Smoothtalkinrascal appeals in calm before Royal Ascot storm
THERE'S a fair bit of tumbleweed blowing around the racing world this weekend with all the good Flat horses kept under wraps for Royal Ascot, which kicks off on Tuesday.
We've some exciting races in store throughout the week, but the mood ahead of this year's meeting is understandably melancholic as the racing world mourns the death of Henry Cecil, one of the most successful trainers at the festival.
Cecil saddled Parthenon to win the Queen Alexandra Stakes way back in 1970, the first of 75 Royal Ascot winners.
A true gent, the 10-time champion trainer kept us enthralled with the sport, even right up to last year with the likes of Frankel, appropriately described by Clare Balding as Cecil's crowning glory. But the world keeps on turning and for now, the training licence at Warren Place has been transferred to his widow Lady Jane, who is "determined to keep the flag flying."
Indeed, it didn't take long for the Warren Place flag to be raised once again and a couple of winners have already gone down in the record books next to Lady Jane's name, including Frankel's half-brother Morpheus on Thursday at Nottingham.
Five days at Ascot in June brings out the best of the best and, as such, the form usually stands up very well.
Punters have been giving the bookmakers a proper fight in recent times and in the past 10 years, for example, a healthy profit of 26pts would have been made by blindly backing the favourite in all Group races at the festival (includes joint and co-favourites).
While it's always a good idea to try to find value, the main message going into next week is that, if you are opposing the market leader in one of the top races, you had better have a darn good reason to do so.
As mentioned earlier, today is quiet enough being so close to Ascot but we've a couple of Listed races across the cards, which may give the coffers a boost ahead of Tuesday.
Smoothtalkinrascal makes plenty of appeal at Sandown if he goes off anywhere near his forecast price of 11/4 in the Novae Bloodstock Insurance Scurry Stakes (2.55), in what will be his sixth race for current trainer David O'Meara.
This one caught my eye when winning a couple of minor events at York and Leicester earlier this season, but he really stood out last time when finishing a neck behind Duke Of Firenze in the competitive Epsom Dash on June 1.
It was a considerable achievement to take the runner-up spot when you take into account the fact that he was the only three-year-old in a field of 17.
To see him pick up strongly and storm home in the closing stages suggests he's acquired a nice level of maturity which not all competitors are likely to possess in this afternoon.
Today's contest is restricted to three-year-olds and the selection's big-field experience against some older horses can only help his cause. Likely dangers include Morawij and Sound Of Guns.
The former was beaten by a head in the Group Three Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood and also won a Listed race last year. He gets the best draw in stall one and is sure to make it a competitive contest.
The latter has some decent juvenile form under the belt and is respected, although it's fair to say her two starts this year have been somewhat disappointing.
*Last week's main bet, Lucky Numbers, won at 8/1.
Hairy Rocket was placed in the Group Two Queen Mary at Ascot last year and came back to form last time out when fourth in a very tight finish at Leicester. Dropped 4lbs in the weights, she may just sneak a place in the Macmillan Charity Sprint Trophy (3.50 York) at a nice double-figure price.
2.55 Sandown: Smoothtalkinrascal
3.05 Bath: Lilbourne Lass
3.15 York: Questioning
3.50 York: Hairy Rocket (e/w)
4.35 Sandown: Herod The Great