On a voyage of Discoveries

Royal Ascot selections Friday 17th June

The Coronation Stakes is the feature on Friday and is another race to benefit from a return to much more international fields this week. We have strong challengers from Britain, Ireland, France and the US but it is a filly from Ireland who can follow in the fine recent tradition of the family in this very race. Aside from the feature I am once again taking on the three handicaps on the card. It was a struggle on Thursday with places each-way for Israr (advised 7/1) and Chiefofchiefs (SP 16/1).

Royal Ascot 3.40: Moktasaab, Candleford & Ajero

Our first handicap is for older horses over the 12f and there is no obvious stand out in the contest. As such I have three choices.

MOKTASAAB looked a horse well ahead of his mark on his first two starts for new connections and owner Harry Redknapp this season. He looked to have plenty in hand when winning at both Newbury and then Goodwood, but completely failed to handle the undulations at Epsom last time. He does have stamina to prove over 12f, but is back on a conventional track today and that stamina can be conserved to some degree with the first half of the race largely downhill. I am sure he may turn out to be even better than his current mark of 97.

If CANDLEFORD had the benefit of a recent run he would be the big first choice in this race. William Haggas’ gelding progressed nicely throughout his rookie campaign last season, finishing second on handicap debut over course and distance in September (though later disqualified for his jockey weighing in light) and he was a fine third in one of the big 3yo handicaps of the year at Newmarket in the autumn.

He finished the season with a win on the All Weather, a convincing victory over Coltrane, who of course is already a winner at this meeting. The guess is whether he is fit enough from a seven month absence, but he has a wide draw, such an advantage at this trip here and remains on a very feasible mark.

AJERO just scraped in at the bottom and is not an obvious winner on trends, but I think he could be very well treated off just 89. This represents a first run in a flat handicap after three qualifying efforts in novice company. Whilst he was second in each, he was a very unlucky loser at Chepstow last time and he is fully battle hardened having had a good career over hurdles.

He is 5-10 in that code and is a real fast ground specialist, so proper summer fast ground won’t be an issue today. All his jumps wins have come right-handed, and all on sharp tracks, so he has been winning through pace rather than stamina and that makes me think he is an ideal candidate for this swap to flat racing.

Royal Ascot 4.20: Discoveries

After brilliant wins for Alpha Centauri in 2018 and Alpine Star in 2020 in this very race, Jessica Harrington bids for a third Coronation Stakes with a progeny of Alpha Lupi in the form of DISCOVERIES today.

She did not quite last home when chasing Cachet in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket last month, but will surely have come on for the run and I am no sure Cachet is going to enjoy the easy lead she got on the Rowley Mile with several potential pace challengers. Discoveries could be conveniently drawn one outside Cachet, allowing Shane Foley to tuck in behind and pounce in the straight.

Her battling success over Agartha in the Moyglare Stakes last season proves her heart for a battle and she acts very well on fast ground, so conditions will be no issue today.

Royal Ascot 5.00: Zanbaq, No Nay Nicki, Fresh Hope

Our next cavalry charge this week is the Sandringham over the straight mile and I am going for a mix of proven class and potential to improve here.

ZANBAQ is the class angle having won two fillies novice contests with the minimum of fuss, but more significantly run well in a listed race against older fillies at Goodwood this spring. Bashkirova has since come out and won at group level to frank the form and Roger Varian has done well in handicaps with classy types at this meeting in recent seasons.

The left-field choice is NO NAY NICKI who will have to leave her form to date well behind, but has the potential to do so over a stiff mile. She hacked up in a Pontefract maiden last June over 6f, suggesting the stiff track there was very much in her favour. That was the last we saw of her until reappearing on the opening weekend of the season when a staying on fourth to Maljoom over 7f at Doncaster. That form looks very much better now given the winner is a genuine group 1 horse.

Although well beaten in listed company at York last month, again she was just getting competitive late on and saw out the mile well. A fast pace, big field and straight track can all combine to bring out further improvement today.

FRESH HOPE represents the Hayley Turner/Charlie Fellowes combination that won this race in both 2019 and 2020. She got off the mark at the fourth attempt when winning at Doncaster last time, a track that places an emphasis on stamina.

She only won by a short-head, but I think was value for far more as she showed a high cruising speed and that will serve her well in a far more frenetic race today. She is only up 4lbs given the small margin of victory and that is enough to sneak her into the line up.

Royal Ascot 6.10: Korker, Ladies Church & Loves Me Likearock

It is fair to say if you are down by the time we come to the finale, this is not the easiest of contests to try and get out of trouble in. My three should have the right profile to feature.

KORKER overcame a slow start to slice through the field at York last time and this race could set up ideally for him this afternoon. A 9lb rise won’t make things easy, but trainer Karl Burke remains in great form and an end-to-end gallop over the minimum trip is what he wants, whilst the prevailing fast ground will aid his turn of speed late on.

First choice for the race would be LADIES CHURCH. Johnny Murtagh has said she is his best chance of the week and she is already a listed winner at Naas over the flying 5f as a 2yo. Given she has been placed in two listed races and a group race since, it is quite surprising to see her quite a few places down the running order getting weight from quite a few rivals. She looks the type of horse who likes passing horses late on and a stiff 5f should allow her to do just that as she is quick enough to keep up early.

LOVES ME LIKEAROCK might enjoy a return to 5f. Quick enough to win around Wolverhampton’s 5f last season, one of the sharpest tracks in the country, she has been running with great credit over 6f at Newmarket since.

She tried to make all when fifth in a listed race last autumn, and has since finished in the money in two competitive handicaps, finishing alongside Harry Three both times, he went on to big race success at York last week. Coming from a bit further off the pace over 5f could pay dividends here.

Recommended bets:

1pt each-way – Candleford – 3.40 Ascot – 8/1 Betfred (1/5 odds 1st 5)

0.5pts each-way – Moktasasab – 3.40 Ascot – 14/1 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Ajero – 3.40 Ascot – 9/1 Bet365, Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Discoveries – 4.20 Ascot – 8/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 4)

1pt each-way – Zanbaq – 5.00 Ascot – 12/1 Bet365, Paddy Power, Boylesports (1/5 odds 1st 7)

0.5pts each-way – No Nay Nicki – 5.00 Ascot – 40/1 Bet365, Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 7)

1pt each-way – Fresh Hope – 5.00 Ascot – 7/1 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 7)

0.5pts each-way – Korker – 6.10 Ascot – 8/1 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 7)

1pt each-way – Ladies Church – 6.10 Ascot – 6/1 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 7)

0.5pts each-way – Loves Me Likearock – 6.10 Ascot – 14/1 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 7)

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