It's Magic Circle each-way for our man Mike Cattermole in the Gold Cup - check out his thoughts on the full Thursday card.
I love Royal Ascot but, by golly, finding winners is so tough, as my reader knows only too well this week. So far, the bookmakers are pummelling the punter and I am suitably pummelled!
Many of the battered and bruised legion will be latching onto the defending champion Stradivarius in the Gold Cup on day three and with Frankie Dettori literally now flying high, he will not lack for confidence and assistance in the saddle.
Stradivarius, who landed the £1m bonus last season as he went through the staying Cup calendar in 2018 with a superb unbeaten campaign culminating here on soft ground in October (Flag Of Honour fourth), is a fabulous racehorse.
An ability to stay very well, on any sort of ground and with a fighting attitude which can’t be faulted, no wonder the John Gosden-trained star is so popular. He is not big but has a huge heart.
Indeed, Stradivarius looked in trouble when coming under pressure in the Yorkshire Cup on his reappearance last month but he then got down to work to outbattle Southern France and was well on top at the line. His trainer made the point that that race was very much a stepping-stone for the big one.
I hope he wins again but I am not going to burden him with my selection and will look instead to Magic Circle to try and pick up some each-way money.
He was a revelation last season, romping home in the Chester Cup (just two furlongs shorter than this) and then treating the smart opposition with contempt in the Group Three Henry II Stakes at Sandown.
After that, his preparation for the Melbourne Cup was messy and he then broke a blood vessel in the race itself as Cross Counter raced to a famous win.
However, a third in the Ormonde Stakes on deep ground at Chester should have set him up nicely for this and his trainer, Ian Williams, who specialises in these stayers, must have gained some encouragement when The Grand Visir won the Ascot Stakes on Tuesday.
Cross Counter bids for an unprecedented double here and was last seen landing the Dubai Gold Cup without fuss. He looks a serious contender but the ground is an unknown (although good to soft at Flemington) but not with Dee Ex Bee, last year’s Derby runner-up, who is versatile on that front and never seems to stop galloping.
It is a cracker.
The rest of the card may be all about King Power Racing.
Having beaten the Coventry winner Arizona by three lengths at the Curragh in May, Sunday Sovereign will take all the beating in the blue and white colours in the Norfolk Stakes.
King Power were quick to snap him up after Arizona won next time by eight lengths and then on his next start, Sunday Sovereign himself also romped home by seven lengths - on soft ground at Tipperary. There is a lot to like and he will be a warm order no doubt for Billy Lee and emerging handler Paddy Twomey.
In the Hampton Court Stakes, Cape Of Good Hope will be fancied after his fourth in the French Derby but this might be another for King Power with Fox Chairman who suffered a terrible run in the Dee Stakes behind Circus Maximus at Chester.
By the time he had been pulled out, the winner had long gone but Andrew Balding’s colt picked up in eye-catching style on the bridle for a close third and showed he handled the soft conditions. He might be good enough in a wide-open contest.
Silvestre De Sousa is on him and also on Queen Power in the Ribblesdale Stakes. I loved the way she quickened up to win at Newbury over a mile and a quarter, beating Lavender’s Blue and the re-opposing Star Catcher and she took a while to pull up which gives encouragement to her staying this longer trip.
Although she has never tackled soft ground, her sire Shamardal was very effective on it.
The Thai outfit then have Hero Hero in the Britannia and he romped home when landing the odds at Chester last time.
But this super tricky affair could be won by Velorum (Charlie Appleby, James Doyle) who looks highly promising after two sound wins this term. He was beaten by the smart Skardu on his only start at two and a mark of 96 could underestimate him.
King Power are also well represented too in the closing King George V Handicap, in which De Sousa goes for impressive Sandown winner Fox Premier over Good Birthday. That’s a tough choice.
This contest has been won six times by Mark Johnston and he has three in it this time of which Sir Ron Priestley is the most fancied but has never run on soft going.
I was taken by Leroy Leroy’s fine second against the older horses in the Zetland Stakes and he has form on soft ground, too. The downside is that he is not certain to stay this far but he looks overpriced at 40-1.
He is drawn low but don’t be put off if your fancy is drawn high here – the stats show it is not a disadvantage; quite the contrary, in fact.
SELECTIONS: 2.30 SUNDAY SOVEREIGN, 3.05 FOX CHAIRMAN, 3.40 QUEEN POWER, 4.20 MAGIC CIRCLE (EW), 5.00 VELORUM, 5.35 LEROY LEROY