King George Weekend is always special at Ascot. The crowds will be back at the track just a few weeks after Royal Ascot and everybody in attendance will be very much looking forward to a cracking renewal of the big Group 1.
The King George is supported by a strong Saturday card including two Group 3s and the big-field International Stakes. ITV Racing will have coverage of the four best races as well as three quality contests from York and we’ve gone through the lot in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:50 Princess Margaret Keeneland Stakes
Group 3, 6f
Lezoo is the form pick in the opening Princess Margaret Keeneland Stakes and also the pick as far as the bookies are concerned. She has done little wrong in three starts to date, even last time out where she lost her unbeaten record after a bit of a strange race.
Lezoo wants a strong pace to aim at and that’s exactly what she’ll get at Ascot so you can understand why she’s strong in the market. However, there is the real threat that one of these well-bred fillies will improve enough to get the favourite beaten here. Palm Lily fits that billing having looked like a potentially high-class sprinter when winning her debut on the all-weather at Kempton. If Palm Lily does improve as some think she can, 8/1 will look a very generous price and one big enough to back each way with a fair amount of confidence.
2:05 Sky Bet “Jump Jockeys’ Nunthorpe” Handicap
Class 4, 5f
The opening race at York on Saturday is quickly becoming a fan favourite. It’s far from the most important contest of the day but the chance to see a collection of big-name jump jockeys try their hand at a 5f sprint is certainly entertaining.
Among the previous participants of this race, few have enjoyed themselves as much as Tom Scudamore. He may be 40 now but Scudamore has had the best seasons of his career in the last five years and he’s also won the Sky Bet “Jump Jockeys’ Nunthorpe” Handicap in two of the four editions. Scudamore has got the ride on four-year-old Val De Travers who has just won a Class 5 handicap at Musselburgh and can maintain that momentum at this higher level to claim at least a place at 13/2.
2:25 Longines Valiant Stakes
Group 3, 6f
Arc winner, Torquado Tasso, is getting plenty of support in the betting for the King George later in the day at Ascot but there could be a win for German racing much earlier. Novemba is a tempting looking price of 7/2 in the Longines Valiant Stakes having run with credit on her British debut at Royal Ascot last month.
Novemba got out in front but just didn’t have the pace to hang on in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes. Clearly, she was up against some very good horses that day but the firmness of the ground may have been the main factor working against her. The rain that fell on the course on Friday is good news for Novemba’s connections and her chances of beating the likes of Zanbaq and Jumbly.
2:40 Sky Bet Dash Handicap
Class 2, 6f
Sir Michael Stoute is known for his ability to coax improvement out of older horses but he didn’t get the chance to do that with Nationwide. He was sold from the Stoute yard for 10,000gns at the end of last season and has done a great job subsequently for owner/trainer John Butler.
After a shock win at massive odds of 50/1 on his debut for Butler, Nationwide reeled off two further wins on the all-weather to give him a real sense of momentum for the Flat turf season. He did little wrong on turf at Haydock at the end of May and has subsequently been rested. A fresh Nationwide should be a serious contender in the Sky Bet Dash Handicap and 8/1 is still a very nice price for an each way bet.
3:00 Moet & Chandon International Stakes
Class 2, 7f
The 22-runner Moet & Chandon International Stakes is always a very competitive affair. However, the last two renewals went the way of the bookies’ favourite and that trend may continue in 2022.
In order for that to happen, Dark Shift will need some considerable support from the market so that he overtakes Jumby at the head of the betting, then the four-year-old will probably need to turn in the performance of his career. Even so, that is what we think might just happen here. Dark Shift is in the form of his career and there is every reason to believe that the handicapper has not got his number yet. With form over course and distance and some pace to aim at, Dark Shift is the one the others have to beat at decent enough odds of 5/1.
3:15 Sky Bet York Stakes
Group 2, 1m2½f
Jane Chapple-Hyam has had some excellent horses in her training career but few mean as much to her as Claymore. He was very nearly snapped up by an American owner after winning on his debut at Newmarket last October until Chapple-Hyam’s landlady, Mark Slack, stepped up and bought him.
The new owner/trainer combination had hoped that Claymore would make his mark in the Classics as a three-year-old. It didn’t quite work out for him in that regard but Claymore showed just how good he is when winning the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot. Given the weak forecasted pace there is an opportunity for David Egan to be positive and make all for victory but whichever way he does it, any win will be very sweet for Claymore’s connections.
3:35 King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes
Group 1, 1m4f
The King George is usually contested by a small but select field and that’s the case this year. Whichever way you want to look at it, there isn’t a lot between the six horses in the field for the Ascot feature and you can make a case for just about all of them. There’s only 8lb between the lot on official ratings but could it be that the highest rated of the field, Mishriff, gets home in front?
The Gosdens had issued a note of caution ahead of Mishriff’s run in the Coral-Eclipse, suggesting that he might need the run having not been seen since February. That made his run, in which he lost by just a neck, all the more impressive. Mishriff has been given a nice draw next to Broome who will likely make the pace and the step up to 1m4f could well bring another Group 1 win at odds of 3/1.