Sunday 25 February 2018

Hobbs ready to deliver for Gosden in Ascot feature

Maxime Guyon will be on Solow
Maxime Guyon will be on Solow

Wayne Bailey

The eminently quotable Oscar Wilde once said that "it's better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating" but following a roller-coaster month of betting, I risk falling into the fascinating category.

A recent weekend in Paris backing Treve in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe proved extremely costly for this corner - although wins for Air Force Blue (4/6), Donjuan Triumphant (9/4) and Gifted Master (4/1) at least made last weekend a good one.

This afternoon, we've an abundance of top-quality racing from Ascot with Champions Day taking place, so with five Group races on the card, I'm hoping the income ship stays steady and that a few winners won't be too hard to come by.

At the risk of sounding unoriginal, I've a strong feeling it will be a good day for horses near the top of the market.

I've said it many times before but in the high quality flat races, the form stands up very well and if you are opposing one of the top rated horses, you need a very good reason to do so.


Rated 3lbs clear of the field, Jack Hobbs is officially the best horse in the Champion Stakes (3.05) and considering the Irish Derby winner found only stablemate Golden Horn too good in the Epsom Derby and the Dante, he deserves his price of 11/10 or thereabouts.

John Gosden sensibly sent Golden Horn to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe without Jack Hobbs, and there's no better man for targeting a big race such as this with the right horse.

A few people have raised concerns that he may not like the drop back in distance to a mile and a quarter, but the best horses in the business are reasonably flexible, and he won at this distance with buckets in hand (albeit in a handicap) at Sandown back in April.

I'm not sure if we'll get to see his striking turn of foot if the ground is a little softer than good, but he usually goes off at a good clip and travels strongly throughout so I doubt he'll be left with too much to do by jockey William Buick.

Gosden has expressed his disappointment with Jack Hobbs' draw in stall 12 but I don't think it's that big a deal, especially since stablemate and pacemaker Maverick Wave is next door in stall 13 which may give the team some options regarding tactics.

Aidan O'Brien's Found is highly respected, priced in the region of 4/1. On collateral form, some would argue that she has Jack Hobbs' measure considering she only finished a length behind Golden Horn in the Irish Champion Stakes.

But that race was somewhat messy and I'm not convinced it's quite as simple as it appears on paper as we've no way of knowing what would have happened had the winner not ducked to the right on that occasion.

Her ninth place in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is overlooked as she had a horrendous time in-running and her presence today makes this a fascinating contest.

Andre Fabre's raider Vadamos is somewhat unexposed and may give the market leaders plenty to think about, while Dermot Weld's Fascinating Rock could be one for the each-way backers around 16/1.

In the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (2.30), Gleneagles made the headlines this week with O'Brien once again leaving a decision on his participation late, but the Freddy Head-trained Solow, which can handle a bit of cut in the ground, looks laid out for this and has now won 11 of his last 12 starts.

Head won this last year with Charm Spirit and although Solow is now five, the grey is still one of the best milers around at the moment. Unlike some of his rivals, he's versatile when it comes to the going and is a confident selection this afternoon.

In the Group Two Long Distance Cup (12.45), Agent Murphy is tipped to finish one spot better than his runner-up position in the Irish St Leger at the Curragh last time. Order of St George was a class apart but Agent Murphy kept plugging away to finish second and is shaping up to be a very good stayer.

A step down to this level is realistic for the moment, and early odds of 9/2 are attractive.

Forgotten Rules won this last year for Dermot Weld and is back again today but his form has been up and down, and yesterday evening's price of 5/1 looks short.

Just over an hour later, Covert Love is my idea of a great value bet around 4/1 in the Group One Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (1.55).

The Irish Oaks winner started off her career in some modest races on the all-weather but made astonishing progress in a number of months which culminated in a Prix de l'Opera victory at Longchamp last time. She's a credit to trainer Hugo Palmer.


If he goes off near his forecast price of 12/1, I reckon Musaddas will be an each-way steal in the Balmoral Handicap (3.45 Ascot).

A son of Exceed And Excel, the Saeed bin Suroor-trained gelding was seventh in the 37-runner Cambridgeshire recently but was carried to the right in the final furlong and the handicapper has reacted by easing his mark 1lb to 96. That seems quite fair and with jockey Edward Greatrex claiming a further 5lbs, he's got a great chance of nabbing a place at the least.

Today's selections

12.45 Ascot: Agent Murphy

1.20 Ascot: Muhaarar

1.55 Ascot: Covert Love

2.30 Ascot: Solow

3.05 Ascot: Jack Hobbs

3.45 Ascot: Musaddas (e/w)

Indo Sport

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport