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IT IS of course the final day of the Royal Ascot meeting and with the rain on Friday we are finally going to get a surface where there will be no sting in the ground.
The big betting race is the Wokingham Handicap at 5.00, with 28 runners spread across the track.
The draw has been an awful lot more even than many punters and pundits thought it would be at the start of the week and it has merely been a case of finding out where the best speed is in a race on the straight course rather than favouring the stands’ side blind.
If we get genuinely good ground or slightly softer, then last year’s consolation winner CHIEFOFCHIEFS could make it back to back wins at the big meeting.
He won the Silver Wokingham off a rating of 95 and upped in grade has run some very solid races since, in particular finishing fourth and seventh in massive fields over six and seven furlongs at Ascot off 99 and 100 respectively.
The key to this eight-year-old’s chance is getting a rapid pace to run at, getting the veteran settled and then the gaps opening late on as they did 12 months ago.
That may well be asking an awful lot again in a better race, but Jamie Spencer is just about the best man for the job on the straight course to execute such a plan and the partnership get the vote over the likes of Gulliver (back down to a winning mark and won’t mind the rain) and King’s Lynn who ran a cracking race in the King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday despite not getting a clear run.
The feature race of the day is the Golden Jubilee Stakes at 4.20 and this year’s renewal has an open look to it. Duke of York winner Starman hails from a yard (Ed Walker) in magnificent form, but he wouldn’t want too much rain and last year’s Holyroodhouse winner ART POWER (nap) is very much preferred at the prices.
Since that smooth success, the four-year-old hasn’t had the best of luck and he has a bit to find with both Glen Shiel and Dream of Dreams on last year’s form.
However, his esteemed trainer has been aiming him at this race all season and thinks that he is a much stronger specimen and is expecting a huge run and I am happy to row in with him at around the 9/1 mark and he makes plenty of each-way appeal.
The Hardwicke Stakes at 3.40 looks wide open and again ground conditions could be of paramount importance in this mile and a half, Group Two contest.
Last year’s King George V Stakes winner has continued to rise up the middle-distance ladder and showed that he was going to be a force in this race when easing home by a comfortable length-and-a-half success in the Listed Tapster Stakes at Goodwood.
If we get some give in the ground this afternoon, which looks odds-on, I make him the biggest danger to the hugely progressive ILARAAB (nb).
Campaigned mostly at around a mile-and-a-quarter last year, the son of Wootton Bassett took the step up to a mile-and-a-half in his stride when treating the useful Raymond Tusk with disdain at York.
Of course this is yet another rise in class, but this will be only his eighth start, his one defeat coming on his career debut on good ground, and he can readily progress again to land his biggest prize to date.
Albaflora would also be suited by some in the ground and looks another player at a double-figure price.
Of the other races at the Berkshire track, the 2,000 Guineas’ seventh, MUTASAABEQ, looks sure to be hard to beat back at seven furlongs in the Jersey Stakes at 3.05, with Aiden O’Brien’s Khartoum the biggest danger, while the concluding Queen Alexandra Stakes over a lung-busting two-and-three-quarter miles could go to FALCON EIGHT.
He outclassed his 15 rivals off top-weight in the Chester Cup and I think he has too much stamina for the likes of Mildenberger and the eight-year-old Withold.
Away from Ascot I have a strong fancy for REBEL AT DAWN in the big three-year-old, class two handicap at Newmarket (3.55), while the drop back to six furlongs looks just the ticket for ISOLA ROSSA in the 4.30.
The James Fanshawe-trained filly simply didn’t get home over seven furlongs at Salisbury last time out and this looks a much better fit for the daughter of Iffraaj.
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