Crunchsports.com's guide to Saturday's racing at Royal Ascot courtesy of BettingPro.com tipster Ross Aylward...
Experience will count for plenty in the Chesham Stakes (due off 14:30 BST), with the opening race at Royal Ascot this afternoon likely to turn into a real slog on the prevailing soft ground.
In which case, Kevin Manning's MOVE TO STRIKE is the one to be with (albeit at shortish odds) having made a big impression when hacking up by nine lengths on his second start at the Curragh last month when the mud was flying. The form of that race has been boosted by the placed horses subsequently and form comments of "stayed on strongly to draw clear in the final furlong" suggests that the son of Lawman will relish the extra furlong he faces here. He has some fancy entries for later in the season so is clearly highly regarded at home, and the stable was on the mark with Dawn Approach in the Coventry. With a slight doubt over Jalaa on the rain softened ground, the main danger looks to be Lovely Pass, who ran very green when winning on his debut at Lingfield and didn't enjoy the fast ground.
John Gosden has his team in fine form with four winners already at the royal meeting, including a 1-2 in the Coronation Stakes, and AIKEN, his runner in the Hardwicke Stakes (15:05 BST), a race he won last year with Nathaniel, could be another. The four-year-old has looked seriously progressive in winning his last six races, including a Listed race over course and distance on his penultimate start and a Group 2 in France last time out. Significantly, both those wins came on soft ground so every drop of rain that falls is a boost to his chances, and he is taken to score from last year's St Leger third Sea Moon, who struggled to land odds of 2/7 in a minor race on his reappearance. Granted, Michael Stoute's runner is entitled to come on for that run but the selection is on a roll and could improve past him.
Next up is the race we've all been waiting for, the Golden Jubilee Stakes (15:45 BST), in which the Australian wonder mare is bidding to extend her winning sequence to 22. Equally effective from 5f to 7f, she has barely had to break sweat during her winning spree at home, beating some good horses in the process, and the opposition is running scared in this Group 1 sprint, which helps to explain her current price of 1/4. If she runs up to form, she wins and wins well. However, at those cramped odds you are not going to get rich backing her and she might even be worth laying when you consider she has travelled from the other side of the world, is seeing the track for the first time and is by no means certain to act on the very soft ground.
There are no such worries over SOCIETY ROCK, who is a real course specialist having won two of his last four starts here, including when springing a 25/1 shock in this race last season, and was runner-up in another. Effective with cut in the ground, the James Fanshawe-trained five-year-old shaped up nicely for this when running third at York on his reappearance, and should be at his peak here. That might not be good enough of course if the favourite is on song and let's not forget Australian sprinters have a great record at the meeting, but a small each-way investment on the selection can't do too much damage as he looks sure to make the frame at the very least and is definitely worth considering in the 'without Black Caviar' market at around 7/2.
LIGHTNING CLOUD is another horse with excellent form at the track and the consistent grey looks the answer to a typically competitive Wokingham Handicap (16:25 BST), which is not the lottery most people think it is. The last three winners have been returned at single-figure odds and granted luck in-running the form horses normally come to the fore. Kevin Ryan's progressive gelding, a general 9/1 shot, was taking his form figures in Ascot straight course races to '125' when staying on powerfully in the closing stages of the 7f Victoria Cup last month, having pulled hard for much of the way. He's sure to come on for that run and the drop back to 6f in a strongly run race looks ideal as he will be able to settle better and conserve his energy for the finish, while he's far from badly treated on a mark of 95 and with bottom weight of 8st 11lb.
There are dangers everywhere you look and top weight Maarek could give him most to do as he's improving at a rate of knots and is at his best with plenty of give underfoot.
The Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap (17:00 BST) looks wide open and a case can be made for many, not least the John Gosden-trained Cambourne, who looked to be still improving when hacking up over this trip of 1m4f on his latest start at Doncaster. That made it three wins from five career starts and a bold bid is expected, but a rise of 13lb might be just enough to stop him getting his head in front in this better company. Aidan O'Brien's Harrison's Cave and French raider Hammerfest are respected but I've a sneaky feeling that STAND TO REASON could go well off bottom weight.
The Mikael Magnusson-trained runner is 12lb higher than when winning a hot Newbury handicap on his reappearance over 1m2f and has tasted defeat on his last two starts at Chester, but looks to be crying out for this extra two furlongs and all his best form is with plenty of give underfoot. At 16/1 and with four places on offer, he looks a knocking good each-way bet to give his small stable their first Royal Ascot winner.
Ascot Stakes winner Simenon makes a quick reappearance in the Queen Alexandra Stakes (17:35 BST), which brings what has been a fantastic meeting to a close, and given the manner of his victory on Tuesday, he must go close at odds of around 7/2. I wouldn't put anyone off backing him but I've been waiting to back CLOUDY SPIRIT in this unique stamina test ever since she stayed on well to defeat Dark Stranger by a neck over 2m2f at York last time, with a further eight lengths back to the third. Granted, she's got plenty of miles on the clock but as a 3m winner over hurdles, she will be staying on when others have cried enough and the 20/1 on offer looks serious each-way value.