Royal Ascot can be a tough old week for punters and pundits. Huge fields, fiendishly difficult handicap puzzles and impossible to fathom juvenile cavalry charges with no form lines to work from.
But on Friday there’s respite. Three banker bets for the big hitters to get stuck into. And nobody will be surprised that they are all trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore, a combination that has ruled the roost at this fixture for most of the past decade.
Freeman’s Friday selections
2.30 Lil Grey
3.40 Ten Sovereigns
5.00 Hotsy Totsy (Best Bet)
5.35 Fujaira Prince (Next Best)
Japan (King Edward VII Stakes), Ten Sovereigns (Commonwealth Cup) and Hermosa (Coronation Stakes) are not unbeatable, of course, but they all boast the best form in their respective races and there’s every chance they will improve further on what they have already accomplished.
Especially Japan, who flew home to finish a half-length third in the Derby, despite a less than ideal preparation.
Irish whispers suggested he might be the best of O’Brien’s Derby gang in the spring, but a training setback delayed his return and was perhaps the difference between defeat and victory in the Epsom classic.
John Gosden was toying with the idea of running the upwardly mobile Private Secretary in the Derby, but decided to wait for this. He’s probably a Group winner in waiting, but will need another giant leap if Japan is on song.
O’Brien took a punt on the speedy Ten Sovereigns staying a mile in the 2000 Guineas and though he ran well to finish fifth, he plainly failed to see out the trip and is back to what he does best in the Commonwealth Cup.
O’Brien wasn’t at all discouraged by that Newmarket performance. “He travelled so well in the Guineas, he was still in front on the far side until late on having been up there all the way,” he said “We were actually delighted with him, but this trip (six furlongs) was the one he was very comfortable at last year.”
Ten Sovereigns beat Jash narrowly, but quite cosily, in a Group One juvenile contest last year and I fancy he will have his measure again.
Hermosa was a surprise winner of the 1000 Guineas, but proved it was no fluke when then hammering Pretty Pollyanna in the Irish version at the Curragh.
Once more, there is a big improver to consider, this time Sir Michael Stoute’s Jubiloso, but again there is a big form gap to close and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Hermosa either.
The Ballydoyle plan had been to swerve Ascot and step Hermosa up in trip for last Sunday’s French Oaks at Chantilly, but in the end they have decided to stick to a mile at a track they feel will suit her down to the ground.