STRADIVARIUS should play a familiar Ladies’ Day refrain for a hat-trick of triumphs in the Gold Cup (3.35) at Royal Ascot today.
The John Gosden-trained star has ruled the stayers’ division with a rod of iron to lift the last two runnings of the two-and-a-half-mile Group 1 – and it will rank as a shock if Frankie Detori’s mount doesn’t rack up the threesome.
Punters can seek to boost their return by choosing the rival to chase Stradivarius home – and Technician is fancied to claim the silver medal.
Martyn Meade’s four-year-old captured the top-level Prix Royal-Oak at Longchamp in October and has more to offer when stamina is at a premium.
3 MAORI KNIGHT
Jockey Frankie Dettori is expected to challenge on Hypothetical
TRITONIC is worth an interest as he steps into handicap company for the first time.
After a promising start with a close fourth at Haydock Park last July, Alan King’s son of Sea The Moon scored at Ffos Las and Newbury in the second half of the summer.
Stepping up to Group 3 company for the 10-furlong Zetland Stakes, run on soft ground at Newmarket in October, Tritonic returned fifth to Max Vega.
The form of that race has held up – runner-up Miss Yoda won the Lingfield Oaks Trial, third Berkshire Rocco was second in the Lingfield Derby Trial and fourth home Mythical made the podium in Group 1 company next time – and Oisin Murphy’s mount has the potential to go past his British Horseracing Authority rating of 95.
Hypothetical wasn’t given a hard time when fourth at Kempton Park and is feared, along with Maori Knight and Grand Rock.
A general view of the pre parade ring during day two of Royal Ascot
1 FOX TAL
2 MOUNTAIN ANGEL
3 SIR DRAGONET
Fox Tal racing at Doncaster
FOX TAL ran well back in Group 1 company on his latest start – so this assignment represents a drop in grade.
Third in the top-level Criterium de Saint-Cloud on his final outing at two, the Andrew Balding trainee scored at 16-1 at Doncaster in September on his belated return.
And the following month he ran above his 20-1 odds to take fourth behind Magical in the Champion Stakes over a mile and a quarter here.
Silvestre de Sousa’s partner is evidently not an easy horse to train, but there’s no doubting his ability and a winning return is on the cards.
A close fifth in the Derby last June makes Sir Dragonet a player, while Crossed Baton and Mountain Angel also have a role to play.
2 KING LEONIDAS
Roger Varian poses at Doncaster racecourse. September 2014
MOLATHAM ran below expectations on his final outing at two – but it’s early days to be writing him off.
There was much to like about the Roger Varian-saddled Night Of Thunder colt’s debut – he went under by a neck to Mums Tipple over six furlongs at Ascot in July.
Tackling seven in York’s valuable Convivial Maiden Stakes at York the following month, Molatham duly went one better, beating Celtic Art by a neck.
And Jim Crowley’s mount moved up to Listed grade to capture the Flying Scotsman Stakes at Doncaster in September from future 2,000 Guineas runner-up Wichita.
My selection was too keen when fourth to Derby fancy Military March in the Group 3 Autumn Stakes – a race run over a mile on deep ground – at Newmarket 19 days later and looks the type to progress at three.
King Leonidas is unbeaten and has his best days ahead of him, while the latter comment also applies to Celestin and Repartee.
2 MODERN NEWS
3 BRIGHT DEVIL
The gallops at Ballydoyle
BATTLEGROUND is expected to leave the form of his debut behind now that he tackles seven furlongs.
Aidan O’Brien’s War Front colt has a family history to live up to – he is the first foal of Found, winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Starting at 7-1 in a field of 18 for a six-furlong maiden on Irish racing’s resumption card at Naas 10 days ago, Battleground found things happening a bit quickly before staying on into fifth behind Lucky Vega.
The evidence of that performance – Battleground was beaten two and a half lengths at the line – is that today’s extra yardage will show Ryan Moore’s partner in a different light, and a big step forward is anticipated.
The victory of stablemate Pinatubo 12 months ago will be fresh in punters’ minds, so Newmarket scorer Modern News is sure to be popular, with Bright Devil and Concessions other first-time-out victors worth a second look.
Frankie Dettori makes a flying dismount from Stradivarius after winning the 2019 Gold Cup
3 MOONLIGHT SPIRIT
STRADIVARIUS has rock-solid credentials to become the third three-time Gold Cup victor.
The winner of the Queen’s Vase at the Royal meeting in 2017, John Gosden’s stayer relished the two-and-a-half-mile test provide by the Ladies’ Day feature to beat Vazirabad the following year.
Twelve months ago, Frankie Dettori’s mount held Dee Ex Bee by one length in the Gold Cup – Cross Counter was back in fourth – en route to banking the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million – the seven-figure pot on offer for success in selected stamina tests – for the second year in a row.
A 10-strong sequence over a distance of ground came to an end when Stradivarius went under to Kew Gardens in the Long Distance Cup here last October, with Mekong fourth and Withhold fifth.
But that afternoon’s winner is absent from the Royal heath this afternoon, and my selection’s return to action – he stayed on for a five-length third to Ghaiyyath in the Group 1 Coronation Cup over a mile and a half at Newmarket 13 days ago – will have teed Stradivarius up perfectly for his bid to join Sagaro and four-time Gold Cup hero Yeats in the history books.
Technician lifted Longchamp’s Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak last October and should head the chasing pack, ahead of Cross Counter and Charlie Appleby stablemate Moonlight Spirit.
Lord North with James Doyle and trainer John Gosden after the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes
2 FINEST SOUND
3 TORO STRIKE
VERBOTEN, beaten over seven furlongs at Lingfield Park on his handicap bow, should find this test much more suitable.
John Gosden stepped the Yarmouth debut winner up to the highest level for the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Newcastle last November, and Verboten, whose name is German for ‘forbidden’, came back seventh of 11 behind Kameko.
The son of No Nay Never started life in handicaps from a mark of 94 at Lingfield 13 days ago and came home strongly to finish fourth to Ziggle Pops, with runner-up Kondratiev Wave and third Grove Ferry splitting the pair.
The assessor has nudged Frankie Dettori’s mount up 1lb as a result, but the key to Verboten’s revenge bid – as well as the obvious scope for progress on the fourth start of his life – is the likely strong pace over a straight mile.
In one of the toughest handicaps of the week, favourites Enemy and Finest Sound have obvious claims, while World Title And Toro Strike appeal at bigger odds.
1 DECLARED INTEREST
2 AFRICAN DREAM
Declared Interest could win the day three finale
DECLARED INTEREST is 4lb well in and rates the value play against hot favourite African Dream.
The strapping daughter of Declaration Of War, third at Newbury and second at Kempton Park on her two starts as a juvenile, was given a rating of 77 for her handicap debut at Chelmsford City nine days ago.
Harry Bentley’s mount proved comfortably ahead of that assessment, racing in the vanguard before lengthening to a two-length supremacy over Rideson, who in turn came home four lengths clear of the third horse.
A 5lb penalty for that success means the Ralph Beckett trainee competes from 82 this afternoon, but that gives her 4lb in hand of her new mark.
Declared Interest looks the type to progress during the summer, and another bold show is on the cards.
African Dream is officially 16lb ahead of the British Horseracing Authority number cruncher – but that is reflected in her price – while Soffika, Wejdan and Kalsara are just three fillies who look sure to prove capable of better.