BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS THE KING’S STAND AND ASCOT STAKES
THE King’s Stand Stakes (3.05pm) has an international flavour these days, with many of the world’s top sprinters descending on Ascot in an attempt to take home this famous prize. And the visitors haven’t done badly either.
Since Choisir gave Australia their first ever win in Britain in 2003, foreign-trained horses have won six of the following nine renewals, including last year when Little Bridge triumphed for Hong Kong.
The Australians have dominated with four successes in the past decade and they have another contender this afternoon in Shamexpress. Danny O’Brien, whose Star Witness finished runner-up two years ago, has decided to bring over his Newmarket Handicap winner, but I’d be a little concerned about this trip.
The four-year-old New Zealand-bred colt has done the majority of his racing over six furlongs and was annihilated by Black Caviar over the minimum distance in February. I can just see things happening too quickly for him here and will pass on the 10/1 currently being offered by Ladbrokes.
Mike De Kock is no stranger to international success, but he is yet to have a Royal Ascot winner. That may be about to change though, as his Shea Shea is a hot favourite for this race after two hugely impressive performances at Meydan in the spring.
This speedball destroyed some top class opposition in the Al Quoz Sprint, breaking the track record for the second time in the space of a month. However, he has had quite a long break since then and Ascot’s five furlong sprint course is very different to Meydan.
Shea Shea is the most likely winner, although there are enough question marks for me to resist backing him at 2/1 with Paddy Power.
According to the bookmakers, the best chance of the home brigade is Clive Cox’s Reckless Abandon, who suffered the first defeat of his six-race career in Haydock’s Temple Stakes. He ran a very solid race that day to finish third and should have come on for the run.
I think the three-year-old will be very hard to keep out of the frame, but there is a nagging doubt that six furlongs might be his trip and 6/1 is on the skinny side.
Swiss Spirit was unlucky in-running last time and he should give punters a run for their money at 10/1 with Coral. His only previous visit to Ascot resulted in a disappointing display though, and that would have to be a worry.
Everything looked to be right for Sole Power in the Temple Stakes, yet he could only finish a slightly disappointing fourth. That said, Johnny Murtagh is back in the saddle and a reproduction of his third in this race 12 months ago would see him go close. I’ve never been convinced that Ascot is Sole Power’s ideal track and I have no idea if his draw in stall 14 will be any good because a number of the market principals are housed low.
Kingsgate Native won well last time, but consistency has always been his issue, while it would be an incredible feat for Pearl Secret to win this on his seasonal reappearance.
The one that stands out from a value perspective is MEDICEAN MAN at 25/1 with Ladbrokes. Jeremy Gask’s seven-year-old is an Ascot specialist and finished a close-up fourth last year. That took his record over this course and distance to 1-1-2-4 and I think he has an excellent chance of hitting the frame.
He broke his listed duck at Haydock last time and although he has won over Ascot’s six furlong course, he is undoubtedly better suited to the minimum trip.
I’d be surprised if he had enough to win, but we’re getting over 6/1 for him to be placed – and that looks more than fair.
MEDICEAN MAN e/w 3.05pm Ascot