John Gosden runs no fewer than four hotly fancied favourites on the final showpiece of the flat racing year. I preview all six races on the card with Gosden only responsible for two winners:
Long Distance Cup:
STRADIVARIUS has been close to unstoppable all season in trips beyond two miles. Crucially, however, he has a spot of class to go with his stamina and his mark of 120 does not do his ability justice. Flag Of Honour is rightfully considered a danger as he has improved markedly for stepping up in distance but the selection is a different animal to any he’s faced so far. Thomas Hobson’s victory in the Doncaster Cup should see him run on for minor honours.
- Flag Of Honour
- Thomas Hobson
Victory in this last year ensures respect must be given to Librisa Breeze with the ground as soft as he’s received all season. Nevertehless, his form this season makes him too much of a gamble and based on his Sprint Cup success the sensible option is THE TIN MAN. He won this in 2016 and also put up a good account last year. Even if the ground were to remain soft, he won in good style on heavy at Haydock latest and he ticks more boxes than the rest. Harry Angel is probably the most talented but is 0/5 at Ascot and recent form is a big negative but Brando has regularly shown up well in Group One company for two seasons now and shouldn’t be far away. It is also worth keeping an eye on Limato who almost always avoids soft ground but remains in the race currently. If he goes at all well, a place is a possibility.
- The Tin Man
- Librisa Breeze
Fillies and Mares:
Lah Ti Dar’s previous two starts have been incredibly impressive. Second in the St Leger when under pressure early, she battled on boldly to be beaten only by a good horse in Kew Gardens and she’d won by ten lengths in Listed company prior to that. However, the forgotten piece of form might be CORONET’s second to Sea Of Class in the Yorkshire Oaks. She was making strong late headway on William Haggas’ filly after a modestly run contest which, had the pace been stronger, might have allowed her to get nearer to the winner. Sea Of Class’ subsequent effort in the Arc shows that to be top form. Magical was tenth in the Arc but given that was her first try at 1m4f in such stellar company, she could go a lot better here.
- Lah Ti Dar
Queen Elizabeth II:
After three successive Group One triumphs over 1m2f the only reason I can think of that Roaring Lion has been dropped in trip is because stablemate Cracksman must run in the Champion Stakes. The Gosden grey has been this season’s most impressive improver and a strongly run mile could suit but the ground and trip remain a worry. It may pay to side instead with ADDEYBB. He was only eighth on ground much too quick in the Lockinge but had romped home in the Lincoln and a Group Two at Ascot on his favoured soft ground before that. his Lincoln success came after a layoff so the gap between today and his last run in May should prove no issue. Lord Glitters is another to consider as he’s also sound enough on soft and has been knocking on the door all season while both Laurens and Century Dream look good each-way prospects.
- Lord Glitters
- Roaring Lion
Cracksman deserves to go out with a bang as he’s been a fine horse but though he won this with the freedom of Berkshire last year, he’s unlikely to dominate as he did that day. Similarly, on the form of his previous two starts, his status at odds-on must be questioned and one of CRYSTAL OCEAN and Capri can capitalise with a slight preference for the former. He was giving Enable eight pounds when brushed aside at Kempton but that’s never going to equate to bad form and his second to Poet’s Word at King George was one of the standout races of the season. He won’t by ideally suited by the drop back to 1m2f but the ground will help make this more of a staying challenge than it appears. Capri must also be considered as his Arc fifth is another quality piece of form and he has similar credentials to the selection. However, his Longchamp exploits came less than two weeks ago and that may tell. The rest should be watching on.
- Crystal Ocean
It is fitting that the day ends with a competitive betting heat and this is where my second Gosden horse comes home in the shape of ARGENTELLO. His latest win came only four days ago but he was authoritative without seemingly having to engage top gear and a 6lb penalty can be dealt with as he looks a horse to improve sufficiently. Via Via was third in the Cambridgeshire, an excellent performance, and can go close again. Kynren and Sharja Bridge have promised a big run all season and Raising Sand has an excellent record at Ascot so many have solid claims.
- Via Via