This rain is a pain. As in life, we are all better when we know where we stand, but 10mm of unexpected rain at Ascot on Monday night underlined the unpredictably of the weather, and quickfire thunderstorms and deluges could play a big role in deciding winners this week.
And rapidly-changing prices don't help either, as you will soon read.
Brian Epstein should be on your radar
Brian Epstein ran into one when second to Cap Francais at Haydock on his return - the winner was thrown in on his early Listed race form over further last season - and I thought he could be the answer to the Silver Royal Hunt Cup at 13:15 in Wednesday's opener.
Was on an upward curve early last year and returned with an excellent second at Haydock (1m, good) last week. Has to be respected off the same mark here. Engaged 1.15 Ascot Tuesday.
|09/06/20||Haydock Park ||2/12||Flat||7f 212y||Good||9st 7lbs||Pat Dobbs||6.69|
|01/06/19||Musselburgh ||1/9||Flat||7f 33y||Soft||9st 5lbs||Richard Kingscote||6.4|
|18/05/19||Doncaster ||2/6||Flat||7f 213y||Gd/frm||8st 10lbs||Hollie Doyle||2.7|
|04/05/19||Newmarket (Rowley) ||4/10||Flat||1m||Good||8st 4lbs||Martin Dwyer||10.35|
|17/04/19||Newmarket (Rowley) ||5/14||Flat||1m||Good||9st 7lbs||Tom Marquand||6.43|
|01/10/18||Kempton Park ||1/9||Flat||1m||Std/slow||9st 2lbs||Tom Marquand||9.77|
|22/09/18||Chelmsford City ||4/14||Flat||7f||Std||9st 2lbs||Tom Marquand||4.6|
|20/07/18||Newbury ||5/18||Flat||7f||Gd/frm||9st 2lbs||Pat Dobbs||28.23|
I am pretty worried about the 1m trip though, even though he has won over it - he was balloted out of the 7f Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, and that could have been the ideal race for him - and his stamina will obviously be called more into question more if we get more rain.
So, while I am sitting tight for now, he definitely has to be on your radar.
He had been off the track for over a year prior to that Haydock run, so he ran a stormer there, especially as the front two pulled clear of the well-backed third.
He has to be considered well-treated here off the same mark and, while the dreaded bounce factor is a possibility given that lengthy absence, it is easy to see this strong traveller tanking through the race.
He bolted up over 7f at Musselburgh on his final start last season, and simply has the profile of a horse on a steep upwards curve.
Pat Dobbs will have to play it very cool and late, but if he gets the breaks late on then he could be the pick of these weights if lasting home over this stiff mile.
I will wait until knowing the ground on Wednesday before deciding to back him though, so I can't put him up as tip here, given my personal delay.
Zhui Feng can make most of ideal draw
There will be plenty of hard luck stories in here, no doubt, but if you back Zhui Feng in the 13:15 you shouldn't have any traffic problems. And he is a bet at [23.0] or bigger, as a result.
He is ideally drawn in 22 to get on the rail to try to make all, just as he did when winning the Hunt Cup (off a 6lb higher mark than this) in 2017.
That wasn't his only good effort at this track - he was only touched off in a Victoria Cup here off a 12lb higher mark two years ago - and he ran perfectly well when fourth to Bell's Rock and Ouzo (the latter re-opposing here) on his return, and I very much like the fact that the cheek pieces are back on again.
All of his best efforts, including that Hunt Cup win, have come when the headgear has been on. If he gets on that rail on the lead, then he could take some reeling in and it can be as quick as you like for him, while he has form on ground with ease in it, too.
Sir Busker, drawn in 18, is set to get a great tow into the race from Zhui Feng in 22 and he is my other bet in the race at this stage.
The weather can pretty much do as it likes for him (though he has never raced on quicker than good) and the strength of the Newcastle race that he won earlier in the month suggests he will remain very competitive off a 4lb higher mark here.
A couple of friends are in his syndicate, so here is hoping for them. And me, because I am backing him at 9/1 each way, six places with the Betfair Sportsbook. Any more rain is no problem at all for him
Berlin can Tango to victory
There is no surprise that Guineas fifth Juan Elcano is disputing favouritism in the Hampton Court Stakes at 13:50 but I was a bit taken aback by the horse currently sitting alongside him in the betting.
Sure, the Queen's First Receiver is clearly very well regarded and won easily at Kempton, but it was a pretty average maiden and the overall time was nothing special.
I can't have him at the price at all, for all the chat about him, and Berlin Tango at 5/1 each way looks much the better option.
Another from his yard to hit the ground running with victory in Group 3 Kempton Classic Trial over this trip. Needs even more to defy a penalty here but that certainly can't be ruled out.
|03/06/20||Kempton Park ||1/9||Flat||1m 1f 219y||Std/slow||9st 1lbs||David Probert||9.37|
|04/03/20||Kempton Park ||2/5||Flat||1m||Slow||9st 5lbs||Oisin Murphy||3.05|
|13/09/19||Doncaster ||3/5||Flat||7f 6y||Gd/frm||9st 0lbs||Oisin Murphy||19|
|23/08/19||Salisbury ||3/6||Flat||1m||Good||9st 1lbs||Oisin Murphy||5.55|
|29/07/19||Ffos Las ||1/8||Flat||7f 80y||Gd/frm||9st 5lbs||Oisin Murphy||2.22|
|13/07/19||Salisbury ||5/13||Flat||6f 213y||Gd/frm||9st 5lbs||Joshua Bryan||21.2|
Clearly, the 4lb penalty that he got for winning a Group 3 at Kempton earlier in the month is a pain, but I loved the way he won there, despite being far too keen early on. He put his head down late on and really wanted it.
Kenzai Warrior could be a player at a bigger price but it is Berlin Tango for me. We lost a point off his price when the Kempton runner-up Pyledriver won at Ascot on Tuesday but he could be Epsom material if winning this under a penalty.
Kipps is outstanding but just too short now
Everyone with a betting pulse will surely want to be with Kipps in the King George V Handicap at 14:25, and there was no way that the opening 13/2 on Monday was going to last.
Normally, I shy away from the obvious but this horse has such outstanding claimsFru that I was going to have to join the crowd and get with him. I felt a bit dirty putting up a 5s poke in a race like this, but I could just about live with it. Then his price hit 4/1 on Tuesday afternoon, and I now have to pass.
He really should have won doing handsprings at Haydock earlier in the month, so well did he travel into the race - I imagine David Probert thought he was going to win easily, but he got done by a late closer on his outside - but the upside of that narrow defeat is that he escapes a penalty and can race off the same mark here.
And there is surely no way that he isn't much better than his mark of 83 would suggest. The Haydock winner wasn't unfancied anyway, the time was very good and they pulled well clear of Glenties in third.
I know there are many other unexposed and progressive types in here, but he will take a lot of beating if getting the run of the race. But every horse has its base price, and 4/1 was just too short for me.
I can definitely see the case for Bright Melody, as he looked ready for a step up in trip when third in Berlin Tango's Kempton race and the first-time hood (the stable are 17 from 62 with this angle since 2016) could help him travel into his race a touch more smoothly.
But I was hoping for bigger than 7/1 about him to be considering a saver. |It was the play on the favourite for me - though Subjectivist at 25/1+ looked pretty big - and that is not something I usually say. And still can't now!
I wouldn't be as big on Japan (sorry, you will be reading and hearing that a lot in the next 24 hours as the racing crowd is an unfunny and predictable bunch) in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at 15:00, as quotes of around even money would suggest.
For some reason I just didn't take to the horse last season, for all his Juddmonte win is the best form on offer in here, and I can happily let him win without any of my cash. Maybe the filly Mehdaayih could provide the shock but, with just seven runners, it doesn't have the shape of a punting race to me. If you want more, you can read Timeform's verdict on the septet here.
Two bets for the Hunt Cup
The Hunt Cup proper takes place at 15:35 and what struck me was the lack of guaranteed pace in the line-up.
Sure, there are a few in here that have gone forward plenty of times in the past - the likes of Vale Of Kent, Cardsharp, Wargrave, Fox Power and Fox Champion, so there is possible speed all across the track - but none you would really hang your hat on. So the opportunity is there for someone to take the initiative.
There is a moan coming now, justified or not, but that is something that Joe Fanning didn't do on Vale Of Kent (pictured above on the right) at Newmarket in Listed company earlier in the month, though in his defence they kind of blew the start.
But Fanning looked unhappy and awkward on the inner throughout for some reason, and he didn't press the "go" button until the race was over, so I thought his third to stablemate Marie's Diamond (who ran a blinder in the Queen Anne) and Lord Tennyson (favourite here) was an excellent run in the circumstances.
Hopefully, he can get on the front end here from his midfield stall, and try to blast his way to victory. He does race off a career-high mark, but that Newmarket effort earlier this month gave hope that he can overcome it.
He rates a small wager at [24.0] or bigger. He was seventh in the race off a much higher mark last year, but that came on his reappearance. With a run under his belt this time, he could prove dangerous at a price.
I am happy to play near the top of the market again in the shape of Montatham at [9.4] or bigger, win-only on the exchange. Again, he shortened during Tuesday but 8/1+ is okay.
Dual winner of novice events last year and took form to a new level when landing a 1m Newmarket handicap in good style on return 11 days ago. Up 8 lb but he's lightly-raced and remains with potential.
|06/06/20||Newmarket (Rowley) ||1/12||Flat||1m||Gd/frm||9st 6lbs||Jim Crowley||4.05|
|19/11/19||Kempton Park ||4/14||Flat||1m||Std/slow||9st 4lbs||Jim Crowley||3.34|
|14/10/19||Musselburgh ||2/9||Flat||7f 33y||Heavy||8st 9lbs||Paul Hanagan||4.9|
|18/09/19||Yarmouth ||3/5||Flat||1m 3y||Gd/frm||9st 7lbs||Jim Crowley||4.22|
|31/08/19||Beverley ||1/7||Flat||7f 96y||Gd/frm||9st 9lbs||Dane O'Neill||1.34|
|16/08/19||Thirsk ||1/6||Flat||7f||Heavy||9st 2lbs||Paul Hanagan||1.42|
|26/10/18||Newbury ||3/16||Flat||6f 110y||Gd/sft||9st 5lbs||Jim Crowley||8|
I know he is one of a few similar types in here but he really did bolt up at Newmarket on his reappearance, despite having to be manoeuvred to the outside to see daylight.
An 8lb rise was perfectly justified given the manner in which he was unleashed late on, scoring in a very good time. Indeed, it was needed for him to get into this race and he is proven on fast and soft terrain.
The Windsor Castle at 16:10 is my idea of punting hell.
I know the time and sectional boys and girls will all be in their element, but 20 once-raced juveniles, including a couple of Wesley Ward's from the States, spread across the track, is about as unappetising as it gets.
No thank you!
Themaxwecan's gritty claims
Give me a 1m6f 16-runner handicap to solve any day of the week and, as luck would have it, there is one just 30 minutes later at 16:40.
Market leaders Collide, Hereby and Fujaira Prince all have plenty of positives going for them with their sexy little profiles - though I don't like Collide's draw in two much - but I like the grittier claims of Themaxwecan at 12/1 each-way (five places) on the Sportsbook.
When I say gritty, I acknowledge he has yet to do it in big field handicap - and it would really worry me if it turned soft somehow - but he shaped really well under a tender enough ride on his comeback at Haydock.
His win from Sleeping Lion and Blue Laureate in the Brown Jack here last summer was strong form and then he went on to win at Goodwood off a 5lb higher mark.
He has gone up another 4lb since but that Haydock run was encouraging and James Doyle, on board for his last two wins, is back on board. The stats tell you a wide draw is best, so his berth in 14 looks good to me.
Like I said, it would concern me a great deal if it turned soft at Ascot - Themaxwecan has disappointed twice on that ground - but that wouldn't be a concern for Ranch Hand.
His trainer Andrew Balding has made a very acceptable start to the season indeed and Ranch hand looks very well handicapped on just a 5lb higher mark than when beating Trueshan over 1m6f at Haydock last season, in a race where no end of subsequent winners (chief among then the runner-up and fourth-placed Moon King) trailed in his wake.
At 8/1 each way, five places with the Betfair Sportsbook, he was worth considering, but he then hit 11/2 before I filed, so I have to ignore him, too.
An annoying Tuesday afternoon watching prices.
Almania would possibly have been worth a saver too, but runners from his new yard look like they are badly needing their first outing.