IT might not be a virtuoso performance but I’m expecting STRADIVARIUS to have a successful encore to a sensational season.
John Gosden’s ace stayer has won the Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup. That had never been done before and it earned him a £1million bonus.
It does mean he’s had a brutally-hard year but he has had a two-month break since his last victory at York’s Ebor Meeting.
The soft ground is not ideal. He was beaten a length in third behind Order Of St George on similar going in this race 12 months ago but I’ve little doubt he’s a much better horse this season.
Conditions might not be in his favour but he does handle them and he might not have to be at his best to win.
Aidan O’Brien runs three and Flag Of Honour looks the best of them. He’s rattled up a hat-trick of wins since stepping up to 1m6f and he promises to be suited by today’s longer trip even better.
His defeat of Irish Derby hero Latrobe in the Irish St Leger was a fine effort but he’s another who would have preferred faster ground.
Stablemate Sir Erec is interesting. He won’t have any trouble with the ground and he’s progressing fast. Last week’s Limerick Listed success was good and he shouldn’t have a problem with today’s extra half-mile.
Mount Moriah has not been seen since beating just one home in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. He’s much better on softer ground but he was behind Stradivarius when fourth in this race last year and the pair have since gone in different directions.
Willie Mullins’ Thomas Hobson got the better of stablemate Max Dynamite in the Doncaster Cup last month but that race didn’t have much depth to it. His previous form gives him a fair bit to find.
I’VE not lost faith in HARRY ANGEL.
He was the star 6f sprinter of last season when winning the July Cup and Haydock’s Sprint Cup. My fancy was sent off a red-hot 5-4 favourite for this race last year when he could only manage fourth behind Librisa Breeze.
Some will tell you he just doesn’t like Ascot but I’m not buying that. In five visits he has been runner-up three times – including to top-notchers Blue Point and Caravaggio.
He reared at the start and pulled too hard in this 12 months ago and he had more trouble in the stalls than Abraham Lincoln when favourite for the Diamond Jubilee. His hind leg got trapped in the gates and he lost all chance he had as well as picking up a nasty injury.
Clive Cox’s speedster went off too quickly when only sixth behind The Tin Man in the Sprint Cup at Haydock. I’ve a feeling he was a little fresh that day.
If he behaves himself in the stalls he has a massive chance and is way over-priced.
The Tin Man is the obvious starting point. Unlike Harry Angel, he has a tremendous record at Ascot.
He won this race two years ago and went on to beat Tasleet and Librisa Breeze in the Diamond Jubilee last season.
Last month’s Haydock defeat of Brando was his third Group 1 victory and showed he handles testing ground fine. He deserves to be favourite.
If last year’s winner Librisa Breeze turns up in the same form he would have a fine chance. The dry summer hasn’t been much good to him but he does need things to drop right for him.
Tasleet – runner-up 12 months ago – isn’t easy to predict and he should have run an awful lot better in the Sprint Cup last time.
It’s a surprise to see Limato in the field considering his liking for quick going and this is a big step up in grade for Ayr Gold Cup winner Son Of Rest.
IT should pay to be on LAH TI DAR in the Fillies and Mares race.
She’s got one of the poshest pedigrees going as a daughter of multiple Group 1 winner Dar Re Mi and a sister of star juvenile Too Darn Hot.
My fancy has inherited a decent slice of her family’s ability. She won her first two starts but missed the Oaks and Royal Ascot through illness.
She was back in the pink when bolting up by 10 lengths at York’s Ebor Meeting and she found Kew Gardens a bit too streetwise in the St Leger.
The drop in distance to 1m4f shouldn’t be a problem and she coped well with easy ground on her debut.
French raider Kitesurf landed her first Group 1 in the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp last month. She beat Oaks heroine Magic Wand and has to be given plenty of respect.
Aidan O’Brien has six runners – more than half the field. Magical is the shortest in the betting but she’s had five goes in Group 1 races without success. She’s also yet to prove she stays this far.
I’m more worried about last year’s winner Hydrangea. She gets her first taste of her favoured soft ground and I’ve a feeling it will spark her back into life after some below-par efforts.
Coronet has a habit of bumping into the best. She spent much of last season taking on Enable and she looked back to her best when chasing home Arc runner-up Sea Of Class in the Yorkshire Oaks.
This is her trip and it’s hard to see how she won’t be involved in the race for the places.
PRAISE the Lord in the QEII Stakes.
Everything looks in place for LORD GLITTERS. He needs soft ground, a decent pace and a straight track to show his best. It looks like two of those are assured and there’s enough prominent racers in the field to give him the third.
He showed a devastating late burst to win the Balmoral Handicap on this card last year when Accidental Agent and Gabrial were among those left trailing.
His comeback run this year saw him finish second behind Addeybb in the Lincoln when giving William Haggas’ hope 8lbs.
He went on to fill the same position in the Queen Anne behind Accidental Agent at Royal Ascot and in the Summer Mile behind Beat The Bank. The steady early pace was against him when third behind Lightning Spear in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
It’s obvious there’s not much between any of them but Lord Glitters is the one most suited by today’s race.
Roaring Lion has been superb since high summer. He’s rattled up a hat-trick of Group 1 wins in the Coral-Eclipse, Juddmonte International and Irish Champion. The worry is the ground.
John Gosden has dropped him to 1m to try to counter the conditions but I’m not convinced he’s a miler. There’s every chance his terrific turn of pace will be blunted.
I’m more worried about Laurens. She is as tough as they come and she was value for further than a head when beating Happily to notch her fifth Group 1 win at Newmarket a couple of weeks ago. I like her a lot.
GET up for the Crack in the Qipco Champion Stakes.
CRACKSMAN was awesome in this race 12 months ago. He cruised clear of dual Group 1 winner Poet’s Word and top-class globetrotter Highland Reel to win by a whopping seven lengths.
Coming into this season he was one of the most exciting horses but things haven’t gone completely to plan. He kicked off with an impressive Group 1 win in France before scrambling home in the Coronation Cup at Epsom when the track was blamed for the under-whelming performance.
Templegate’s TV tips
- 1.25 Ascot – Stradivarius
- 2.00 Ascot – Harry Angel
- 2.40 Ascot – Lah Ti Dar
- 3.15 Ascot – Lord Glitters
- 3.50 Ascot – Cracksman
- 4.30 Ascot – Sharja Bridge
It was the fast ground when Poet’s Word turned the tables at Royal Ascot in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and it’s kept him off the track since.
His attitude has looked open to question and I’m not surprised John Gosden has slapped some blinkers on him. If they do the trick he will be hard to beat.
Crystal Ocean’s form ties in with stablemate Poet’s Word. Sir Michael Stoute’s pair were split by a neck when filling the first two places in the King George with Crystal Ocean just coming off second best.
He had tried to use his stamina to run the finish out of Poet’s Word over the 1m4f distance. The drop to 1m2f will leave him vulnerable.
Aidan O’Brien’s Capri is another unlikely to have the pace to test an on-song Cracksman. Last year’s St Leger hero ran a cracker to finish fifth behind Enable in the Arc two weeks ago.
His neck defeat of Cracksman in last season’s Irish Derby gives him hope but the trip tips the balance in favour of his old rival.
The wheels have fallen off stablemate Rhododendron since her narrow defeat of Lightning Spear in the Lockinge in May. She cannot be fancied to make much of an impact while in such poor form.
SHARJA BRIDGE should be right at home in the Balmoral Handicap.
He’s bred to better than a handicapper and I’ve got a feeling he is. His form on easy ground last season was good and it’s not just the quicker surface that’s held him back this year.
He sat too close to a scorching pace in the Cambridgeshire last month so he did well to finish seventh in that mammoth-field handicap. Having had just four runs this season he’ll be fresher than most and must have a great chance.
Kynren is another who will happy to get back on some soft ground. He ended last season with a hat-trick of wins.
Although he’s not hit the target this term his form is far from disappointing. He was one place in front of Sharja Bridge in the Cambridgeshire having finished in front of my fancy when runner-up at York. It’s pretty obvious they’re closely matched but I just feel Sharja Bridge hasn’t shown his hand as much.
Raising Sand got it right when seeing off a decent field over 7f at this track on soft ground two weeks ago. He had previously run well when just behind Kynren and Sharja Bridge from a poor draw in the Cambridgeshire. This requires a personal best but that’s not impossible at a course he clearly likes.
Argentello chances his arm just four day after winning on Kempton’s all-weather. He got the run of the race earlier the week but he has got form on soft.
I can see Mitchum Swagger running well. He was third behind Group performers Addeybb and Lord Glitters in the Lincoln in March. There’s a chance he needed the run on his first outing since at Haydock last month and he’ll love the conditions.
2.00 Harry Angel
2.40 Lah Ti Dar
3.15 Lord Glitters
4.30 Sharja Bridge (NAP)
1.50 Beyrl The Petal
2.25 Ice Gala
2.55 Royal Connoisseur
3.30 East Street Revue
4.05 Be Perfect
1.35 Gold Bonne Raine
2.45 Etamine Du Cochet
3.20 King Alfonso
3.55 Vision Des Flos
4.25 The New One
5.30 Encore Champs
2.15 William Hunter
2.50 Show On The Road
3.25 Dynamite Dollars
4.00 Romain De Senam (nb)
4.35 Ballydun Oscar
2.30 Keel Over
3.35 Excellent Team
4.10 One Forty Seven
5.15 Stormbay Bomber
5.45 Canford Thompson
6.15 Ingleby Molly
7.15 Global Hero
8.45 Texas Radio (treble)