Lynam has the value option in Slade Power
The curtain comes down on a cracking week's racing at Royal Ascot today with two marquee sprints that look destined to send the layers home on a high.
A potent-looking quintet endeavours to secure yet another Group One for the raiders in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, a race that last came this way courtesy of Ballydoyle's Starspangledbanner in 2010.
This time, Aidan O'Brien relies on the less precocious Reply, a fairly exposed sort that isn't expected to be quite good enough here.
David Marnane's Dandy Boy, a fine winner of last year's Wokingham Handicap, is also unlikely to have the scope to step up.
Maarek and Gordon Lord Byron complete the Tipperary-based contingent, and both are proven to varying degrees at this level.
The David Nagle-trained Maarek, held at Cork on Sunday, beat the re-opposing Hawkeyethenoo here in October, and was just behind the same horse when fifth to Society Rock at Haydock in May.
Tom Hogan's Gordon Lord Byron, a French Group One winner over seven furlongs in heavy going in the autumn, was third that day.
Both horses have live prospects here from potentially favourable inside draws, but neither has any right to turn the form around with Society Rock on the prevailing fast ground.
A resurgent Kieren Fallon has found the key to James Fanshawe's 2011 winner of this and top-priced odds of 4/1 about him collecting are just about right.
All told, though, Slade Power might be the best value option in the race at around 14/1 for the irrepressible Meath-based Eddie Lynam, who plundered the King's Stand on Tuesday with Sole Power.
One of the few of the 18 runners that still has real scope for progression on just its ninth career start, Slade Power's only defeat in five starts up to July of last year came when he finished in second place to Ishvana over seven furlongs.
All of his other runs have been over six and he wasn't in any way disgraced on ground that was far softer than ideal when eighth to Maarek here in October.
He returned in the Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh in May, when he rarely got any room to manoeuvre before flashing home for a three-parts-of-a-length third to Hitchens.
Reply, second then, went on to over seven at Naas to give the form a solid look, but the main difference between Slade Power and both Reply and Hitchens – on duty here in the Wokingham – is that he was making his seasonal debut on that occasion.
Moreover, he has the profile of a horse that could prove a real force at this level.
At the Curragh, the ease with which Slade Power travelled hinted at his latent class and a stiff six furlongs on fast ground are his optimum conditions.
A high draw here isn't necessarily a plus, but the fact that the pacey Lethal Force is only two stalls away should help, while a similar stands' side break did Sole Power no harm at all on Tuesday.
Given that Lynam – three of whose last four runners have won – is such a dab hand with sprinters, it is worth speculating that his smart four-year-old can find the required improvement to prevail here under the ever-reliable Wayne Lordan.
This year's Wokingham should carry a health warning for punting purposes, with 29 largely in-form horses tackling the annual cavalry charge.
Nocturn might be one that the bookmakers have underestimated, as double-figure offerings look quite generous.
Jeremy Noseda's Oasis Dream four-year-old's only defeat in its last four starts came on slow ground when second at York in May and he subsequently got back to winning ways by keeping on well to nose out Enrol at Newmarket.
Granted, Nocturn looks a bit quirky, but he continues to deliver, is in off just a 5lb higher mark now and has the considerable assistance of William Buick up top.
In the Hardwicke, Mount Athos and Ektihaam head the market. However, Mark Johnston's Universal arguably has the best form, and Joe Fanning's progressive partner is worth keeping on side now that he has got the hang of winning.
Best Bet: Universal