Evening all. Looking forward to a brilliant week of racing rain or shine. Probably rain, which will have the bookies drooling, but we'll do our best to find some winners.
The straight track has to be a worry as it was no good for Animal Kingdom and it's doubtful whether she'll have such a stamina test in the past. She also goes without Lasix and a nasal strip which apparently aids her breathing, so there's enough to worry about. That said, she's become a lot bigger price lately.
Mark Casse's (trainer) quote is interesting: "She likes some moisture and we're told Ascot is sand-based, which is great for us as she won on soft ground at Keeneland, another sand-based track." That suggests she should handle conditions and she has oozed class so far. Esoterique is the one for me, though, as she was second in a better renewal last year.
It's a corker and Awtaad, Galileo Gold and The Gurkha all have form with cut in the ground. The way in which The Gurkha won his maiden at Navan on desperate ground was breathtaking and he could just be a class above the other pair. He is priced accordingly, though.
This is a cracking race. The confidence seemingly behind The Gurkha is infectious, but I can't bring myself to back a horse at 5-4 when his form is no better than the others. Yes, he won by five and a half lengths in France, but the runner-up was eight and a half lengths behind Galileo Gold at Newmarket. Awtaad would be my pick because I liked the way he went through the ground at the Curragh. I hope there's three in a line at the furlong pole.
A week or so ago I'd have said yes, but as big races approach I start trying to find reasons to get the jollies beat. Perhaps it's just because I don't like getting stuck in at short odds. The one negative is a rushed preparation, but if he's in the same form as his Irish St Leger win last year then nothing can beat him. That's at Yeats' level of staying form. Still, I've backed Max Dynamite because I think he will stay better than most. His best run last season was with cut at York when he slaughtered Mizzou and he'll come on for Sandwon a ton. He's the each-way value
It is very hard to envisage defeat. He could probably win a Group 1 over 1m4f with cut in the ground and I certainly think he would have won the Coronation Cup at Epsom a few weeks ago. I don't see stamina being an issue so he should win barring accidents. I think it will be an Irish 1-2 as well as Max Dynamite is the one I like to follow him home. He will stay and he handles cut.
There might be worse bets than having something small on Paul Hanagan at 40s. Obviously, Ryan has the best rides but Paul has a host of chances on the first few days and I like Mokarris in the Coventry especially.
The only way he can get beat is if the weather is really dreadful, the ground becomes a bog and the form book flies out of the window. He has too many good rides for all the right stables. Can't see him matching last year's nine, but he won't need to be anywhere near it.
Four of the last five British or Irish-trained winners were beaten in the Temple, so historically it's no bar to success. That was her first run of the season too and she'll love the ground. If back to the form of her Nunthorpe win I think she'll be very hard to beat. Still, she's not my sort of bet at the prices now and I'll go for Waady each-way. He wants this stiff track
God help me, but I am giving Pearl Secret one last, final chance. I have backed him at 20s when I first saw the mixed forecast. I have thought he would win a Group 1 sprint on soft ground since 1963 so he finally gets a chance to prove me right tomorrow. No excuses. Tomorrow is D-day for him and me. We're finished if he's not in the mix.
The bookies to have their best festival for some time given the weather - though I hope not. I'm always on the lookout to find something to beat the bankers, but am struggling to do that with A Shin Hikari
The one I like most of all is Jennies Jewel in the Ascot Stakes. She will relish the conditions and she is basically a 147-rated hurdler who is a desperate jumper so how good might she be on the Flat? She got as close as anything to Vroum Vroum Mag this season remember. She is very interesting off 93.
Lots of people seem to find it hard to believe, but is that just because he's Japanese? Had Aidan O'Brien trained him he'd have been odds-on straight after the race. His RPR of 131 would have been good enough to have won 13 of the 15 runnings of the race as a Group 1. He beat a lot of in form horses that day too, has now won 10 of 12 starts and obviously handles the ground. It's a terrible race without him, so I can't see him getting beat
The lack of opposition makes him impossible to oppose. It was almost surreal watching him do what he did in France and he will probably beat Found. I'd give her a better chance of ruffling his feathers than The Grey Gatsby.
How I would love to deal with that problem!
I've been told that I wear too much gel, Tony, a bit like Ross from Friends so the gel will take a back seat for Ascot. It could be worse, I could be frolically-challenged like my more esteemed colleague Kealy.
Would't mind some double figures now, that's for sure. If Endless Drama improves for that run in the Lockinge - and he might go backwards - then he has a major chance in an open race. In the stayers' event Dave's been banging on for so long about Jennies Jewel he's got me convinced. I've even started tipping him to some mates so I can grab all the glory!
I interviewed Colin Keane last week and, if you heard the way he spoke about Endless Drama, you would be legging it down to the bookies. He says nothing can live with him at home, even over a few furlongs, and he thinks he has turned inside out since the Lockinge. He should run well but I think Esoterique has less to prove. It is Jennies Jewel for me in the Ascot Stakes for the reasons I have already bored you with!
Psychedelic Funk has done nothing wrong and I like how much he found off the bridle last time. Colin Keane thinks he is in a different league to Cappella Sansevero who was second in the Coventry a few years ago. He'll be there or thereabouts but I was blown away by Mokarris and I think he'll handle conditions as well as anything.
I think Mehmas has far and away the best form of the British contenders, but it revolves around one horse - Global Applause - and that always worries me. Yalta is the unexposed Brit, but is by Exceed And Excel, whose progeny have a good record here, but generally don't want it soft. Therefore I can see the Irish dominating and Psychedelic Funk is clearly very good.
He's a player if he behaves himself, but it was probably a soft race he won at Sandown, with Max Dynamite being far from ready and wanting a much stiffer stamina test than a crawl on fast ground. Fancy the Dynamite to turn the form around myself.
That Pallasator has as many quirks as my missus. He could wake up in the morning and decide he's not going to do a stoke. Just like my missus.
I still think Portage is a Group horse masquerading as a handicapper and could still be better than 105 which he runs off in the Hunt Cup. He's won over 1m at Ascot on soft ground and 12-1 is very fair indeed.