King George weekend has come at just the right time. Capacity crowds are back at racecourses up and down the country and the grandstands will be packed at Ascot even if the forecast is right and it turns into a stormy day to the west of London.
Further north and a big crowd will also be heading to York for a day of racing that is more than capable of complementing the action at Ascot and the forecast there looms just about perfect. With a combination of Group level contests featuring horses of the highest calibre and some valuable handicaps, we have plenty to enjoy and lots of chances to beat the bookies. As usual, we have got tips for all the live ITV Saturday races, so that means four great tips from Ascot and a further three predictions for the action at York.
1:50 Princess Margaret Keeneland Stakes
Group 3, 6f
Martin Hughes, one of the owners of System, said that he was very surprised about the price that his filly went off at in the Maureen Brittain Memorial Empress Filles’ Stakes at Newmarket last time out. The yard were confident about her chances of taking a step forward from her debut second to the smart looking Alflaila but the market was not so sure as she went off a 22/1 shot. She got much bigger than that in running when she was forced right out to the back of the field and was barely in the camera shot with a furlong to go.
That’s when things started to go right for System though. Pat Dobbs switched her to the near rail and with a clear run she flew home to nab the win from Desert Dreamer, another who looks highly capable. System has not been missed by the market this time but she is clearly a rapidly improving horse who can take her chance at the Group 3 level at 5/2.
2:05 Sky Bet “Jump Jockeys’ Nunthorpe” Handicap
Class 3, 5f
Joshua Moore, Graham Lee and Tom Scudamore are not the sort of names you expect to be on the list of winning jockeys of a 5f race at York but this is a different sort of Flat race. It’s the one chance of the year for licenced jump jockeys to feel the thrill of a sprint and has attracted some more big names from the National Hunt game including Scudamore who looks to win again on Soul Seeker.
David O’Meara’s four-year-old took full advantage of being 2lb well in when winning a handicap over this trip at Hamilton just last week. There is no doubt he has a tougher assignment this time around but if he can reproduce the quality of that run there is still some wiggle room for him off a mark of 83. If Scudamore can have a quick word with Daniel Tudhope about exactly how he guided Soul Seeker around then this new pairing will have a chance of going in again at odds of 7/1 that look more than fair to us.
2:25 Porsche Handicap
Class 2, 1m
The seven horses who stood their ground for the Porsche Handicap could produce a fascinating race. As disappointing as it is for punters that we won’t see anything like a full field of 30 do battle over the straight mile at Ascot, this is a big chance for those leading the betting, and the winner could well use this as a springboard to bigger things.
Fantastic Fox was talked up ahead of his handicap debut at Royal Ascot but found the soft ground was not to his liking. His chances come down to whether you are willing to accept the going as an excuse or if you believe the handicapper’s initial assessment leaves him no room for manoeuvre. At 10/3 it’s worth looking for other options in our opinion and Isal Kai will get a lot of support after completing a hat-trick last time out. Despite that, Nigel Tinkler’s charge has to prove he can be as effective on a more solid surface.
There are no such ground concerns for Latest Generation who is a 4/1 shot. There are concerns about his ability to turn strong performances into wins but it’s easy to forget that these three-year-olds are still learning their jobs. Latest Generation has run to a level that would have been good enough to win this in his last two starts and this could be the time that he finally gets his head over the line for the first time since his maiden win last September.
2:40 Sky Bet Dash Handicap
Class 2, 6f
Next up is one of the big sprint handicaps of the summer. The Sky Bet Dash features a prize fund of £50,000 which has attracted a good field of 16 horse from a possible 22. Three of the last four winners of this 6f contest have gone in at a double figure price and there are some tempting each way bets this time around too.
However, the market looks to have called this right in making Mondammej the favourite at 11/2. Anthony Brittain’s four-year-old has been knocking on the door of this sort of prize for a while now but just hasn’t been able to get his head over the line first. That could all change on Saturday where the return to 6f is likely to bring out the best of Mondammej.
At a bigger price, George Bowen looks good value to bounce back from a disappointing run last time over course and distance. He could never get into things a fortnight ago on the Knavesmire but remains capable of turning in a big run off a mark of 85. As such, 16/1 is a price worth taking each way.
3:00 Moet & Chandon International Stakes
Class 2, 7f
Like the previous race, there is a worthy favourite in this handicap at Ascot. Motakhayyel was much better than the handicapper’s mark suggested last time out at Newmarket and is 6lb well in for the Moet & Chandon International Stakes despite the fact that he carries a 3lb penalty. The best price available about his chances is 5/1 which may be a little short for a 22-runner contest but he is surely better than a handicapper and has every chance of winning this race as easily as he did the Bunbury Cup.
If it’s not the favourite’s day in this 7f handicap there are a number of well treated horses in the field who can take advantage. Matthew Flinders is rightly being nibbled at 13/2 while Alddary is one about whom the William Haggas yard have Group level ambitions. The each way value though surely lies with Star Of Orion at 12/1. Talented apprentice jockey Laura Pearson takes 5lb off the back of a horse who is already 19th in the ratings. As much as this is a step up in class, Star Of Orion has never let connections down and he can certainly run into at least a place here.
3:15 Sky Bet York Stakes
Group 2, 1m2½f
The calibre of horses goes up a notch for the Group 2 Sky Bet York Stakes. Mohaafeth, winner of the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot, is the bookies’ favourite to go in again as he makes the step up in class. There’s no doubt that he has already shown plenty of ability but William Haggas’ three-year-old faces his toughest test to date and is fancied to just about fall short with Armory the pick at 15/8.
Aidan O’Brien was delighted with the work that Armory did as a two-year-old and believes there is more still to come from him as he matures. After winning the Group 2 Huxley Stakes under a hands and heels ride from Ryan Moore at the start of the season, Armory was unable to lay a glove on Love or Audarya in the Prince Of Wales’ Stakes at Royal Ascot. There was no shame in being third best to those two though and he should be able to pick up where he left off at Chester with another Group level win.
3:35 King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes
Group 1, 1m4f
The King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes is the feature race of the day and indeed more generally of this stage of the season. It’s a bona fide championship contest which has been won by some of the very finest horses in Flat racing history. The six horses lining up for this year’s renewal are each worthy of their place in the King George and are set to provide a mouth watering contest.
Love, unbeaten since her juvenile campaign, tops the betting at odds of just 13/8. Her toughest test according to the bookies is Adayar who leads the charge for the Classic generation and is available at 9/4. Lone Eagle (6/1), Wonderful Tonight (6/1) and Mishriff (10/1) are each top class performers while Broome is more than just the outsider of the pack even if he is as big as 33/1 in places.
This is a race in which the winner should come from the top two but it would not be a surprise for any of the others to come up trumps with a big win. With that in mind, it may well be worth backing Mishriff each way and hoping that he interrupts the favourites’ party. The 10/1 price looks to be an overreaction to his run in the Coral-Eclipse where he could only finish third. For all that St Mark’s Basilica was the worthy winner that day, the pace was muddling and he had his excuses. There will be no more excuses as he returns to a mile and a half but Mishriff can rise to the challenge and go very close here at a nice price.