All eyes may be on Royal Ascot today as the five-day extravaganza wheels to its conclusion at the Berkshire track, but Down Royal is the only place to be on this side of the Irish Sea.
Down Royal hosts its marquee Flat meeting of the season where €100,000 is up for grabs in the Ulster Derby (4.25) and the market is speaking very favourably for the Aidan O’Brien-trained Cougar.
The Deep Impact colt is still a maiden after three starts but that makes him even more appealing in this premier handicap given that he receives a whopping 15lbs from Jim Bolger’s top-weight Manu Et Corde.
Bolger has a superb record in this contest with four wins in the last eight runnings and Manu Et Corde is a danger dropping back into a handicap after being outclassed in Group Three contests in two starts this season.
Cougar will be expected to go close after two promising runs in maidens this season, but the value may lie in the Dermot Weld-trained Enthrallment given his experience in handicap company having been just touched off on his penultimate start.
The son of Fastnet Rock has been gelded since then and that could unlock further improvement for Chris Hayes’ mount while the same combination also hold strong claims in the earlier Ulster Oaks Fillies Handicap (3.45).
Eclat De Lumiere scored on her debut at the Curragh last August and while failing to back that up yet this season at a higher level, the Sea The Stars filly could yet bounce back to her best.
Preference is for Gradulations, however, after she got off the mark at the fifth time of asking when scoring at Sligo last month. Andy Oliver landed this prize in 2015 and he can do so again with the daughter of Mukhadram.
Gradulations seems to be getting the hang of things this season after a lacklustre juvenile campaign and Ben Coen can take advantage of her light weight to plunder this €50,000 prize.
Things have gone well for O’Brien at the Royal meeting and the Ballydoyle maestro will hope to take another Group One prize before the weekend is out. Toy heads to France for the Prix de Diane (3.0) at Chantilly tomorrow and is the sole Irish representative as the Galileo filly bids to bounce back having disappointed in last month’s French 1,000 Guineas.