Published 17:00 22/06
Royal Ascot is the greatest race meeting in the world, though the razzmatazz that goes with it plays a part in that. In order to justify its status with aficionados it needs to attract top horses, and not just top humans, from abroad.
In case you have missed most of the last 15 years in the racing world, the fact is that the best Australian sprinters tend to be good. Very good.
The best of them all, Black Caviar, won this race in 2012, though only by a head after being prematurely eased. As Blue Point showed by getting trounced in Hong Kong before returning to win here on Tuesday, it is not enough just to be good when on the road: you need to be tough with it.
Up against Redkirk Warrior in a stellar field is the best 6f performer in Britain – indeed one of the best in some time – in Harry Angel, last year’s winner of this race in The Tin Man, one of Redkirk Warrior’s former rivals in Australia in Merchant Navy, very smart sprinters from the US and France in Bound For Nowhere and City Light, and, well, a fair bit more besides.
I cannot wait to watch the race, but, from a betting point of view, I am not keen on getting involved.
My reading of it is that Harry Angel would win at his best, but not by far if Redkirk Warrior is likewise at the top of his game. We have already seen plenty of times this week how little imperfections in pace judgement and uncertainties in course position can make the crucial difference between winning and losing.
It has to be said that the rest of Saturday’s card does not look replete with good betting opportunities, either, but an exception is the opening Chesham Stakes at 2:30. I tend not to go for favourites – the average odds of my selections on here has been roughly 13/2 – but this is different.
Either NATALIE’S JOY is already better than an average winner of the race or the clock for her only start, at Goodwood, lied.
With an admittedly following wind, she nearly broke a long-standing course record in winning by six lengths from a horse who finished much closer when second again subsequently, and in the process she ran significantly faster than a fairly useful older-horse handicapper ,on the same card.
Two-year-old fillies simply are not meant to do that on their debuts and it should take a very smart performance to beat her, if she stays the extra furlong.
That would not normally be a perceived problem with a daughter of Lope de Vega – quite the opposite, in fact – but she showed such electrifying speed at Goodwood that one imagines Joe Fanning will be looking to ration it more carefully on this occasion.
Nonetheless, I see Natalie’s Joy – a big-money purchase by American interests since that run – as something like an even-money shot in this company, with only Beyond Reason otherwise looking close to scratch for the race in a normal year. That makes her a bet.
For the other recommendations, I am going for a couple in the other two-year-old race, the Windsor Castle Stakes (3:40).
Twenty-eight runners makes this a tough heat, but you should be giving yourself a fighting chance if you split stakes between MUTAWAFFER – a massive sectional eye-catcher on this course on his debut and an easy winner at Goodwood since – and the French challenger JUNIUS BRUTUS.
The latter, who was sold for £300,000 earlier this week, has won both of his races by wide margins, the second giving 4 kg to a filly who has run pretty well on her only start since. The bookies seem to have under-rated both colts and that justifies a split-stake investment.
The other big race on the Saturday card is the Hardwicke Stakes (3:05), in which Crystal Ocean may have relatively little to beat but is long odds on against just four rivals in what could end up a messy affair.
The meeting concludes with the Queen Alexandra Stakes, which should be one of the more crackable races of the week. The mind-numbingly long distance over which it is run may please the odd passer-by from the jumps but frequently throws a spanner in the works.
The last two editions have gone to horses starting at double-figured prices. At least it gives an excuse to head for the bar or the exit early.
Simon's Best Bets (scale 1-10 points):
CHESHAM STAKES 2:30 ROYAL ASCOT, SATURDAY
3pts win NATALIE’S JOY (7-4 bet365, Betfred, Betway, Ladbrokes)
WINDSOR CASTLE STAKES, 3:40 ROYAL ASCOT, SATURDAY
1pt win MUTAWAFFER (9-1 general)
0.5 pt win win JUNIUS BRUTUS (18-1 bet365, 16-1 Ladbrokes, 14-1 Betway, Coral, William Hill)