Royal Ascot is just around the corner and Matt Brocklebank highlights six of the best antepost bets, including a 33/1 chance in the Royal Hunt Cup.
Recommended Bets: Royal Ascot 2019
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Dermot Weld has been training Royal Ascot winners since 1973 and Hazapour (16/1, General) is fancied to add to the master handler's current tally of 17 career successes at the meeting with victory in the Queen Anne Stakes.
It's a messy market for the opening contest of the week with Le Brivido currently occupying favouritism despite being quite comfortably beaten in two starts this term since joining Aidan O’Brien from Andre Fabre.
It’s a fascinating trainer switch and presumably his new handler has been working back from this race having shown his liking for the track when winning the Jersey Stakes in 2017.
Mustashry had Laurens, Accidental Agent, Romanised and Le Brivido all behind when winning the Lockinge in good style and he's entitled to be favourite given he, too, is a proven course winner after taking a handicap at Ascot in his three-year-old days.
However, the value lies with Hazapour who showed himself to be a high-class colt at three in winning the Derrinstown and finishing fifth – behind Masar, Dee Ex Bee, Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior – in last year's Investec Derby.
He didn't stay the trip at Epsom and it’s no surprise the son of Shamardal has looked to rediscover his mojo dropped back to a mile this term.
He was really impressive at Leopardstown, beating Verbal Dexterity by two and a half lengths, and looked seriously strong at the line as you'd expect for a horse proven at 10 furlongs already.
That was Hazapour's first ever run over a bare mile (won his maiden at Galway over a mile and half a furlong) so he's clearly open to stacks of improvement still, which isn't necessarily the case with a bunch of his potential Ascot rivals.
Another interesting angle is his jockey at Ascot, Frankie Dettori having ridden him a couple of times last year including when sent to Britain for the Derby.
Without wanting to take anything away from Chris Hayes or budding star Oisin Orr, who was on board last time, if Dettori is snapped up here - and it looks at least a possibility given his likely availability in the race - the 16/1 will be long gone.
Sergei Prokofiev is a sporting bet (9/1, General) against the big two of Battaash and Blue Point in Tuesday's King’s Stand Stakes.
The son of Scat Daddy was busy at two, winning three times from his eight outings, but looks to have trained on nicely based on his couple of public appearances this time around.
He was third to Calyx in the Coventry Stakes last summer but connections have subsequently stated he doesn’t really stay six furlongs, and he looked like he barely got the extended five when making a winning start to the new season at Navan in March.
He was probably a touch short of full fitness there in fairness to the horse but he ran right up to a similar level when fourth in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket last time.
The three-year-old was slowly away and only really got rolling when it was too late, but it was a promising performance with the rest of the campaign in mind.
All the hype is around the match-up between Battaash and Blue Point but a flying five furlongs at Ascot on decent ground should bring out the best in Sergei Prokofiev who could be the one to play his hand last and sweep over the top of them late in the piece.
Plutonian (33/1, General) can bounce back to his best and land the Royal Hunt Cup for in-form handler Charlie Hills.
Bouncing back is something this Jekyll and Hyde character has become known for – his three career wins so far coming on the back of three relatively poor efforts the time before.
He won his maiden at Windsor after being sixth of 13 at Salisbury, he won at Chelmsford in November 2017 after finishing sixth of 13 at Kempton, while he won a Windsor handicap last May having bombed out at Newmarket – finishing 12th of 19 – the previous month.
Even Plutonian’s best effort since that most recent success, when beaten under a length by Gabr in a Listed race at Goodwood in September, followed a low-key run at Doncaster less than a fortnight before.
So while it would be a stretch to take any kind of encouragement from his miserable effort when last of 14 at York’s Dante Festival in the middle of May, it would be foolish to completely write him off as a result and at 33/1 I’m happy take a chance on him biting back with a vengeance. He wouldn't be the first horse to simply not run up to form on his first visit to the Knavesmire.
Hills' charge did make quite a pleasing start to the current campaign when fifth to Chatez in the Spring Cup at Newbury previously, so the engine is still clearly very much intact and he's been eased another 3lb for York (dropped 1lb after Newbury) to a mark of 98.
That brings him right into the mix for a race like the Hunt Cup as he beat Mordin from a perch of 92 at Windsor and later last term pushed Alfarris close from his revised rating of 97 at Glorious Goodwood.
Those two runs came over 1m2f but a strongly-run mile should play to the strengths of the son of Raven’s Pass, whose progeny include Royal Ascot straight-course winners Interception and Richard Pankhurst.
Plutonian is risky but it’s the kind of race in which to take such a plunge and, at the prices, he appeals a little more than the equally risky Key Victory and rather more solid Beringer (both 20/1). Take Paddy Power's 33s now as they're the only firm paying five places already.
John Gosden has some of the best three-year-old fillies around, with Anapurna and Mehdaayih both clearly capable of further big-race success this season but Fanny Logan (20/1, General) looks an interesting prospect for the Ribblesdale Stakes.
Her form with Mehdaayih last season – when beaten a neck by her stablemate on debut at Yarmouth – is strong and while she was beaten over five lengths by the same rival in the Cheshire Vase when last seen, there was enough in that run to suggest she remains a significant talent.
She was the choice of Frankie Dettori at Chester, for a start, while she ran a big race in the circumstances as she was too keen early on having been lit up by her jockey to try and make the most of stall one.
It back-fired late in the race as she lost her pitch turning in before getting her second wind close home but, having ended up just a length behind Manuela De Vega that day, she’s seemingly underestimated at 20/1 (General) with Ralph Beckett’s filly no bigger than 8s.
Gosden has others in the mix for the race, too, including Musidora runner-up Entitle and Newbury third Star Catcher, but if Fanny Logan takes her chance at the Royal meeting then she has the potential to make her current odds look out of line.
Taking on dual Guineas heroine Hermosa in Friday's Coronation Stakes may not be the most sensible ploy but she's a seriously skinny price now and in Maqsad potentially faces a new rival who could possess as much raw natural ability.
The top quote of 12/1 (bet365, 10/1 generally) factors in the possibility of Maqsad not running at Royal Ascot - she's as low as 6/1 with Sky Bet who offer non-runner/no-bet on the race - but that shows just how much shorter she could be if William Haggas and the team give her the green light.
She was sent off 4/1 for the Investec Oaks at Epsom and looked to be travelling with her usual zest before clearly not getting the trip and it was perhaps significant that Jim Crowley was able to look after her after she started to paddle on passing the two-furlong marker.
Dropping right back to a mile poses a tough challenge but it's not a new trip to the daughter of Siyouni who beat Twist 'N' Shake on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket on her seasonal return.
She was third over the same mile trip in the aforementioned Yarmouth contest fought out by Mehdaayih and Fanny Logan last season and despite her impressive win over 10 furlongs in the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Guineas meeting this spring, there's evidently a small chance the bare mile will ultimately prove to be Maqsad's optimum distance.
The antepost staking plan is completed by strong fancy City Light (10/1, bet365) in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
He made a very pleasing start to the season when second behind Inns Of Court at Maisons-Laffitte at the end of April, when Christophe Soumillon was seemingly at pains not to resort to the whip, and he's been laid out for this race since.
Trainer Stephane Wattel is entitled to feel he has unfinished business in the Diamond Jubilee as City Light - who beat Kachy at Lingfield on Good Friday last term before winning a Longchamp Group Three en route to Ascot - was cruelly denied by Merchant Navy after a sluggish start.
He followed that short-head defeat with two very respectable efforts before the Prix de l'Abbaye looked a bridge too far at the end of a long, hard season in the autumn.
He's a much fresher animal now and given he had the beating of The Tin Man and Bound For Nowhere here 12 months ago, the five-year-old is a tempting proposition against market leader Invincible Army, who has beaten Major Jumbo twice this term and still has an awful lot to prove at Group One level (well held in last season's Commonwealth Cup).
Posted at 0900 BST on 12/06/19.
Matt Brocklebank's Antepost Angle
- 1pt e.w. Eeh Bah Gum at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4)
- 1pt e.w. Manuela De Vega at 33/1 (1/5 1,2,3)
- 1pt e.w. Mount Everest at 25/1 (1/5 1,2,3)
- 1pt e.w. Almania at 50/1 (1/5 1,2,3)
- 1pt e.w. Skardu at 33/1 (1/5 1,2,3)
- 1pt win Fairyland at 12/1
- 0.5pts win Zagitova at 50/1
- 0.5pts win Secret Thoughts at 33/1
(Running 2019 P&L: +4.85pts)