to hand and goes well for this evening’s apprentice, but preference is for Flower Power (8.30) with Dougie Costello taking over in the saddle.
The selection looks sure to appreciate the step back up in trip having done all her best work late on when fourth at Beverley over 12f last time. Trainer Tony Coyle has only had the one winner so far this season but he looks to have found a good opportunity for his mare this evening.
At Musselburgh Thunder Buddy (2.20) steps up in trip to a mile for his handicap debut and Karl Burke fits a visor to his lightly-raced gelding who might be up to defying his opening mark of 57. The selection was tailed off at halfway at Hamilton last time before running on past beaten horses over 6f.
Burke also saddles the well-bred grey Lieutenant Silver (2.50) who doesn’t look particularly over-faced for his racecourse debut. The selection cost E110,000 as a yearling and is the half-brother to several previous winners. The colt is the only male in the field as he faces four fillies including Chelmsford winner Kilbarchan.
Four Kingdoms did us a favour at Ayr last time but he is 10lbs worse off – including jockey’s allowances – with Golden Jeffrey (5.00) and the suggestion is that the latter will overturn the form on the revised terms with today’s additional three furlongs a plus for Iain Jardine’s 5-y-old.
Moyassar (6.40) may have run into one when runner up at Newmarket last time over 7f when he travelled well and the drop back in trip this evening should suit. The selection is well drawn in stall three and I will be disappointed if he can’t make it third time lucky at Chelmsford.
Hollydaze (7.40) ran her best race yet at Windsor last week and Finley Marsh takes off a valuable 5lbs this evening on the Richard Hughes-trained filly. The selection had previously failed to stay when second here over an additional quarter of a mile on her seasonal reappearance and a draw in stall three is a plus.