The Group 1 Gold Cup takes centre stage on Day 3 of Royal Ascot, this contest which is run over the marathon trip of 2m 4f has attracted some of the best stayers in training. The race is synonymous with Aidan O’Brien’s fan favourite and four-time winner Yeats. The Ballydoyle maestro has a leading fancy for this year’s renewal in the form of Order Of St George who is bidding to regain his crown having being denied by Big Orange last year.
Order Of St George’s main obstacle looks to be the John Gosden trained Stradivarius, who recently won the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup in taking fashion. This improving son of Sea The Stars looks a strong candidate to stay this marathon trip and perhaps even improve for it.
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The 5f Norfolk Stakes for two-year-olds kicks off proceedings on the third day of Royal Ascot and Aidan O’Brien has won two of the last three renewals of this Group 2 contest. Land Force is his representative this year and the thrice raced son of previous Norfolk winner No Nay Never looks primed to run a big race.
Wesley Ward, trained No Nay Never to victory in the Norfolk and his charge Shang Shang Shang has been the ante-post favourite for this race in recent weeks, however, the vibes surrounding the colt’s chances haven’t been great in the last 48 hours. Vintage Brut who’s unbeaten in two runs, is a recent £280,000 purchase for King Power Racing and it would seem that the new owners have a leading chance of getting an immediate return on their investment.
The Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes is full of quality colts and a case can be made for the majority of the field. Hunting Horn, Wadilsafa and Main Street all hold leading chances but the one I like is Key Victory who won a listed race at Newmarket and most recently finished midfield in the French Derby. This form looks strong in the context of this Group 3 contest and with Charlie Appleby’s stable in good form, a big run is expected.
Magic Wand is my selection in the Group 2 Ribblesdale, the daughter of Galileo won the Cheshire Oaks last month and was strongly fancied to win the Epsom Oaks but trailed in some 11 lengths behind stablemate Forever Together and Wild Illusion who re-opposes.
Only one victory hardly inspires confidence but a deeper look at Magic Wand’s runs show that she has only encountered good ground on one occasion which was in the Cheshire Oaks where she beat Forever Together by over three lengths. She will appreciate hearing her hooves rattle off this sounder surface and with the assistance of Ryan Moore in the saddle, she is my idea of the winner.
A brace of handicaps bring day 3 to a close, the Britannia is an absolute minefield but the horse I’ll plump for is Curiosity. Hugo Palmer’s four-year-old had some smart form last year and following a neck defeat at HQ on seasonal debut, the High Chaparral gelding looks primed for a big run.
The King George V Stakes looks just as tricky as the Britannia, nineteen horses are set to go to post for this 1m 4f handicap with John Gosden’s First Eleven likely to start favourite. It’s the Joseph O’Brien trained Downdraft that catches my eye, the lightly raced son of Camelot looks to be an improving colt and is most definitely a horse to follow for the season.