Soumillon set to strike Gold in Ascot feature
The Australian super-mare Black Caviar was a memorable winner of the Group One Diamond Jubilee Stakes (4.20 Ascot) at extremely prohibitive odds of 1/6 in 2012.
Jockey Luke Nolen almost fluffed his lines by easing off in the last 50 yards but otherwise this race has been a little bit tricky for punters lately with six of the last ten winners priced in double figures.
Trained by Wesley Ward in the USA, last year's 14/1 winner Undrafted comes back for more and is respected around 8/1, while Francois Rohaut's Signs Of Blessing continues the international theme today but is friendless in the early markets for France at 25/1.
Holler makes the trip from Australia for John O'Shea, while the home challenge is spearheaded by the improving Magical Memory for Charlie Hills. The Group Two York winner deserves his place at the top of the market but bookmakers are taking no chances by offering prices in the region of 11/4.
The Tin Man and Twilight Son will give the domestic challenge a big boost but I reckon the prize is heading overseas this year and Gold-Fun is my idea of a value bet for Englishman Richard Gibson, who has been based in Hong Kong since 2011.
Available at 8/1 yesterday evening, it's a little difficult to get a handle on his form as he only races at Sha Tin these days although those with a good memory may recall a win very early in his career in a maiden at Naas for Ger Lyons back in 2012.
With 25 races under the belt at Sha Tin since, I'm hoping he hasn't become too institutionalised in his surroundings although Gibson has said that he's a straightforward sort that should handle the Ascot course no problem.
Second in the Hong Kong Sprint in December, he has the form in the book to take a race like this and his record of 11 wins from 30 races, many of which were at a high level, speaks for itself.
Gibson has had Ascot in mind for the seven-year-old all along, keeping his schedule fairly light this term - and with regular rider Christophe Soumillon back on board, a bold bid is expected.
A little earlier in the Hardwicke Stakes (3.40), Exosphere can hit the bookmakers where it hurts and I'll definitely have a decent-sized bet if he opens up near his forecast price of 5/2.
Sir Michael Stoute has a cracking record in this race with nine winners since 1986, the most recent being Snow Sky in 2015. He certainly knows the sort it takes to win and with four victories from seven races including a Group Two last time, Exosphere looks just the type to make it win number ten for Stoute.
The four-year-old really came into his own when stepped up to a mile-and-a-half at Newmarket and among the scalps he claimed was the proven stayer Simple Verse and Irish Derby winner Jack Hobbs, which never settled down and was pulled up.
It later transpired that Jack Hobbs had a stress fracture to his pelvis but that takes nothing away from Exosphere's emphatic victory on the day.
Simple Verse re-opposes this afternoon but I'm more worried about the likes of Dartmouth and Eagle Top, both of which are capable of landing a big one.
While all the attention is understandably on Ascot today, the Listed Land O'Burns Fillies' Stakes at Ayr (4.10) looks interesting from a betting point of view. Eric Alston's Ridge Ranger looks the pick of the ten-runner field and should go off in the region of 11/4 under a penalty.
She's proven at this level having won a Listed event at Nottingham, and considering she was carrying a penalty at Haydock in a similar race last time, her half-length second place to Jane's Memory is commendable.
Sir Mark Prescott's Marsha is also worth a mention around 7/2. She found life difficult in a Group Three at the Curragh earlier on this month and is best judged on her previous handicap form at Newmarket.
The Kevin Ryan-trained Brando ran a great race in second to Duke Of Firenze in a decent handicap at York last month and at 101, I suspect his mark has not yet reached its limit.
The gelding will probably go off as favourite for the Wokingham Stakes Handicap (5.0 Ascot) but early odds of 6/1 make little appeal in such a big field. Instead, a chance is taken on Shared Equity which was available at a nice each-way price of 20/1 early-doors.
A winner of the Coral Sprint Trophy at York last season, he certainly wasn't disgraced when second to David Nicholls' Blaine in a tricky handicap at Epsom on Derby day, and the same mark of 100 leaves him in with a chance of making an impact today.
His trainer Jedd O'Keeffe has had his string in good form lately and six furlongs is his charge's optimum distance.
* The most recent each-way selection, Gawdawpalin, won at 25/1 (June 4)
2.30 Ascot: Churchill
3.05 Ascot: Fire Fighting (e/w)
3.40 Ascot: Exosphere
4.10 Ayr: Ridge Ranger
4.20 Ascot: Gold-Fun
5.0 Ascot: Shared Equity (e/w)
Do the double
Martin O'Neill said a wounded Belgium could be a dangerous animal - but they certainly didn't look like Europe's top-ranked side when beaten by Italy on Monday. Ireland were left disappointed with the draw against Sweden but there are plenty of positives. At 5/4, another draw could be the value bet today.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained Churchill has a number of Group entries for later on this season and is a confident bet around 13/8 in the Listed Chesham Stakes at Ascot (2.30). Beaten on his debut over six furlongs at the Curragh, the Galileo colt was staying on well and should appreciate the step up in trip this afternoon. John Gosden's Cunco is the one most likely to follow him home.