The 6 furlong Sprint Stakes is a tricky race to find a value angle in as Deacon Blues is a deserving favourite after stepping up to group race company since winning the Wokingham at the Royal meeting (we were on that day) with incredible success. James Fanshawe's gelding is potentially the best sprinter in Europe & definitely the most exciting having now won 4 on the trot & in some style including the Dubai International World Trophy witha great turn of pace in the final furlong, he's better over this distance & is proven at the course, 11/4 is definitely a fair price especially with the all important course form, we were doubters originally about his ability to step up but Deacon Blues has converted us with some great performances. The French filly Moonlight Cloud is the main opposition according to the market, she started favourite for our 1000 Guineas but flopped a little there only to be reinvented back at sprint distances & putting in a stunning performance when winning the Group 1 Prix Maurice De Gheest over this distance by 4 lengths after a surging run at the end of the race. Moonlight Cloud is respected but she doesn't have the overall consistent look to her form that Deacon Blues has & we're begrugingly swerving her. The other horse that catches our eye at a massive price is Royal Rock a 7 year old that has clearly been difficult to train with just 22 runs in its career, 8 of those have been wins with two of those being in a Group 3 & a Listed race over 6 furlongs at Ascot in October. Alright one of those was in 2009 but he only saw two runs in 2010 & took some time to come to his own in 2011 but has won twice in the past month, first picking up a little race at Yarmouth before winning here after a slightly troubled passage in a decent & competitive Listed contest. Many horses just aren't geared towards this part of the season but Royal Rock is thriving, likes the course & is at too big a price to be ignored, an each way bet at 25/1 is the sensible option & best bet of the day.
(Ring-a-ding-ding Gertrude Bell (middle) winning the Lancashire Oaks)
The Group 2 Fillies & Mares race over 1 mile 4 furlongs is a bit of a forgotten race today with no Midday, Snow Fairy or Blue Bunting taking part but it has a competitive feel to it & some very nice types taking part. We very much like the look of Gertrude Bell the 4 year old filly trained by John Gosden, she won the Cheshire Oaks as a 3 year old before running with credit in hot renewals of the Oaks & Ribblesdale, she's won both her races this season & looks a real furlong specialist, with a lovely running action & decent attitude. She's only run the twice this year which is a slight concern but John Gosden has always had this as her target & if she's right (he thinks she is) she'll be there or thereabouts, at 14/1 she's a great one to have on side. Henry Cecil's Vita Nova is a much shorter price at / even after losing to Gertrude Bell in the Lancashire Oaks, the general view is that she would have won that day of it hadn't been for her saddle slipping badly & she did extremely well to finish 2nd, she has unfortunately finished 2nd on her last 3 starts & that's not something we like to see although her 2nd to Blue Bunting last time is excellent form. Another contender Ferdoos beat Vita Nova back in May & she's been a tough one to train with just 4 runs, Ferdoos is exciting but her lack of race experience could be hard to overcome on a day like this. Dancing Rain is this year's Oaks winner although her excellent jockey (especially round Epsom), Johnny Murtagh's ride was given as a key reason for that win after she made all off a slow pace, similar tactics would see her to her best today but that mightn't be possible in this field.
In the QE2 Frankel cannot be opposed & we don't intend to, he's an incredible horse & the hope is that he wins extra impressively, comes back safe & sound & then proves himself further next year by winning his races with extra weight as a 4 year old. Frankel can do the lot & we think he may genuinely be ridden with restraint this time before clearing away a furlong or so from home, best odds of 1/3 seem absolutley fine to us although not as tasty at the 4/5 we tipped him at when beating Canford Cliffs! We'd love to see Side Glance chase him home after being at Salisbury to see Andrew Balding's very nice gelding pick up the same race his sire Passing Glance managed in 2003, at 40/1 he could be an interest bet for forecast backers.
The Champion Stakes is the feature race & has great strength in depth with top notchers So You Think, Snow Fairy, Midday, Twice Over, Cirrus Des Aigles & Nethaniel in attendance with some others hoping to male the step up to genuine Group 1 horses. Globetrotter Wigmore Hall is taking part & Dubai Prince will be hoping to step up form the form he showed as a two year old that made him a short price for classic honours in the antepost markets. This is a dead tough race to call & we can't make a recommendation but if pushed we'd go with Snow Fairy at 8/1 who won 4 Group 1s in 2010 including the Oaks, the Hong Kong Cup & a Grade 1 in Japan, she's tough, versatile & has run with credit this year, she deserves a success & we'd love to see her beat the great, but not as great as people (Aidan O'Brien, Bart Cummings) say, So You Think.
Ascot 2.25: Deacon Blues at 11/4 (general) & Royal Rock each way at 25/1 (several)
Ascot 3.00: Gertrude Bell at 14/1 (Coral & Skybet
Like Buying Money's Star Bet: Royal Rock each way at 25/1