Ben Linfoot seeks out the best Value Bet selections on day two of Royal Ascot and he's taking on Wesley Ward in the opener and dutching two against the field in the Hunt Cup.
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Cracksman is the star of the show on day two of Royal Ascot as the son of Frankel takes on six rivals in the feature Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.
I’m not entirely sure he’ll be seen to best effect over 10 furlongs on quick ground but he’s clearly the most talented horse in the race and taking him on seems a pointless task given his superiority over the field.
He’s not the only hot favourite on the card with Hydrangea all the rage for the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes and, even with her Group One penalty, she’s another that looks to have a significant class edge over her rivals.
Thank goodness for the Royal Hunt Cup (5.00), then, the first cavalry charge handicap over the straight course this week with 30 horses going to post over the mile.
The early pace looks evenly spread across the track with Zhui Feng and Love Dreams taking them along on the far side, Mukalal and Surrey Hope look likely to give the stands’ side horses a decent tow into things and Arcanada and Archetype are prominent racers up the middle.
Things could well pan out nicely for a horse drawn middle to stands’ side with that in mind so stall 22 could just be fine for David Marnane’s raider SETTLE FOR BAY (18/1 Ladbrokes, 16s General).
Marnane has a good record on the Ascot straight course thanks to the exploits of Victoria Cup and Wokingham winner, Dandy Boy, and he’s booked a jockey in Billy Lee who won the Britannia aboard Roca Tumu a few years ago.
They team up here with a rapid improver in Settle For Bay, a big Rio De La Plata gelding that won four on the spin at Dundalk between November and January.
He started his winning spree by winning off 76 and his fourth win came off 91 in a race where the fourth and fifth, Reckless Lad and Alcatraz, have franked the form by winning subsequently.
All four of those victories came over a mile and he stays the trip well, but he’s not short of speed as he showed when running a really nice Hunt Cup trial over seven furlongs at Leopardstown on May 13.
He tanked through that race but was short of room at a crucial stage before running on nicely into fourth with Jim Bolger’s Zorion, a subsequent Listed winner, already home and hosed.
It was a very nice effort off a mark of 99 and he runs off the same mark in England with the return to a mile looking sure to suit. Indeed, Marnane marked the Hunt Cup out for him after that fourth consecutive win at Dundalk in January.
He’s a rapid improver that’s been saved for this and he looks sure to thrive running off a rip-roaring gallop. At anything around 16/1 he’s worth a bet for a trainer that knows exactly what is required in this type of handicap.
The shortlist was a long one with Afaak looking in great form after winning a good race at York, Seniority sneaking in for the Queen at the last minute, Saltonstall looking another likely type for Mick Halford and Raising Sand’s Ascot form being franked by Accidental Agent and Lord Glitters in the Queen Anne.
The latter is a big player with Jamie Spencer booked, as there simply isn’t a better rider on the straight course, but he has been backed since the form boost and I just wonder if he wants the ground as quick as it is.
With that in mind for the second bet I’d rather side with ESCOBAR at 14/1 (General) for David O’Meara and Martin Harley as he’s bounced back to form at just the right time.
A 106-rated horse last year for Hugo Palmer, he lost his way after being gelded but suggested he was on the way back for his new yard with a close-up third at Doncaster on June 1 and he improved on that significantly at Haydock last time.
He cruised through the Haydock contest on good to firm ground, beating some in-form horses without fuss and suggesting there was plenty left in the tank at the end of the race.
That was just six days ago, but he gets in here 3lb well-in under a penalty due to that proximity and his hold-up style could well be very well suited to the rigours of this race.
Racing off 99 under his penalty, he still looks well-handicapped on his old form and could well give O’Meara another significant Ascot victory with many of the trainer’s finest moments coming at this track.
Finally, Jessica Harrington’s SERVALAN looks the one to be on at 11/1 (General) in the opening Queen Mary Stakes (2.30).
Punters have another dilemma in this race as Wesley Ward has won it three times and his Chelsea Cloisters heads the market on the back of an eight-length win at Keeneland in April.
She’s likely to blast off in front, as his fillies usually do, and, while she might well just be too quick, there is the possibility that she’ll set things up for a closer.
Servalan can be that horse as she won a Listed race at Naas last time in the style of a top filly, easily beating Skitter Scatter, who had previously beaten Coventry third Sergei Prokofiev, by three lengths.
That was over six furlongs, but a strongly-run five at a stiff track like Ascot looks absolutely ideal and she can thrive for the drop in distance.
The Naas race certainly has a rich history, as it’s been won by subsequent Guineas winners like Sky Lantern and Harrington’s own Alpha Centauri in recent years, as well as other good horses like Lillie Langtry and Sandiva.
Aidan O’Brien’s So Perfect was back in fourth behind Servalan at Naas, beaten fair and square, but she is half the price of the Harrington filly for the Queen Mary and that just looks plain wrong.
Posted at 1700 BST on 18/06/18.
Ben Linfoot's Value Bet aim: The Value Bet is designed to generate long-term profit by searching for overpriced horses in the feature weekend races and at the big Festivals in the UK. Running total: +331.14pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).