Royal Ascot Day Two
Maria Branwell 1pt each way, 10/1 (5 places, 6/7 available)
This race looks tricky on paper as these young fillies often improve at wildly different rates, we have Love Reigns for Wesley Ward as the 3/1 favourite. She looked brilliant on debut in the US but it’s a tough ask for a young filly to travel and she did have it all her own way. There are mixed signals from the form, the 5th well-beaten next time out, but the 7th winning. At a short price I’ll take her on, but she did look special. For my selection, it’s not what she did right, winning twice, but what she did wrong in each start that has drawn me to her. Very green on debut she was running around in front but still managed to win by half a length and in fairness better than the bare result there. She then was upped in class to the Listed National Stakes at Sandown where she again was green and running around but got up to win that race from Irish Raider Crispy Cat, the two pulling 6 lengths clear of the field. Crispy Cat had won on debut before finishing second to Coventry Stakes' second favourite Blackbeard in a photo finish in Listed company against the geldings. I think Maria Branwell could have a bit more improvement in her, especially if she shows fewer signs of greenness. At 10/1 with 5 places I’d be hopeful of a place at a minimum.
Nahanni 9/2, 2pt win.
One of my fancies for the Derby, having looked good in the Blue Riband. The occasion of the Derby possibly got to him, particularly “the” fireworks, he was sweating already and missed the break but did well to stay on into 7th whilst not ridden all out. Entered in the Irish Derby and the Arc later this season, he’s highly thought of and should have the trip within his reach. At 9/2 I think the price is brilliant and he is my nap of the day.
Shahryar 10/3, 1pt win.
The Japanese raider has the best form in the race and is being majorly underrated in the market. For me, Bay Bridge could be anything but at this stage, Shahryar at the very least should be joint-favourite. Shahryar has won two grade ones as well as placed in another. Most recently winning the Dubai Sheema Classic, looking at that form, Yibir in second has been a little below his best since, but still high class. The fourth, Pyledriver, chased Hukum home in the Coronation Cup, Hukum himself only 7th in that same race. The 6th, Alenquer, won the Group One Tattersalls Gold Cup from State Of Rest, who opposes Shahryar again here. The 8th, 9th and 10th are all high-quality group/listed performers. Even the 12th, Without A Fight, is a recent Listed winner. With both Group One wins coming on good ground or better, conditions should suit and 10/3 is too big to pass up on.
Desert Peace 0.5pts each way, 20/1 & Via Serendipity 0.5pts each way, 25/1. (7 places)
I like a couple here, firstly Desert Peace hasn’t raced in the UK since nearly 2 years ago, but has had some decent form in Meydan in the last couple of spring campaigns. He’s only run once on turf, a second at Belmont Park giving 6lbs to a horse called Hard Love, being chinned on the line. Hard Love has only run once since finishing just 4 lengths behind Bolshoi Ballet in a Group One. Under Buick, I think 20/1 could be good value for a place.
The second horse that I like for this is Via Serendipity, a last-time-out winner of a good Sandown handicap. Rated as high as 105 on the All-Weather, he races here off of 93 on the turf and has been raised only 2lbs for the last time out win. Stevie Donohoe has won on him before and I think 25/1 is again a decent price in an open-looking contest.
Star of Lady M 0.5pts each way, 25/1. (5 places)
Another two-year-old race where I think one is overpriced. The horse with the most experience in the field having raced 4 times already. Winning three times of those four, with the other a blowout at Chester. She reversed form with the winner from Chester last time out, and that track is tough enough at the best of times, let alone for a two-year-old. She’s a big price and with 5 places on offer could outrun those odds.
Dubai Love 0.5pts each way, 25/1 & Talabaat 0.25pts each way, 50/1. (5 places)
Another big field handicap, this time for the mares, we have 5 places on offer again and I’ll be throwing two darts here each way.
Firstly Dubai Love for Charlie Appleby is my main play, having been just a length third in a mares group two in February she has been dropped to her lowest mark in a handicap. Her last run was a very decent run finishing 6th in the Thirsk Hunt Cup beaten just over a length, for which she was dropped 1lb. She has lots of placed group form and is a Listed winner, for me she’s possibly the best horse in the race and has an excellent chance at huge odds.
Secondly, I’ve backed one who is a bit more speculative and more one to take on faith. Talabaat for Archie Watson, unbeaten in her debut season as a three-year-old she won three races beating some decent fillies. Notably, she beat a horse called Es La Vida, who won a listed race as well as finishing 3rd in the Group One Prix Saint-Alary, ahead of Sibila Spain who is just 13/2 for the mares’ Group Two on today's card. One of her other wins was against another Listed winner in O Trasno. Despite this, her form the following season was poor and she ended up being sold out of Shadwell and moved to Archie Watson. The thing that piqued my interest, is that she has run twice for Watson, both times in Listed company. She might be showing something at home, or else why bother running her in that sort of company? Dropped now to a low enough mark of 84 I think there’s enough there for a small play.