No luck yesterday in what was a really difficult day of punting, but we’re nicely up for the week with three winners, including a 16/1 on Thursday, and look to Saturday’s closing Royal Ascot card to transform a good week into a great one.
Saturday isn’t much easier but there must be a bet in Group Two Hardwicke Stakes (15.40) as Sir Michael Stoute’s Dartmouth, who won last year’s renewal on soft ground, trades 5/2 favourite.
That just looks way too short for a horse who has run his best races on soft ground, and Stoute’s horses just aren’t winning races this week.
There’s a little rain forecast but I wouldn’t expect the fast conditions to change as it’s been bone dry for weeks now and the course has had to be watered several times to maintain good-to-firm.
The obvious place to start is IDAHO, who is a full brother to Wednesday’s winner Highland Reel and was one of the leading three-year-olds last season.
He won a Group Two at York beating today’s opponent Across The Stars, and he comfortably beat that foe as well as another of today’s opponents. Wing Of Desire, in last year’s Derby.
He’s somewhat gone off the boil since, unseating his rider when a short priced favourite in the St Leger and then flopping in America.
He didn’t look all that when warm in the market for his reappearance this year where he was soundly beaten by his brother Highland Reel in the Group One Coronation Cup – and that’s cost him favouritism here.
It’s interesting Ryan Moore rides Dartmouth as he should be on O’Brien’s first string, however this is Royal Ascot and he’s riding for the Queen so I’d imagine it’s a sporting decision from O’Brien given the special circumstances – a win for the queen is good for racing.
Also, Seamie Heffernan has been on board Idaho on five of his last seven starts so I’m not seeing jockey bookings as a negative.
At 9/2 I think he might be underestimated given this is his ground and he has form claims over several other runners.
He’s also only four and O’Brien says he’s a big horse who will get better with age -in a similar way to Highland Reel, who is better than ever now.
And though Highland Reel was agonisingly beaten at what was an unbelievable 12/1 for this race last year, I don’t think he needs to be quite that class to beat Dartmouth today, despite Dartmouth being the victor last year.
William Haggas has an interesting runner in Dal Harraild, who easily won a Listed race at York last time out on good ground, beating some good horses.
He’s 9/1 and, like Idaho and Dartmouth, stays this trip thoroughly, so it’ll be class rather than staying power that wins this race and I’m not sure he’s a big enough price to take on proven Group-level performers.
The class horses have all been mentioned and I keep looking at Wings Of Desire’s King George second to Highland Reel on fast ground last summer as the bit of form that ties everyone together.
Dartmouth was seen off back in third when well fancied, so Highland Reel comfortably reversed the form of last year’s Hardwicke and Wings Of Desire is very closely matched to the Queen’s runner.
That all of course helps support the argument for Idaho, with a run under his belt and no negatives regarding the ground, and I think he’s got a massive chance.
1pt win Idaho @9/2, 15:40 Ascot, Saturday (BetWay)