All eyes will be on Ascot for the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes (3.35). Which sees a clash between the classic generation and their older counterparts. The 3-year-olds are represented by Irish Derby Winner Westover and Epsom Oaks runner-up Emily Upjohn. The older generation are headed by Arc Winner Torquator Tasso, Juddmonte International winner Mishriff and recent Royal Ascot winner Broome. A small field of just sixbut it could produce a fantastic race
The Ascot undercard is strong two with a pair of Group 3s, the Princess Margaret Keeneland Stakes (1.50) and the Longines Valiant Stakes (2.25) and three competitive handicaps including the twenty-two runner Moet & Chandon International Stakes (3:00).
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ITV are covering four races from Ascot and three races from York, including the Group 2 Sky Bet York Stakes (3.15) on a seven-race programme on the main channel.
I have had a look at few races at Ascot & York in today’s preview. Plus, you’ll find my Saturday Lucky 15 at the end of the main piece.
It will probably pay to keep an eye on the weather. More rain than was expected earlier in the week was forecast for York on Friday (up to 7mm) with a smaller amount for Ascot, However, the rain bands are showery in nature. Which means some parts will miss the wet stuff and some will get more than their fair share. Rain on already heavily watered ground is a recipe for an ease in the ground.
I covered the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes in depth in Wednesday’s column. So there’s no need to cover old ground again. Westover will probably win but he’s plenty short enough in the betting and the same can be said of Emily Upjohn. Provided Broome doesn’t miss the start he looks the one to set the pace and isn’t ruled out if he does. I still think Torquator Tasso remains the overpriced horse in the field and he’s the pick.
1:50 – Princess Margaret Keeneland Stakes (Group 3) – 6f
Lezoo has the form in the book, but she does several fillies who are open to plenty improvement. One of them is the George Boughey trained Kinta. A winner of both her starts there’s more improvement to come from her and she can get into the money. William Haggas saddled Besharah to win this in 2015. He saddles Royal Charter who overcame inexperience to make a winning racecourse debut at Newmarket last month. It probably wasn’t the strongest fillies’ maiden that she won but there’s likely more improvement to come from her Interesting that Tom Marquand comes here rather than ride Dubai Honour in the Group 2 at York.
2:25 – Longines Valiant Stakes (Group 3) (Fillies & Mares) – 1m
Zanbaq looked a pattern class filly when an improved 1 length 2nd of 28 to Heredia in the Britannia Handicap over C&D at Royal Ascot. Not surprisingly she’s favourite and the one to beat in what doesn’t look the strongest of races. Her stablemate Kind Gesture has won her last two starts and although this is a big step up in class from a Windsor novice, she has each way claims.
The biggest threat to the favourite looks to be German challenger Novemba. The 4-year-old hasn’t been at her best on either start this season. However, there was more to like about here 4 ¾ length 4th of 7 to Saffron Beach in the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes here last month. A bit more ease in the ground would be preferable for her but if the favourite underperforms, she could be the one to take advantage.
3:15 – Sky Bet York Stakes (Group 2) – 1m 2 ½ f
Just the five have been declared for the York feature but it’s an interesting little race, nonetheless. Dubai Honour is top on Official Ratings. A big improver last season going from handicap company to winning Group 2’s at Deauville and Longchamp. Ending last season with a career best when a ¾ length 2nd of 9 to Sealiway in the Group 1 Champion Stakes. He’s not far below Group 1 level and should be up to winning this. However, this is first start since finishing down the field in the Sheema Classic at Meydan in March. He does face a couple of race fit Royal Ascot winner who can take advantage if he needs the run.
Claymore won the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes. He got a good front running ride from Adam Kirby that day and could get an uncontested lead once again. Kirby can’t do the weight on Claymore but he’s been booked for Dubai Future. The 6-year-old won the Listed Wolferton Stakes at the Royal meeting. The quicker the ground the better for him and he seems likely to be better placed than the favourite in what could be a steadily run race.
Well handicapped Soul Seeker can strike again.
All the top British jumps jockeys are in action in Sky Bet “Jump Jockeys' Nunthorpe” Handicap (2:05). Yes, it’s a bit of a novelty race over the 5f. However, there’s one I really like and its last year’s winner Soul Seeker who will be ridden by Sean Bowen. The 5-year-old started the season in cracking form finishing a ½ length 2nd of 12 at Beverley in April. He’s struggled badly on subsequent starts. But there was more promise to be had from his 2 ½ length 7th of 10 at Beverley earlier this month. Tongue tie added for the first time and he’s now 8lb lower than when winning 12 months ago.
Tom Scudamore who rode Soul Seeker to win last year is on one of the likely favourites Val De Travers. He’s already won three of his five starts this season and showed at Musselburgh how well suited he is to a speed favouring 5f. An inform sprinter who should give his backers a good run for their money despite an 8lb rise in the weight.
Saturday Lucky 15
There’s two from Ascot and two from York for today’s Lucky 15.
1:50 – Royal Charter
2:25 – Novemba
2:05 – Soul Seeker
3:15 – Dubai Future
The Galway Festival starts on Monday and the Qatar Goodwood Festival gets underway on Tuesday. In Monday’s column I will be looking back on the King George and there will be a selection or two from Galway. There will also be a Tuesday column this week to look at the action from Goodwood.
Good luck with your Saturday bets.