Follow Ferguson to break Royal Ascot duck

Royal Ascot selections Thursday 22nd June

The middle day at Ascot and the blue riband event the Gold Cup takes centre stage on Ladies Day. I have a confident selection for the feature, plus suggestions for the three handicaps on the card.

Ascot 3.05: Wonder Legend, Valiant King & Sisyphus Strength

As usual a field full of unexposed handicappers line up for this and it is all about spotting the potential improvers at 12f.

WONDER LEGEND has only raced on an artificial/soft surface so far, but there was no doubting how impressive he was on turf/handicap debut at Doncaster in April. His opening mark of 81, earned in mile maiden contests on the All Weather, proved woefully inadequate.

His 5l win that day saw the assessor give him a 13lb rise, but the form of that win looks all the better now that Westerton hacked up at Sandown last weekend. He both travelled well and found plenty for pressure that day and promises to stay this 12f well.

VALIANT KING was an arguably unlucky loser at Leopardstown over 10f early in the season on heavy ground. Oisin Murphy could not quite extricate him from the pack early enough to get after Signora Bellissima that day but the way he finished off the race in testing conditions suggested that 12f should be ok.

Racing much more prominently back in maiden company at Navan last time he made short work of the opposition and I think he will prove far more effective on this faster ground. A rating of 92 looks more than fair on what he has achieved to date.

At much bigger odds SISYPHUS STRENGTH looks worth a look. The filly has been chasing black type until now and was a fair fourth in a listed race at Newmarket last autumn. She completely failed to handle the soft ground at Chester, but it was more like it at Goodwood last time back on fast going. She was only really getting going late on over 10f that day.

Her form in novice company last season was on quick ground and she is another for whom a step up to 12f might elicit more.

Ascot 4.20: Coltrane

This does not look a vintage Gold Cup even though the 2021 winner Subjectivist is back. This looks a fine opportunity for COLTRANE to step up to the mark around a track he is excelling at.

Narrowly defeated in the Chester Cup last season, he then went on to land the Ascot Stakes on the opening day of last year’s meeting, proving this trip to be well within his scope. He has just continued to improve since in group company and galloped to victory in the Doncaster Cup last season.

Narrowly defeated by Trueshan here on Champions Day, he comprehensively turned the form around in the Sagaro in the spring and will have far less issues with the fast ground than that rival today.

Ascot 5.00: Docklands, Good Karma & Metal Merchant

In a race as competitive as this I think three attempts are very much merited.

First choice has to be the fancied DOCKLANDS for impressive young trainer Harry Eustace. He looked highly promising in three runs in novice company to earn his opening rating of 80, winning at Kempton this spring, but also chasing home Ciceros Gift at Wolverhampton who ran respectably in the St James Palace on Tuesday.

However his handicap bot saw him saunter to victory over this course and distance at the May meeting. A 6l win has seen his rating soar by 14lbs, but looks fully merited. He does have to prove his ability to handle quick ground, but he looks the archetypal budding group horse in handicap company. A central draw should be ideal given much of the early pace looks drawn down the middle.

GOOD KARMA impressed me at Newbury when winning a novice there last month and he seemed to relish the quickening ground conditions that day, having been bogged down on soft at the same track on racecourse debut.

Whilst the form of that win has not worked out, the style of his victory was striking and he promises to find more for an extra furlong. He was similarly impressive when winning at Wolverhampton over the winter and might have been well placed by his young handler James Ferguson to earn a mark of 91 for this.

METAL MERCHANT interests me as a strong traveller who just might sparkle in a race of this type. A solid third at Haydock last time, I think he will appreciate getting a bit more cover and race off a faster pace today.

After winning a nursery at Ayr last season on fast ground, he was pitched straight into group company and over 10f. Whilst he was not up to that class and perhaps failed to stay the trip, he has no issues at 8f and it might be a case of the bigger the field the better he goes.

Ascot 6.10: Montassib, Croupier & Northern Express

Another cavalry charge to finish with and three horses who ought to relish a strongly run 7f on fast ground are favoured.

First choice would be MONTASSIB who was fifth in this race last year when his relative inexperience probably cost him with a slow break. He went on to finish fourth next time in the Bunbury Cup. A few near misses then followed but he finally got a win when scoring at Newmarket last time.

That win came over 7f, and although he has solid form at a mile I do think that a fast run 7f brings out the best in him and is what he will encounter today. He does have a career high mark to overcome today, but at the age of five he should only be reaching his peak now.

CROUPIER has run exclusively at a mile since the start of last season, but I think he barely stays that distance and a stiff 7f might just be perfect for him. A heavy ground Lincoln proved far too stern a test for him at the start of the season, but he bounce right back to form on fast ground at York last time.

That speedy mile played to his strengths, but I can see him being just as effective coming from off the pace over 7f here. He bounce off the firm going at York and can do so again here.

NORTHERN EXPRESS has a very strong record in these sort of races over the past couple of years. Fourth in the big handicap on King George day here last season, he has raced more at a mile since then.

He proved his wellbeing when winning the Thirsk Hunt Cup last month and then was beaten just a neck by Croupier at York last time. Given my fancy for that rival, Northern Express has to be in the mix too especially with 1lb pull. Given his liking for coming from off the pace I expect him to be finishing strongly here.

Recommended bets:

1pt each-way – Wonder Legend – 3.05 Ascot – 9/1 Bet365, Skybet (1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Valiant King – 3.05 Ascot – 17/2 Skybet (1/5 odds 1st 6)

0.5pts each-way – Sisyphus Strength – 3.05 Ascot – 50/1 Bet365, Skybet, Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt win – Coltrane – 4.20 Ascot – 7/2 general

1pt each-way – Docklands – 5.00 Ascot -13/2 Betfred

0.5pts each-way – Good Karma – 5.00 Ascot – 22/1 general

0.5pts each-way – Metal Merchant – 5.00 Ascot – 50/1 Bet365, Ladbrokes

1pt each-way – Montassib – 6.10 Ascot – 11/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Croupier – 6.10 Ascot – 8/1 Betfred (1/5 odds 1st 6)

0.5pts each-way – Northern Express – 6.10 Ascot 14/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 6)

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