Crunchsports.com's guide to Thursday's racing at Royal Ascot...
Twelve runners are set to go to post for the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes over 5f, which gets proceedings under way this afternoon on day three of Royal Ascot.
With nearly half the field having had just one run and the rest no more than three, it's hard to be too dogmatic about the result but Mick Channon's CAY VERDE has looked the real deal in winning his last two races, which includes a wide margin success over course and distance on his penultimate start. The form of that race has been boosted by the runner up Hototo taking Tuesday's Windsor Castle Stakes and, even better, the horse he beat at the Curragh last time, Dylanbaru, finished third in that race. Furthermore, the ground was bordering on heavy when he won here, so the forecast rain will not inconvenience him one bit. Interestingly, he will be ridden by Aussie pilot Craig Williams, who rode for the stable back in 2000 and 2001, and he'll be keen to boot home a winner for his old boss.
Johnny Murtagh is an interesting booking for David Barron's Ahern and the son of Dutch Art looks the main danger, as he too showed he handled cut when getting off the mark at Musselburgh.
The Ribblesdale Stakes (3.05) traditionally attracts fillies who ran in the Epsom Oaks and this year's renewal is no exception with the second, third and fourth set to clash again. For the record, Shirocco Star finished half a length in front of The Fugue, who in turn had a length to spare over Vow, but bookmakers are clearly expecting a different result this time with The Fugue put in as 2/1 favourite. There's no doubt John Gosden's filly was the moral winner that day having endured a rough passage and she may well gain compensation here, but she wouldn't want much rain and, at the prices, it's worth taking a chance on PRINCESS HIGHWAY.
The Dermot Weld trained daughter of Street Cry booked her ticket for this with victory in a Group 3 race at Naas on her third start, the form of which was boosted when third-placed Was went on to win the Oaks. That was over 1m2f and she could improve further for the step up to 1m4f as her dam, Irresistible Jewel, won this race for Weld in 2002. Crucially, she handles cut in the ground so every drop of rain that falls is in her favour and is a detriment to the chances of the favourite.
Rain is also a concern for connections of Fame And Glory, who at the time of writing is trading at odds-on to follow up his Gold Cup victory of 12 months ago. Since then, he's been specifically trained for a repeat bid by the genius that is Aidan O'Brien and the manner of his success, having been backed off the boards into 11/8 (from 5/2), will mark him down as the banker bet of the meeting for many people. However, he's a shorter price this year in a stronger race and while he handles cut in the ground, any more rain will turn this more into a stamina test and that could play into the hands of SADDLER'S ROCK, who showed that stamina was his strong suit when slamming Opinion Poll by four lengths in the Doncaster Cup over 2m2f last September. That line of form gives him the beating of Fame And Glory and I reckon there is further improvement to come after just seven career starts.
The Britannia Stakes (4.25) looks impossible to solve with 30 three-year-olds set to go to post, all improving at a different rate of knots. Just about anything could win and therefore TRADER JACK is just a hopeful selection to give trainer Roger Charlton his second win in the race after Fifteen Love in 2008. It wasn't a great race he won at Ffos Las last season but that ensured a generous handicap mark of 90 and he will appreciate the drop back to a mile, having looked all over the winner over 1m2f at Goodwood last time, only to run out of gas close home and be collared by Grandeur. At around the 12/1 mark, he must have as good a chance as any and he won't mind any rain either.
Grandeur has since run a neck second to Wrotham Heath in a hot handicap at Epsom on Derby day and the pair are amongst the market leaders for the next race on the card, the Tercentenary Stakes (5.05) over 1m2f. It will be close between them again but preference is for STARBOARD, who has always been highly regarded by his trainer John Gosden and is still entered in the Eclipse. He'll have to improve massively on what he's shown so far to be competitive in that Group 1 but he's yet to have his ideal conditions - that being a fast run race over over 1m2f - and this race looks perfect for him to show his true colours. I like him a lot and he's my idea of the bet of the day.
It's safe to say that any of the 19 runners in the concluding King George V Stakes (5.35) could win, so ROCKTHERUNWAY is a very tentative each-way selection indeed. Good luck if you're having a bet, only lose what you can afford and enjoy the racing!