Ascot hosts its annual team event, the Shergar Cup with all six races covered by the ITV cameras along with a brace from Haydock, the Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes from Newmarket and the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes from The Curragh at 16:40.
The ground is officially good to soft at Haydock, good at Newmarket, good to yielding at The Curragh and soft at Ascot (good to soft on straight track) although with drying weather forecast for all tracks I would expect all of those going reports to tighten up.
Here are my ITV Racing tips to beat the bookies.
A dozen have declared for the 5F Shergar Cup Dash (Handicap), like all of today’s six races – ten sure to run and two reserves who will take the place of any non-runners.
Clive Cox’s Tis Marvelous won this event in 2021 off of an identical handicap mark but is nine years old now and may have lost a bit of his zip so is overlooked.
Rogue Lightning is one of just two three year olds in the field and having won well at Doncaster races last time by 2L comes into the reckoning although he has been raised 7lb and the form of that win hasn’t worked out that well.
The piece of form that I believe is paramount to the outcome here is the course and distance victory for Intrinsic Bond a fortnight ago on King George day. That was his first run for Michael Wigham having joined from Tracy Waggott, winning by 2 3/4L. Back in third that day was the Bryan Smart trained Bond Chairman who re-opposes on 8lb better terms for that distance. There shouldn’t be much between the pair at the revised terms and I’ll split my bet between them.
One horse who is worth monitoring is Adrian Nicholl’s Tees Spirit who’s shown nothing in two starts this season in pattern company but was a progressive sprint handicapper last season and has had a wind operation since we last saw him. He is also one of only two in the race with a future Group entry (the other being Bond Chairman) who are both entered in the Nunthorpe at York later this month.
A tough race to start off with but I’ll dutch Intrinsic Bond and Bond Chairman who will be ridden by Matthew Chadwick and Joao Moreira respectively.
INTRINSIC BOND 1 point win @ 9/2 bet365
BOND CHAIRMAN 1 point win @ 7/1 bet365
The 2M Shergar Cup Stayers (Handicap) is next up in a race where there are plenty of question marks against many of the participants.
Frankie Dettori, in his last Shergar Cup, has drawn Zoffee as his mount and this Hugo Plamer trained stayer should run well with his neck runner up second in the Chester Cup on soft ground his stand out piece of form this season.
Ian Williams has three of the ten runners with his Law Of The Sea looking the pick of the trio under Joao Moreira. His trainer stated that his latest disappointing run at Goodwood was down to the testing ground and it’s worth forgiving him that poor effort. The Grand Visir is another Williams runner but he’s is a horse that needs an extreme test and may be found wanting inside the final couple of furlongs.
Jessie Harrington had success at this meeting last year and saddles The Very Man who has to be on the short list having run into the well handicapped Teed Up (won again since) at the Galway Festival twelve days ago and although the joint eldest in the race can be bang there at the finish with Hollie Doyle a decent jockey on top.
The other runner I like is top weight Prydwen, trained by George Scott and ridden today by Irish jockey Declan McDonogh. He’s run well on his last two starts over 1M 5F and 1M 6F and steps up to 2M for the first time today. If he gets the trip he can make his presence felt but the pick for me has to be The Very Man in another open handicap with firms paying four places.
THE VERY MAN 1 point each way @ 15/2 Betfred (Paying top 4 places at 1/5 odds)
A near maximum field of sixteen have declared for the first of two races covered by ITV from Haydock races this afternoon. Run over a mile, the race is a handicap for three year olds and upwards.
There are some unexposed types from the classic year most notably Karl Burke’s Poet Master who’s unbeaten in two starts including here over 7F. He steps up to a mile and it is quite possible that a mark of 92 may well under estimate his ability. Also falling into that bracket is the William Haggas trained handicap debutant Kathab who landed the odds easily last time out in a four runner Ripon maiden and is well worth monitoring in the market.
The best of the three year old’s and my pick however is the George Scott trained Isle Of Jura. He’s totally taken two handicaps apart on his last two starts but has paid for it with the handicapper raising him the best part of two stone. Both those wins have come on good ground and over a mile , the same conditions he is likely to encounter today and in the hope that the handicapper hasn’t caught up with him yet is the selection with a small saver on Poet Master who just could be way ahead of his mark.
Of the older horses the pick may well be the Ed Walker trained Hafeet Alain who’s run well in two Newmarket handicaps recently including when a neck runner up to Dutch Decoy who has gone on to run well in the Coral Golden Mile at Goodwood.
A case can also be made at a big price for the Roger Varian runner Fantastic Fox who won this event two years ago off of a 5lb higher mark on soft ground (only 5 ran mind) and is blinkered for the first time. If they work the he is a well handicapped horse.
A tough contest but it’s Isle Of Jura for me with a small saver on Poet Master.
ISLE OF JURA 1 point each way @ 9/2 bet365 (Paying top 5 places at 1/5 odds)
POET MASTER 1 point each way @ 5/1 William Hill (Paying top 5 places at 1/5 odds)
It’s the Shergar Cup Challenge (Handicap) up next, run over 1M 4F for four year old’s and upwards.
Top weight Max Mayhem appears to have an excellent chance for the very much in form Newmarket handler Kevin Philippart De Foy, who’s won with six of his last 16 runners at a staggering 38% win ratio (up-to start of play Thursday). On his four starts for De Foy since joining from Joseph O’Brien’s stable he has won a valuable Kempton AW handicap, finished 6th in the Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot and finished a 3/4L runner up to City Streak over course and distance at the last meeting here. I can’t enlighten you much about the jockey Bauyrzhan Murzabayev but I do know the horse is more than capable of taking a hand in the finish.
La Yakel and last year’s winner Pride Of Priory represent the William Haggas stable with slight preference for the former who is the mount of top jockey Jaao Moreira and will have been sharpened up for this by his second over course and distance a month ago.
Hugo Palmer’s Nolton Cross’s, owned by Middleham Park Racing, form ties in with Max Mayhem and is another with each way claims.
Another tight race where I’ll dutch my stakes with La Yakel and Max Mayhem with slight preference for the former.
LA YAKEL 2 points win @ 10/3 888sport
MAX MAYHEM 1 point each way @ 11/1 Betfred (Paying top 4 places at 1/5 odds)
Just seven line up for the Group 3 1m 2 1/2F Betfred Rose Of Lancaster Stakes. Likely favourite is the Shadwell runner Al Aasy who defied one of the market drifts of the season (8-11 out to 9-2) to cosily win the the listed Steventon Stakes at Newbury three weeks ago. I’m still not sure we can trust William Haggas’s charge and with the ground drying I’m once again against him here.
Charlie Appleby saddles King Of Conquest in first time cheek pieces and he can be competitive having finished a staying on sixth in the listed Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot over today’s trip. He may prefer a step up in trip now mind.
James Horton’s Phantom Flight has been a fancy of mine on his last two starts but was 1 1/2L behind Al Aasy at Newbury so I’ll be leaving him today (watch him bolt up now !) whilst Savvy Victory would of been a definite player were the ground softer with the runner up, Poker Face, of his latest victory going in again since. His trainer, Sean woods was full of praise for him afterwards stating that we wont see the best of him till he gets heavy ground (where was he at Goodwood !).
There is only one three year old in the race and that is the Richard Fahey trained Midnight Mile and she may be the one to take a chance on. A smart two year old who won at Doncaster and Newmarket and ended up running in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf finishing a credible 5L fourth to Meditate she wasn’t disgraced when fourth in the Musidora to Oaks winner Soul Sister on her seasonal debut prior to a clearly non staying effort in the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot. She bounced back to form in no uncertain manner when winning a 1M 2 1/2F listed race at York in good fashion a fortnight ago and if in the same form can upset her elders. Back her with the firms that are paying three places in this seven runner contest (bet365, Paddy Power, Coral, Ladbrokes or Betfred)
MIDNIGHT MILE 1 point each way @ 7/1 bet365
The Shergar Cup Mile (Handicap) is for four year olds and upwards.
The likely favourite here is the Roger Varian trained Perotto who was a decent winner at Sandown prior to running a credible seventh of 20 in the Coral Golden Mile at Goodwood having had a wide trip throughout. He should be competitive in this totally different type of contest under Bauyrzhan Murzabayev. He looks short enough in the opening shows for this race though and preference is for a horse that also had a wide trip in the Coral Golden Mile (his first run in a handicap on his career run!) but finished a head ahead of Perotto. The horse in question is the Stan Moore trained top weight Wizard Of Eye who has plenty of decent form in better company than this including a 3/4L second placing in a Group 2 at Goodwood last summer. With Tom Marquand on top I’ll take him to confirm the Goodwood form on 2lb better terms and he can be backed each way at the current odds.
David O’Meara’s Escobar finished behind Wizard Of Eye and Perotto at Goodwood but likes this track and it would be no shock to see him run a better race today.
The ground is likely to dry up by Saturday which is a shame for supporters of Empirestateofmind who needs plenty of dig in the ground to be at his best with his trainer John Quinn in sparkling form over the past fortnight with five winners from just 12 runners.
Ian William’s Silent Film is a horse that is definitely building up to a winning run soon having not had much luck last time out at Sandown under William buick and with crack Japanese jockey Kazuo Yokohama on top is another with claims.
Another tight knit handicap but the value may well come from Stan Moore’s top weight The Wizard Of Eye who looks good each way value.
THE WIZARD OF EYE 1 point each way @ 12/1 Coral (Paying top 3 places at 1/5 odds)
The feature race on Newmarket’s card this afternoon and shown on ITV is the 7F Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes for two year old fillies. A field of eight assemble with a mixture of maiden winners and pattern company form all thrown together.
Arguably the form horse here is Karl Burke’s Fallen Angel, a Haydock winner on her debut in May and stepped forward from that two months later on much softer ground when runner up to the Ollie Sangster trained Shuwari in a listed race at Sandown. That’s good form and she can run well here. One length back in third that day was George Boughey’s beaten favourite Soprano. She may have been inconvenienced by the soft ground that day and there shouldn’t be much between that pair again today.
Up against those two ‘form’ horses are a host of impressive maiden winners, three of whom scored over course and distance.
Ed Walker’s Queens Reign has been waiting for this race having won a maiden in June by 2 1/2L from the front whilst Charlie Johnston’s Carolina Reaper also made all to win by 4 1/2L in a eleven runner maiden three weeks ago. Johnstone has a good record in this race winning four of the last 9 renewals including last year with Lakota Sioux.
Charlie Appleby’s Wild Goddess was the third horse in the field to take a maiden apart over the course and distance last time out, scorching home by 4L.
A possible guide to which of those three fillies will come out best may come from the times of the respective maidens. All three raced prominently carrying 9 stone 2lb on good ground with Wild Goddess’s time a second faster than Carolina Reaper and a further second faster than Queen’s Reign. A tentative line obviously but enough for me to go with William Buick’s mount Wild Goddess although I will also be backing the Johnston runner Carolina Reaper, named after the world’s hottest chilli!
WILD GODDESS 1 point win @ 5/1 bet365
CAROLINA REAPER 1 point win @ 9/2 bet365
Another open handicap, this time run over 1M 4f for the Shergar Cup Classic (Handicap) for three year olds only.
John and Thady Gosden set a poser by running a pair of interesting horses who are both stepping up to 1M 4F for the first time. Rajasthan is making his handicap debut and has the services of Hayley Turner on board having won a Salisbury maiden last time although the runner up has been turned over since at 4/9, so make what you want of that form whilst Intinso is also making his handicap debut and has drawn Luke Morris, who’s making his Shergar Cup debut today as captain for the home team, was highly promising in the Spring but things haven’t panned out for him on the two starts this season. Bath have claims though.
Top weight Satin represents Jessie Harrington, who’s had success at this meeting before and it’s interesting that she has a future Group 2 entry in the Blandford Stakes at The Curragh in September.
The drying ground may be going against Like A Tiger and the form of Richard Fahey’s Golden Move can be crabbed with his latest victory not working out although he is lightly raced and you can only beat the horses put in front of you.
Andrew Balding has two declared but with his Scintillante second reserve and a doubtful runner he will rely on Sovereign Spirit who in an open race has as good a chance as any especially if the ground continues to dry up. He will be ridden by Japanese jockey Kazou Yokoyama and has been a consistent sort all season winning three times this year, twice on the all-weather and at Beverley in June. He’s missed two races due to softish ground so the ground does seem important to him and as long as the ground dries up I’ll be backing him each way with the firms paying four places
SOVEREIGN SPIRIT 1/2 point each way @ 20/1 Paddy Power (Paying top 4 places at 1/5 odds)
The final race of the day at the Berkshire track is the 6F Shergar Cup Sprint (Handicap) for three year olds only.
We have a warm favourite here in the very likeable Stuart Williams trained Quinault who’s been the three year old sprint revelation this summer winning six handicaps on the bounce rising from a handicap mark of 59 at Chelmsford in April (what a good thing he was that day at 11/2!) to a competitive Newmarket handicap in July off of 90. He’s been pushed up another 7lb for that victory so that’s a rise of 38lb and who’s to say he’s not stopped yet. His wily trainer entered him in the Group 1 Champions Sprint here at the end of the season last week and why not.
The horse he just touched off last time, Mill Stream went and took a listed race in France in great style in the week and he’ll be very hard to beat here.
The horse to chase him home may well be the Kevin Ryan trained Washington Heights who has already finished runner up-to Quinault twice this summer at York racecourse and Newmarket and is significantly better off at the weights but was a bit disappointing behind him last time.
There are others who come here having won recently including the likes of Dark Trooper who’s chasing a hat trick but may prefer softer ground whilst the Roger and Harry Charlton trained pair Batal Dubai and Zaman Jemil are progressing well and can make their presence felt.
It’s a tough card at Ascot today with five open looking handicaps but if there is one bet to get stuck into then it could be the highly progressive and tough Quinault.
QUINAULT 3 points win @ 15/8 William Hill
A quality field of seven two year olds line up for this year’s Group 1 6F Keeneland Phoenix Stakes.
Despite the absence of ante-post favourite River Tiber Aiden O’Brien still fires two bullets at this valuable contest with his main hope being the Ryan Moore ridden Unquestionable who missed Goodwood recently due to the very soft ground. He stepped forward for a easy maiden victory over course and distance when getting the worst of a ding dong battle between him and the re-opposing Adrian Murray trained Bucanero Fuerte in the Group 2 Railway Stakes. A short head split the pair at the line and theres unlikely to be much between them this time as the market suggests.
The other player here has to be the Donnacha O’Brien trained Porta Fortuna who comes here unbeaten in three starts having won a maiden here, a Group 3 at Naas and the seventeen runner 6F Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot. Form which is beginning to work out well with the runner up Matrika winning a Group 2 since along with the fourth Persian Dreamer doing the same.
It’s a hard call between that trio with only Jessie Harrington’s Givemethebeatboys, who was fourth (beaten 1 3/4L) in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot the only other one with a serious form chance. I’ll just stick with the old guard of O’Brien and Moore with Unquestionable the pick to give O’Brien his 18th victory in the race.
UNQUESTIONABLE 1 point win @ 5/2 BetVictor
All odds were available at time of writing.