Goldikova to benefit from softening ground
ONLY once in the last 17 years has the official going on the opening day of the Royal meeting been softer than good. Yet, Sunday’s heavy rainfall means that the Queen Anne Stakes, this afternoon’s opening race, could well be run on good to soft ground.
Now, that is of significance because Canford Cliffs, as short as 11/10 with William Hill, has never encountered ground softer than good in any of his nine career starts. Connections have campaigned him carefully to ensure that he has only raced on a decent surface that enables him to show his electric turn of foot.
There is nothing about his running-style that suggests he won’t be equally as effective on soft ground and, let’s face it, he is bidding to land his fifth consecutive Group One. It’s just that GOLDIKOVA, last year’s winner, has won five of her 13 Group One’s on ground described as good to soft or slower and I’ve a feeling that conditions may well have swung in her favour.
The race has long been billed as a match between the pair and, at the prices, I marginally prefer the globe-trotting French mare at 6/4 with Paddy Power. On this ground, there is no reason why she should be rated as the underdog.
The King’s Stand (3.05pm) is a truly international affair with nine of the 19 declared runners being trained away from Britain. That hasn’t proved a disadvantage in recent seasons, though, with Equiano’s win 12 months ago the only British-trained success in the past six years.
The Australians have won this contest three times in the last five years and although their superstar Black Caviar has opted to stay away until 2012, they have an able substitute in the shape of STAR WITNESS. Danny O’Brien’s four-year-old has reportedly settled in well and has bits and pieces of form at home that suggest he is the one to beat here.
In fact, I think that the slight loosening of the ground over the weekend plays to his strengths as fast ground may have exposed his preference for a trip further than the bare minimum. He can be backed each-way at 4/1 with bluesq.com, who are also paying four places, and that looks a gift of a bet.
Looking at the opposition and both Sole Power and Kingsgate Native seem at their best on rattling fast ground, while the same can also be said of American raider Bridgetown. At a massive price, I can see in-form PROHIBIT potentially hitting the frame. He has some decent course form and arguably ran the race of his life last time when beaten an inch over this trip in Chantilly. He looks a cracking each-way bet at around 16/1 with Paddy Power.
It’s strange to think that we could easily be seeing next year’s Grand National winner in action at Ascot this afternoon, but David Pipe’s hot favourite Junior is genuinely being targeted at next year’s race. Last year’s winner is just 4/1 with William Hill to land the Ascot Stakes (5.00pm) for a second year running and is unquestionably the one to beat. He hacked up 12 months ago and, although he hasn’t been seen since winning at the Cheltenham Festival, he will be hard to beat again even off a 10lb higher mark.
Yet, I prefer to side with the John Gosden-trained ZIGATO who looked highly promising when winning here last month. He is a four-year-old and that age bracket has a tremendous record in this race, winning eight of the last 13 contests.
His last run at Ascot in May came over two miles and he seemed to need every yard of the trip that day to be seen at his best. He was comfortably on top late on and this extra half mile should be right up his street. Gosden is very good with these stayers and he is worth backing each-way at 5/1 with William Hill.
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GOLDIKOVA 2.30pm Ascot
STAR WITNESS e/w 3.05pm Ascot
PROHIBIT e/w 3.05pm Ascot
ZIGATO e/w 5.00pm Ascot