NATIONAL Hunt trainers have had a stranglehold on the Ascot Stakes (5.00pm) in recent years, winning the last five renewals, and they are strongly represented again.
Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins saddle five runners between them in their attempts to win the race for a second time. But I reckon RAY WARD can put one on the scoreboard for David Simcock and the flat boys.
Anyone who witnessed the five-year-old’s luckless passage in this very race 12 months ago will know that he was stopped rounding the home turn and finished with a late rattle once the race was over.
He finished sixth that day beaten under 10 lengths and proved that this marathon two and a half mile trip holds no fears.
The son of Galileo races from just a 3lb higher mark this afternoon having really caught the eye on his reappearance over an inadequate trip at Newmarket last month.
He was apprentice-ridden that day yet flew home at the death, which will have put him spot on for this.
He can be backed each-way at 6/1 with Betway which looks real value in a race where few are guaranteed to stay.
Fun Mac may have been visibly impressive at Salisbury last time, but as well as another stone in the saddle he also has an extra half mile to last out.
The biggest danger to my selection may well be Mullins’ Clondaw Warrior who arrives here race-fit from a decent campaign over hurdles in Ireland. He’s never raced over this distance on the flat before but he has showed nothing which suggests he won’t stay.
At bigger prices, Warren Greatrex’s Boite will go well at 16/1 if ridden with more restraint, while Shwaiman has that man Dettori in the saddle and is too big a price at 20/1 for a horse that ran in the Ascot Gold Cup 12 months ago.
The closing Windsor Castle Stakes (5.35pm) looks nigh on impossible with 27 runners set to go to post. However, the draw has played a huge part in this race in recent years with the last five winners drawn close to the stands rail.
Soapy Aitken and Washington DC have been given stalls four and six respectively, so I’m going to have an each-way play on Mick Channon’s filly OPAL TIARA, who is drawn 24, at 16/1 with Betway.
She won her maiden at Wolverhampton before an excellent second to Easton Angel in the Hilary Needler at Beverley. Her conqueror that day is strongly-fancied for tomorrow’s Queen Mary Stakes, so the form could be pretty solid.
RAY WARD e/w 5.00pm Ascot
OPAL TIARA e/w 5.35pm Ascot