For me the highlight of tomorrow’s racing is the Wokingham, the Ascot 4.25. 28 runners and a real puzzle to solve. So where do we start? Well, Palace Moon is one with an obvious chance. Although a 5 year old he has only had 10 starts, mostly in group or listed company. He was made favourite for the Cathedral Stakes at Salisbury on his seasonal reappearance and although he finished 5th he was arguably unlucky as he missed the break and then met trouble in running. He is best on fast ground so there are no worry on that score and he has Kieren Fallon is the plate. The only potential negative is the track. He has only been out of the first 4 twice – and those were his 2 runs at Ascot!
Another interesting runner is Hitchens. He is having his first run of the season but for him this is not a negative as he has won first time out in both 2008 and 2009. Another point about Hitchens is his liking for fast ground. He may be a little high in the weights but he could just come in at a big price. The other David Barron runner, Ingleby Lady is also worth a close look. Five furlongs at Musselburgh last time was no good to her, so she probably did extremely well to make third. She can race off the same mark of 97 and I expect to see her finish thereabouts.
Both Dandy Nicholls and Richard Fahey are well represented as always in these big handicaps. Evens and Odds will like the ground and 6 furlongs is his trip but the trainer’s son Adrian has chosen to ride Striking Spirit instead. Striking Spirit went into my notebook when a neck second to the in form Hamish McGonagall in the Musselburgh race where Ingleby Lady was 3rd.
Richard Fahey has 4 runners. The admirable Knot in Wood has plenty of weight although his rider can claim 7 lbs. Some ease in the ground would probably suit this one better though. Johannes won well at York 2 runs ago and acts on the ground unlike Valery Borzov who needs cut in the ground. Stable jockey Paul Hanagan rides Kaldoun Kingdom who has winning form in big field handicaps but is another that has shown his best from on easier ground.
Laddies Poker Two is an interesting runner. He has only had 4 career starts and although he has not run since October 2008 he will be difficult for the handicapper to assess and with J Murtagh booked to ride there may well be some stable confidence behind him.
The first 4 home in the Ayr Gold Cup all appear. Knot in Wood and Evens and Odds were 3rd and 4th with the first two positions filled by Jimmy Styles and Barney McGrew. Jimmy Styles is on a career high make but does have Frankie Dettori in the saddle. Barney McGrew hasn’t shown much of late but does act on the ground and likes these big field races.
You have to discount some runners in such a big field as this and I am going to knock out Redford (ground) and Sohraab (trip). Genki is one for the short list however. He won the Stewards Cup last season, acts on any ground, has won twice at Ascot before and was an encouraging 4th at Newmarket on his last start. Genki, Palace Moon, Ingleby Lady and Striking Spirit are my main fancies.
I have the 3.05 down to a short list of 4. I have decided to eliminate Crowded House and Jukebox Jury as both were a bit disappointing on their most recent starts which leaves me with Alainmaar and Harbinger. The former is most progressive and has won his last 4 starts. He takes on much better opposition here than he has encountered before. He may well be up to the task but he will need to step up a fair bit on what he has done so far to beat Harbinger whose form is rock solid. He has won both his starts this season beating quality opposition each time. The 3.50 has an international flavour and I fancy War Artist to be the strongest of the overseas challengers. Of the home side Fleeting Spirit has a good record at Ascot and goes well fresh. Hr looks sure to be on the premises. High Standing won the Wokingham last season over course and distance and comes here on the back of a recent win at Windsor. Showcasing is lightly raced and the nature of his 2nd at York indicated that there should be plenty of improvement to come. He looks sure to be suited by the track at Ascot. Total Gallery would be an interesting outsider if recapturing his best form while Sayif is another that could pull off a surprise. He is another course and distance winner. Fleeting Spirit ticks all the right boxes and along with Showcasing looks the most likely winner. High Standing and War Artist look the pick of those at bigger prices.
I have a short list of 3 for the 5.00, Dangerous Midge, Shamali and Sweet Lightning. Dangerous Midge was a beaten favourite last time out but judged on his previous run when he won at Doncaster he comes into the equation. Shamali is held in high regard by connections and has a good record at Ascot having won there twice last season. For my selection though I am going for Sweet Lightning who has a progressive profile and probably met a bit of a tartar when beaten at Redcar.
I will have a quick look round at the other meetings on tomorrow. Up at Ayr Cosmic Sun and Cool Strike look the pair to concentrate on in the 3.30.
At Haydock Taste the Victory is my best bet. He runs in the 9.05. Earlier on the card Richard Fahey can supply the answer to the 6.35 with the 4 year old High Office.
Racy has been running well without winning but can get off the mark for the season in the Newmarket 3.35. My only selection at Redcar is San Cassiano in the 4.45.
Today’s pictures are courtesy of the artist Karen Davies.