Top commentator Simon Holt previews day two of Royal Ascot as he tackles the Duke of Cambridge Stakes and the Hunt Cup.
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On the second day of Royal Ascot, HYDRANGEA will be one of the favourites at the whole meeting which bookmakers would like to see beaten, but Aidan O'Brien's dual Group One winner looks one for the punters in the Group Two Duke Of Cambridge Stakes.
Although set to carry a 5lb penalty here for those heroics, the daughter of Galileo is, by some way, the best filly in the field and a reproduction of her Matron Stakes (1m) defeat of stable-companion Winter at Leopardstown last September with the likes of subsequent Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes winner Persuasive, Breeders Cup winner Wuheida and Qemah, successful in this race last year, behind her should, in theory, make this a formality.
A versatile performer, Hydrangea stepped up a half mile in distance to win the Fillies and Mares event at Ascot on Champions Day and was also second to stable-companion Rhododendron in the Prix de l'Opera, and none of her rivals can match these credentials.
The only question mark is how close to that form Ryan Moore's mount can perform as she was clearly below her best when beaten by Opal Tiara, who probably had a big fitness advantage, on her reappearance at The Curragh.
But, if like the vast majority of O'Brien's horses, she improves a good deal for that run, then Hydrangea must be the one to beat.
Last year's runner-up Aljazzi, who split the smart French performers Qemah and Usherette looks the danger even though that form wasn't as good as it looked at the time.
Marco Botti's mare went on to win at Sandown but was disappointing subsequently and her reappearance third behind the impressive Addeybb back at Sandown in April was a bit inconclusive.
However, the likelihood of Hydrangea being ridden forward to ensure a strong gallop at the trip could help Aljazzi who, as she showed here last year, can finish off strongly.
Most of the others have plenty to find with form at a lower level.
With Cracksman difficult to oppose back at Ascot in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes, and likely to start at long odds-on, my second selection is KEYSER SOZE in the Royal Hunt Cup.
The four-year-old got a confident vote in this quarter for last month's Victoria Cup but blew the start and could never get involved under Jamie Spencer who had previously ridden an audacious race in the Spring Cup at Newbury where Keyser Soze was switched sharply right at the start forfeiting much ground only to make relentless progress to lead inside the final furlong before finishing a close third behind Taqdeer.
My impression that day was of a horse who could well be Group class when the cards fall right for him and, if new rider Tom Queally can have him in touch from his stands side draw (the same side as last year's front-running winner Zhui Feng, now up 8lb), then we may see what Keyser Soze is really capable of.
Posted at 1725 BST on 19/06/18.