THERE is no doubt the introduction of the Group One Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot last year has revitalised the sprinting scene in the UK.
Quiet Reflection has followed in the hoofprints of last year’s champion Muhaarar and she must have a decent chance in Saturday’s British Champions Sprint (2.00pm).
Karl Burke’s three-year-old filly has been a revelation this season, suffering just the one defeat in the July Cup on unsuitably quick ground.
I have the greatest respect for her, but Burke’s horses are really struggling for form and her Commonwealth Cup win was probably her least impressive this term.
I’m actually more interested in THE TIN MAN who was runner-up to her in the Haydock Sprint Cup last month.
James Fanshawe landed this prize in 2011 with The Tin Man’s half-brother Deacon Blues and he’ll be hoping to repeat the dose on Saturday afternoon.
My selection was fourth in this race last year and I have a feeling this has been the plan all season. He goes on all types of ground and the 6/1 available looks a fair each-way price.
John Gosden’s Shalaa won well over course and distance a fortnight ago, although this will be his second run back only a few weeks after returning from a long layoff.
Mecca’s Angel is a five furlong specialist and her flop here at the Royal meeting when last at the track is another concern.
However, at the prices I prefer the chances of Librisa Breeze and Brando who both face a major step up in class, but are progressive.
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (3.10pm) is always a brilliant race and it’s fascinating that Aidan O’Brien has decided to drop Minding back in trip.
Ballydoyle have plundered all the big Group One prizes in the past couple of weeks, so write her off at your peril.
That said, Richard Fahey has been unable to hide his admiration for RIBCHESTER this season and I think the Godolophin-owned colt can see off this year’s 1000 Guineas winner at 11/4 with Paddy Power.
The son of Iffraaj was very impressive in the Prix Jacques le Marois back in August, which followed a slightly unlucky third in the Sussex Stakes.
He has improved with every start this season and looks an out and out miler, while this trip could be a little too sharp for Minding now.
Guineas winner Galileo Gold can never be ruled out, although he’s had a long, hard season and his last performance behind Ribchester was comfortably his worst of the campaign.
Finally, Ascot’s scintillating card ends with the fiercely competitive looking Balmoral Handicap (4.25pm).
My fancy for this contest all week has been the Roger Charlton-trained Yuften who could well be dangerously well handicapped if returning to anything like the form that saw him eaten a neck in a Group One as a three-year-old.
Annoyingly, quotes of 12/1 have long gone and he doesn’t look that much value at a general 7/1.
Instead, I prefer to side with the two John Gosden runners GM HOPKINS and REMARKABLE at 12/1 and 14/1 respectively.
The former was second in this race last year off a 1lb lower mark and has won two of his three starts with Ryan Moore in the saddle, both coincidentally at Ascot.
Remarkable was a bit disappointing when tipped in this column a few weeks ago, but I remain convinced he is well handicapped and a mile may be what he needs.
The Tin Man e/w 2.00pm Ascot
Ribchester 3.10pm Ascot
GM Hopkins e/w 4.25pm Ascot
Remarkable e/w 4.25pm Ascot