FULL-FIELD handicaps down Ascot’s straight course are never easy to unpick and the International Stakes (3.00pm) is another classic example.
Near the head of the market is Charlie Hills’ Dark Shift, who boasts a very strong Ascot record having won four of his six starts at the Berkshire track, including the Royal Hunt Cup most recently.
He’s up another six pounds for that which obviously makes his life tougher, but he won nicely at the Royal meeting and will surely go well again.
I wouldn’t put anyone off him, but the three at slightly bigger prices that I’m keen to stick in a World Pool Quinella are CHIEFOFCHIEFS, STAR OF ORION and ARATUS.
The former is another with a good Ascot record, including when fourth in this race off four pounds higher in 2020, so he is handicapped to be competitive.
He didn’t get the best of starts in the Buckingham Palace Stakes last time, but stormed home in eye-catching fashion and Colin Keane is a noteworthy jockey booking.
Star Of Orion runs off the same mark of 96 as Chiefofchiefs, meaning he’s a pound lower than he was when second in this race 12 months ago.
He hasn’t done much since, but there’s been a feeling this has been the plan for a while and his trainer Ralph Beckett’s yard is in flying form.
Finally, Aratus looks very interesting.
Clive Cox’s gelding rattled off four wins in a row in 2020 and 2021 and shot up the weights as a result.
However, he proved the hike was justified as he ran well from a bad draw in the Victoria Cup over this course and distance in May.
He didn’t look to quite see out the trip when behind Dark Shift in the Hunt Cup and this looks a more suitable test.
Chiefofchiefs (World Pool win and place) 3.00pm Ascot
Star Of Orion (World Pool win and place) 3.00pm Ascot
Quinella with tote.co.uk
(Chiefofchiefs, Star Of Orions, Aratus) 3.00pm Ascot