Fran Berry column ahead of 2019 Shergar Cup at Ascot

Fran enjoyed plenty of success at the Shergar Cup
Fran enjoyed plenty of success at the Shergar Cup

Fran Berry is back with a look at the weekend's feature action and a surprise suggestion for the Silver Saddle award at the Shergar Cup.

Personally, the Shergar Cup has been a great experience for me and my family over the years and I felt really privileged to ride in it four times, enjoying plenty of success.

I think it's a great showcase for the sport, a once-a-year, unique occasion which shows the sport in a great light. Outside the Royal meeting it's the biggest crowd Ascot gets and there's a tremendous atmosphere.

The prize money is fantastic and with six hotly-contested races, each consisting of 10 runners, it all lends itself to exciting finishes and great drama.

Throw in riders from all around the world with different styles and different profiles and I do think it's an amazing day.

It does genuinely get competitive between the jockeys and the teams throughout the day. If you start off well and have a good result or two along the way then you're in the hunt and the last two races can be really exciting within the teams.

You're going out there saying one of us needs to get in the first three here, and you're doing the sums to try and keep an eye on the tables. Win, lose or draw, as you pass the finish line you're trying to find out where your two teammates finished and it all adds to it.


Silver Saddle up for grabs

There are plenty of familiar names riding this year and it's great to have Danny Tudhope participating, especially considering he could presumably have targeted some less competitive races elsewhere with his title push in mind.

Hayley Turner is always on her A-game at the meeting and has to be respected whatever she's on, while I've come across plenty of the others during my travels. I don't know much about Jamie Kah but she's done extremely well in Australia, holding her own in some of the biggest races.

Adrie de Vries is a fantastic rider, he's a bit of a Shergar Cup veteran now and does well in the Middle East in the winter time. He's based in the Netherlands in the summer and also rides in Germany and across the continent. I rate him very highly.

I've ridden with Filip Minarik a bit and he's been champion jockey in Germany several times. He's very neat and compact and he's also done well during his stints in Japan. As you can see below I'm quite keen on some of his chances on Saturday so he's worth a small bet to take the Silver Saddle, with Jamie Spencer looking his biggest danger based on who I fancy in each race.

Click here to back Filip Minarik to win the Silver Saddle top rider award with Sky Bet...

Filip Minarik
Filip Minarik

A Welcome winner?

We kick off with the Dash and I think this race could go to Europe who have three riders in the race which is a big help, obviously.

It might not be with the horse that everybody expects, though. The one I like at the prices is Stone Of Destiny, trained by Andrew Balding. He's got some decent form including when a close sixth to Tis Marvellous over this course and distance two starts back.

He also ran really well last weekend from an unfavourable draw in the Stewards' Cup - he was drawn 27 so you can upgrade that run. Going back a couple of years he ran well in the Commonwealth Cup so he's got plenty of class and he's down to a good mark now.

He's drawn one here which might not be absolutely ideal but there's plenty of pace and hopefully it might tee up for a closer like Stone Of Destiny.

The Stayers race could go to another horse looking to improve on last weekend's effort with What A Welcome looking a decent bet. He's been running well in defeat this year and the nose second to King's Advice at Goodwood in May stands out.

He was further behind the same horse at the Glorious meeting but wasn't beaten too far and this race won't be quite as tough for him. He won over this course at the end of last season and is only 2lb higher, while I think a smaller field of 10 runners will help him too.

The Challenge looks one of the most competitive races of the day and I'm taking a chance on Big Kitten who hasn't quite been so hot on turf the last twice but still has time on his side. He was sixth in the John Smith's Cup at York last time and the form has already worked out well, so the drop in the weights might be generous.

Reshoun is a danger under Spencer on his second start after a wind operation. They went a bit of a sprint at Newbury and if the rain arrives he could go well as he's very capable on his day, especially with a bit of ease.

In the Mile they're on the round course and Via Serendipity won last year under a good ride from Hayley. He seems unlikely to get it all his own way this time with Zhui Feng in there blazing a trail and it could be set up for Power Of Darkness.

He looks on a steep upward curve for Marcus Tregoning and could yet progress well past his current mark of 94. He won cosily at Salisbury where he's unbeaten after three starts but he's not a one-trick pony as his unlucky second to Beringer as Newmarket shows. I'll take him to get the better of War Glory for Richard Hannon.

I really like Sapa Inca in the Classic. Mark Johnston's filly is another who was at Goodwood last week where she ran extremely well in a race that I think will produce plenty of subsequent winners. She's a daughter of Galileo and has been steadily improving over the summer. This looks Turner's best chance of the day.

The Sprint over six furlongs can go to Victory Day for William Haggas and Spencer. He went from a Ripon maiden into one of the hottest three-year-old sprints of the season at York when last seen and he put up a fantastic effort to be second behind Recon Mission, who just got first run.

We could look back on him running in a handicap off 96 as something of a gift as he has all the attributes to be a Pattern horse further down the line.


Curragh card one to relish

Before all that there's a super card at the Curragh on Friday evening and we're getting to that time of the year where we could be seeing absolutely anything, particularly from the Aidan O'Brien team.

The seven furlong maiden looks a case in point with the beautifully-bred Paradiso a full brother to Churchill. He's the apparent third string for Ballydoyle with Sherpa and Hong Kong having the benefit of experience.

Both showed a degree of ability first time out but Hong Kong's race was won by the highly-regarded Armory so it's no surprise to see Ryan Moore on him.

A lot with depend on the ground, though, and if it gets bad by the off time then it might not suit the son of American Pharoah.

In the five furlong maiden I'd give Sun Sign a fair chance. She was picked up cheaply earlier in the year but has a nice pedigree herself and just wasn't ideally drawn when second at Navan last month and although she flashed her tail a bit in the closing stages, she obviously has ability. She also has a much better draw this time.

The Loder Irish EBF Fillies Race is a race with a rich history and this year's renewal clearly includes some exciting prospects. Heaven Of Heavens makes her debut and is a sister to Magical and Rhododendron so has to be of interest.

Know It All probably wouldn't be one who would appreciate the rain as he's by Japanese sire Lord Kanaloa but she shaped well first time out and should have a nice future, while Holy Roman Empress is another who wouldn't want the ground to turn.

I would expect her to improve on her debut effort, though, as she's a big unit and just possibly got caught out over six furlongs at Naas on debut.

The Phoenix Stakes is a good rematch between Siskin and Monarch Of Egypt and all things being equal on a decent surface I'd expect the O'Brien horse to give Siskin a really good run for him money. He looked rusty on his return in the Railway Stakes, having missed Royal Ascot due to a setback, and can improve a lot.

If the rain gets in then don't rule out a massive run from Mount Fuji who is by Dark Angel and might handle it better than most.

The other race I'm interested in is the Phoenix Sprint Stakes where Southern Horse really catches the eye. Jim Bolger's recruit was placed in Group One company in South American and made a decent start in Europe when beaten just six lengths in the Wokingham at Ascot.

He improved on that last time at the Curragh over Derby weekend, where he finished ahead of Beckford who re-opposes. He'd love any easing of conditions and it's interesting to see Bolger reach for first-time cheekpieces.


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