Royal Ascot - At The Races

Alan Thomson's Horses To Follow

    Form expert Alan Thomson has shortlisted a dozen horses to follow at Royal Ascot in 2017, covering everything from promising two-year-olds right through to fancies for some of the meeting's hottest handicaps.

Horse profiles

Banksea (GB)

With Royal Hunt Cup ante-post plunge Afjaan falling by the wayside, this is best left to Banksea. The Newbury Spring Cup was one of the hottest tickets in town and the form of the race has stacked up very well.

Banksea came through late to collar Another Touch and Fastnet Tempest, with the latter scooping the Victoria Cup at Ascot next time out and then scoring again, at Chester. I’m hoping Fastnet Tempest will be diverted to Saturday’s Wokingham Handicap, otherwise he’s an obvious danger.

Banksea did well to score at Newbury as he met trouble in running when Chelsea Lad was pulled up, and trainer Luca Cumani reported after the race: ‘Banksea will now head for the Royal Hunt Cup. The short break will do him no harm given he goes well fresh and will guarantee that he will remain on a workable mark.’

William George also met interference at Newbury and was staying on best of all in fourth. Not beaten far by Fastnet Tempest in the Victoria Cup, he is worth a saver.

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Blue Point (IRE)

One of the highlights of the week and a mouth-watering clash in prospect involving heavyweights Caravaggio, Harry Angel and Blue Point in Friday’s Commonwealth Cup.

Last year’s Coventry winner Caravaggio is now unbeaten in five starts, the latest coming at Naas when Aidan O’Brien’s colt sprinted clear of old rival Psychedelic Funk. You are either with him at around even-money or looking to play each-way on one of the other pair.

Blue Point is available at 9-2 in places and you couldn’t knock him out of the first three with a baseball bat if the ground is decent. The Godolphin colt was in receipt of 4lb when beating Harry Angel with a bit to spare in the Group 3 Pavilion Stakes over course and distance last month and has a string of solid efforts in the formbook.

Clive Cox’s Harry Angel was a bit fresh that day and settled better to score emphatically in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock on very slick ground, in the process breaking the track record. Trading at 7-2 in places, he too will be very hard to keep out of the frame.

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Chessman (IRE)

With my other fancies City Of Joy and Son Of The Stars mentioned previously as Eyecatchers in my weekly column on, the Britannia Handicap selection is Chessman. John Gosden’s colt made a winning debut at Kempton in November before being unleashed in a Class 2 handicap at Newbury, failing by a neck to catch Bacchus. The third, fourth and fifth horses home won next time out, two of them by wide margins, and Chessman again finished strongly into second spot at Haydock last month, failing to find room at a vital stage. Gosden has won this three-year-old straight mile contest four times and Chessman could make it a nap hand.

Daban (IRE)

Bypasses a clash with Winter in the Coronation Stakes and John Gosden’s filly can beat fancied colts Dream Castle and Le Brivido in the Jersey Stakes. Daban built on her victory in the Nell Gywn at Newmarket in April by posting an excellent third to Winter and Rhododendron in the 1000 Guineas. Both runs came on fast ground.

Dream Castle chased home another very useful Godolphin horse, Barney Roy, in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury before finishing fifth to Churchill in the 2000 Guineas. This son of Frankel has been well-backed in the ante-post books and is now outright favourite.

Andre Fabre will be hoping the track isn’t too lively for his French Guineas runner-up Le Brivido, but the quicker the better for Aidan O’Brien’s Lancaster Bomber. This confirmed front-runner found the ground too soft in the Irish Guineas but finished one place ahead of Dream Castle in the English equivalent when leading until the furlong pole.


Aidan O’Brien is the obvious starting point in the Coventry Stakes, with Ballydoyle landing this Group 2 prize no fewer than eight times. Declarationofpeace built on his debut third at Navan in April by hammering Treasuring six lengths over five furlongs at Dundalk. The runner-up was an easy winner at Navan three weeks later and Declarationofpeace could follow in the hoofprints of last year’s victor Caravaggio.

The Irish contingent could have a stranglehold, with Jessica Harrington’s Brother Bear unbeaten in his two starts. He was strong at the finish when mopping up a Listed contest at the Curragh and is vying for favouritism.

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Fastnet Tempest (IRE)

Fingers crossed connections swerve the Royal Hunt Cup as I’m convinced the 6f Wokingham will be the perfect conduit for Fastnet Tempest to utilise his high cruising speed. The William Haggas-trained four-year-old threw away the Newbury Spring Cup by hanging badly close home but made amends in the Victoria Cup, swooping to collar George William.

Fastnet Tempest didn’t appear entirely at ease at Chester but still got up close home to nail Penwortham. He looks nailed on to be involved.

Last year’s victor Outback Traveller has returned to his former trainer Jeremy Noseda, having been moved from Robert Cowell’s care after finishing in midfield in the Victoria Cup. Peter Chapple-Hyam’s Buckstay had the worst of the draw when fifth in last year’s Wokingham and runs the track brilliantly.

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Frontiersman (GB)

Assuming Ulysses (and possibly Jack Hobbs) will be heading for the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, the coast is clear for a serious each-way bet on Frontiersman in the Hardwicke Stakes at odds of around 5-1.

Charlie Appleby’s four-year-old was never on an even keel in the Coronation Cup and could well have been the best horse in the race, despite losing. He slalomed his way down the Epsom straight but still managed to get within a couple of lengths of Highland Reel. All three career wins have come on fast ground, so any thunderstorms would be a big no-no.

Highland Reel, just denied 12 months ago by Dartmouth in a thriller, must be one of the toughest/consistent horses in training and is sure to be in the thick of things.

Given Sir Michael Stoute’s remarkable record in the race (10 wins) it would be folly to ignore Dartmouth, but four-year-olds have won the last nine renewals.

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Haripour (IRE)

  • 4-y-o; bay colt
  • Breeding: Shamardal - Hazariya (Xaar)
  • Trained by: D K Weld
  • Last Race: Ascot, 23 Jun 2017 17:00
  • Result: 11/13, mid-division, slightly hampered on outside turning into straight, ridden 2f out, never on terms, weakened final furlong
  • View full form

The Queen’s Vase has been a happy hunting ground for Mark Johnston (seven wins) and Aidan O’Brien (five), so their representatives require scrutiny.

The make-up of the race may well change this year, with speedier types benefiting from the drop to 1m 6f. Step forward Haripour, trained by Dermot Weld for the Aga Khan. Although trounced on his sole juvenile start by Sir John Lavery in the mud at Gowran Park last October, Haripour hinted that better was to come as a three-year-old.

Therefore, it must have been something of a shock to connections when he displayed the laboured form of a slowboat in three maidens. He looked a different horse, however, fitted with blinkers at Navan, travelling powerfully and quickening in the manner of a good colt to score by more than five lengths.

Haripour, a half-brother to Harzand, has ground to make up on Venice Beach on earlier form BB (before blinkers) and although holding an Irish Derby entry this is a more realistic target. Trading at big odds, Haripour gets the juices flowing.

Desert Skyline, a previous Eyecatcher at Epsom, will carry my saver returning to a more conventional circuit. Both Johnston and O’Brien have made multiple entries, so it’s hard to predict their respective representatives.

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Marsha (IRE)

Marsha blew her field away under a penalty in the Palace House Stakes at HQ and has twice taken the scalp of Washington DC. She looks bound to go close in the King’s Stand Stakes if the Met Office has got it right and we have fast ground all week. The stronger the gallop the better as Sir Mark Prescott’s filly has a very high cruising speed.

2016 Queen Mary Lady Aurelia sits at the head of the ante-post market but could be vulnerable meeting some seasoned sprinters. Wesley Ward’s filly produced a monster performance 12 months ago when dwarfing her rivals both physically and mentally. Fast ground would be to her advantage.

The drop to the minimum distance could do the trick for French challenger Signs Of Blessing, a danger to all in a crackerjack of a sprint. The six-year-old, trained by Francois Rohaut, led a star-studded field until tying up in the final 100 yards in the six-furlong Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot in October won by The Tin Man.

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The Ribblesdale Stakes is often referred to as the consolation Oaks but runners in the fillies’ Classic have a poor recent record.

Of the home contingent, Sir Michael Stoute’s Mori has a progressive profile, finishing strongly to draw clear near the finish in a Goodwood Listed contest over 10f. This daughter of Frankel holds an Irish Oaks entry and is improving at a rate of knots.

The Irish have farmed this Group 2 contest, scooping five of the last six renewals, with none having their prep at Epsom. Aidan O’Brien has won two of the last three runnings and Oaks third Alluringly will be bidding to overcome that Classic statistic.

O’Brien’s Rain Goddess, a daughter of Galileo, has a progressive profile and shouldn’t be ignored. She patently found 7f too sharp when fourth under tender handling in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes at Newbury in April. Rain Goddess shaped well in fifth behind Precieuse in the French 1000 Guineas at Deauville and improvement can reasonably be expected now asked to cover a distance of ground. She’s the each-way alternative to the big two.

The Tin Man

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Equiano - Persario (Bishop of Cashel)
  • Trained by: J R Fanshawe
  • Last Race: Ascot, 21 Oct 2017 14:00
  • Result: 5/12, held up towards rear, pushed along over 2f out, headway on near side of group over 1f out, kept on inside final furlong, never going pace to reach leaders
  • View full form

Diamond Jubilee Stakes favourite Limato has something to prove after his Dubai flop and that opens the door for the likes of The Tin Man and Magical Memory to strut their stuff.

You need to forgive The Tin Man a real stinker in this race 12 months ago when James Fanshawe’s gelding beat only one home and it can only go down as an off-day as he bounced back to win the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes over course and distance in October. The Tin Man made a satisfactory return from a 214-day absence when finishing fifth to impressive Tasleet in the Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes, conceding 5lb to all 11 rivals. Magical Memory finished second and little separates these old adversaries.

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Top Tug (IRE)

Top Tug finished seventh in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes last year when soft ground was all against him. Top Tug, a fine servant for Alan King, will be having his first outing for Sir Michael Stoute on the back of two recent sterling efforts. After chasing home Frontiersman over 1m 4f at Newmarket, Top Tug went one better over a longer trip at Goodwood, pulling clear to win by almost two lengths. If the ground comes up fast as forecast and the six-year-old enjoys some luck with the draw, he will trouble the best of them.

Likely favourite Appeared and Batts Rock aren’t far behind in my pecking order. Roger Varian’s Appeared thumped Batts Rock over course and distance last month and that looked the ideal prep race for both parties.

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