BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS THE ROYAL HUNT CUP, DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE AND QUEEN MARY STAKES
PUNTERS like nothing more than solving a complex handicap puzzle and there is no race run at Ascot all week that is more difficult to find the winner of than the Royal Hunt Cup (5.00pm).
There have been only two successful favourites in the past 24 years, so those planning to pile in on Sir Michael Stoute’s Abseil, a best-priced 5/1 with Paddy Power, might want to think again.
The Khalid Abdullah-owned four-year-old won well at Epsom last time to pick up the 5lb penalty that he needed to get into this race. He looks like the proverbial Group horse running in a handicap, but we’ve seen plenty of those turned over in this race through the years.
I am pretty sure Abseil will turn out to be a serious performer, although I am not willing to back him at such a short price in as competitive a race as this.
My first selection BURANO is a massive price at 33/1 with Star Sports but I am sure he can outrun those odds. Admittedly, he has only won one of his 26 starts, which is not ideal, however he has dropped below the 100 mark and I thought that he ran an excellent race in the Spring Mile at Newbury. He was unlucky that day, travelling well before getting blocked in his run a furlong out. He then went to Newmarket and again suffered interference.
But this looks to have been the plan all along and I like both the jockey booking in Jimmy Fortune and his draw in stall 24.
The other one to back is slightly more obvious as QUEENSBERRY RULES at a general 14/1 should go close under former champion jockey Ryan Moore from a favourable draw against the stands rail.
William Haggas’s inmate was third in the Britannia last year so clearly handles the track and I’m certain he’s going to prove better than his current mark of 100.
Moore would have been offered plenty of rides in this race and he doesn’t often choose wrong. Of course, the stands side may not be the place to be, but it’s virtually impossible to know which group is going to have the advantage before the race.
Just think back to 12 months ago when plenty of jockeys drawn low opted to track across to the near-side, only for the winner Belgian Bill to race far side in a much smaller group.
There are too many others with decent chances to mention, but if a low draw does prove to be advantageous then Short Squeeze should be on the premises for Hugo Palmer. My only worry with him is that he is very high in the weights.
Andrew Balding’s Stirring Ballad was sent off the 10/1 co-favourite last year and this will be her first race since then. She certainly shouldn’t be ruled out from stall eight.
BURANO e/w 5.00pm Ascot
QUEENSBERRY RULES e/w 5.00pm Ascot