THIS year’s Investec Oaks turned out to be a messy race and the unluckiest filly in the field was undoubtedly John Gosden’s THE FUGUE. William Buick’s mount was almost brought down on the back straight, but finished with such a rattle that she would surely have won had she not met with that interference.
I normally treat Epsom form with extreme caution at Royal Ascot, but there is a three-week gap this year, compared with the normal fortnight, and The Fugue should take all the beating in this afternoon’s Ribblesdale Stakes (3.05pm). She has to turn around the Oaks form with Shirocco Star and I fully expect her to do just that.
Hughie Morrison’s filly had the run of the race at Epsom and still couldn’t get past the front-running Was. She is obviously very talented, but on both occasions this season Darryll Holland has tried to play his cards very late and she hasn’t quite come up with the goods.
The Fugue has a better draw in stall four than her Epsom conqueror and it was hard not to be impressed with her when easily winning the Musidora Stakes at York last month. A return to a more conventional track will suit and I expect Buick to have her in a handy position throughout, ready to pounce turning into the home straight.
Vow was one place behind the selection in the Oaks and she should also prefer this track, while the Queen’s Momentary beat Shirocco Star at Newbury and has had a nice break since then. Dermot Weld’s Princess Highway has won both her starts this season and is respected, but The Fugue has to be the bet at 2/1 with Coral.
The Britannia Handicap (4.25pm) is always one of the most competitive races during Royal week and three of the last five winners were priced 20/1 or longer. It’s often a stepping stone to bigger and better things and last year’s winner Sagramor came out and finished second to Carlton House in the Group Three Brigadier Gerard at Sandown a few weeks ago.
Richard Hannon’s Cai Shen produced a brilliant performance to finish second off top weight 12 months ago and I fancy the stable to go one better this time with DEMOCRETES, who looks really well-handicapped off a mark of 88. The Cadeaux Generaux colt has been running primarily over six furlongs, but his breeding suggests a step up to a mile is exactly what is required.
I was really impressed with his run behind Mince at Newmarket last time where he was staying on powerfully up the hill and Richard Hughes takes the mount. It’s hard to know if his draw in stall 16 is a positive, but the opening two days have suggested that the middle of the track is the place to be and he looks solid each-way value at 16/1 with Coral.
Another horse I’ve been following this season is Roger Charlton’s TRADER JACK and he should also be backed from right next door in stall 15. He won his maiden on soft ground at Ffos Las in November, but was clearly in need of the run on his seasonal reappearance at Sandown when he finished last of six.
He proved that form all wrong at Goodwood next time when finishing second to Grandeur, who has a big chance in the Tercentenary Stakes later on this afternoon. He travelled like the winner that day, but didn’t really see out the 10 furlong trip, so the drop back to a mile should suit perfectly. Charlton won this race in 2008 with Fifteen Love and Trader Jack should go close at 14/1 with Star Sports.