Slade Power can leave Diamond Jubilee rivals in shade
Betting Ring with Wayne Bailey
On the final day of the Royal Ascot meeting in 1970, the Irish Independent's sports pages predicted a "win for the Irish" in the Cork and Orrery Stakes (now the Diamond Jubilee Stakes).
Welsh Saint was the horse which was tipped in this paper and the four-year-old duly obliged under Lester Piggott for Vincent O'Brien at a price of 15/8.
It was the first of five Cork and Orrery wins for O'Brien, who remains the race's most successful trainer.
O'Brien's namesake Aidan has won the race just once with Starspangledbanner (2010) and saddles both Due Diligence (6/1) and Darwin (14/1), but I reckon Ballydoyle will have to play second fiddle today to another Irish challenger, Slade Power, which heads the betting at 3/1. With stablemate Sole Power winning the King's Stand on Tuesday for the same owners, Eddie Lynam's string would appear to be in good order and Slade Power is no stranger to Ascot, having won the Champions Sprint Stakes last season.
Lynam has a couple of the best sprinters around at the moment and any disappointment from Slade Power's mediocre display when 10th in a Group One in Hong Kong in December was banished last month at the Curragh when he landed the Greenlands Stakes.
It was a career best for the five-year-old which continues to improve with experience and considering he's beaten quite a number of today's rivals already, it will be a major disappointment if he doesn't go close.
As mentioned, Aidan O'Brien's Due Diligence is amongst some other Irish hopefuls and looks open to further improvement following a Listed victory at Naas recently – although the biggest threat is from the Roger Varian-trained Aljamaaheer (4/1), which won the Group Two Summer Mile Stakes here last term. He's only 3lbs behind the favourite on official ratings yet he's mostly unproven as a sprinter.
They tried him out at six furlongs in a Group Three at Newmarket last time and although third place seems disappointing on paper, most would agree that he was left with too much to do by jockey Paul Hanagan, who only asked him to kick on very late.
No doubt Hanagan will be much more aware of the pace this time around but I still feel he'll have a little bit to find so Slade Power is tipped to just about shade it.
In the opening maiden at Newmarket (2.15), there are whispers going around for the Richard Hannon-trained Azmaam (11/4), an unraced colt which is a half-brother to several smart winners.
I always find it difficult to back a horse which has never set foot on a racecourse and preference is for Andrew Balding's Red Rubles, expected to go off in the region of 100/30. He made a promising start on his debut at Sandown recently and looks sure to progress over the summer.
THE Clive Cox-trained Seeking Magic is a very smart handicapper and traded as low as 1/2 in-running in the Epsom Dash last time before going down by a head to Caspian Prince.
Seeking Magic was unlucky not to win and the fact he was forced to switch a furlong out cost him.
He remains on a mark of 99 for today's Wokingham Stakes at Ascot (5.0) and if he breaks well and gets into his preferred front-running position early on, he can go better than his 12/1 odds suggest.
2.15 Newmarket: Red Rubles
2.30 Ascot: Dick Whittington
4.25 Ascot: Slade Power
5.0 Ascot: Seeking Magic (e/w)
Do the double
Soccer: We've seen quite a few upsets already in this year's World Cup, but Belgium can justify their favourites tag tomorrow evening by beating Russia in Group H, priced at even money.
The Belgians were shaky against Algeria but played some decent stuff at times. Russia weren't overly impressive when drawing 1-1 with South Korea, and qualification from the group stages could be a little trickier than expected.
Racing: Dick Whittington (7/4) won a maiden handy enough at Navan last week at 1/2 and the Aidan O'Brien-trained colt can continue to progress by taking the Listed Chesham Stakes at Ascot (2.30).
His main rival in the betting, Toscanini, has claims at 5/1 based on his second place in a Listed race at Naas last time out, but Dick Whittington finished ahead of him when both horses made their debut back in May. There's nothing to suggest the places will be reversed today.