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2010 Royal Ascot: Day 3

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Group 2 Norfolk Stakes



 £    90,000


Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes

3yo, Fillies


 £  125,000


Group 1 Gold Cup



 £  250,000


Britannia Stakes

3yo, C&G


 £  100,000


Hampton Court Stakes



 £    50,000


King George V Stakes



 £    50,000

Additional information on the day's card can be found at Timeform or the fantastic microsite at the Racing Post (UK).

A good test of stamina on day three of the Royal Ascot meet as four races will run at a distance of a mile and a quarter or longer.  I say "stamina" since us U.S. players rarely see a race carded at a mile and a quarter or longer, let alone four on the same card.  That's actually a good trivia question, when was the last time any track in the U.S. had at least four races on the card run at a mile and a quarter or longer?  The Breeders' Cup is the closest with the Turf, Classic, "Marathon", and Filly and Mare Turf, but those are on two separate days.  Other than that, I wouldn't have a clue when the last time that occurred.

One other side note: For all the bashing that horse racing takes in the United States, especially concerning the atmosphere at most tracks, at least we don't have to put up with people blowing into horns constantly for hours at a time.  I'm usually a big fan of watching the World Cup but those vuvuzelas make me want to throw things at my TV.  They also cause my Basset Hound to go nuts if I have the volume turned up.  The last thing I need is a constant buzz in my ears and an out-of-control Basset Hound.   The only savior this week has been the wonderful invention of picture-in-picture: Royal Ascot on the main screen with the World Cup in the corner (and on mute).  Perfect.


Group 1 Gold Cup


The feature race of the third day of Royal Ascot is the Group 1 Gold Cup at two and a half miles for four year olds and up.  Normally, when I attempt to handicap a race that I view as a specialty (downhill sprints at Santa Anita, marathons at any track, etc.), I tend to look for horses that have shown previous success at that specialty.  When I looked at the conditions for the Gold Cup I thought to myself, "okay, let's first find the horses that have done well when running at 2 ½ miles in the past".  That turned out to be more difficult that I had thought.

Out of the 13 horse field, here are the horses that have raced at 2 ½ miles or longer in their career:

2-Bannaby (FR): Ran in the 2 ½ mile Group 1 Prix de Cadran at Longchamp in 2008 where he won by a head.

3-Kasbah Bliss (FR): Won the Group 3 Prix Gladiateur at Deauville in August of 2008, then finished fourth in the same Prix du Cadran that Bannaby won.  He ran in the Prix du Cadran again in 2009, where he finished second by a nose Alandi.

5-Rite Of Passage (GB): Has only run less than 2 miles once in his career and his last two races have been at 2 ½ and 2 5/8 miles.  Both of those races, however, were hurdles.

6-Tastahil (IRE): This gelding just ran 2nd by a head in the Chester Cup at 2 3/8 miles in his last start

I don't know how much of a factor previous success at the distance is in a race like this; we see plenty of horses here in the U.S. stretch out and win at longer distances at first asking.  But at the same time, I always feel a bit more confident when I'm betting on a horse that has proven he can get the distance.  If I had the ability to conjure up historical data on this race I would love to know how many of the previous Gold Cup winners had success at the distance prior to running in this race. But since I don't have that kind of data, I'll just have to try and look for the best horse at the best price.

The North American pool has tabbed Manifest (GB) as the 5/2 favorite, with Aiden O'Brien's Age of Aquarius (IRE) the second choice at 4/1.  Considering how the N.A. bettors like to pound the favorites in these international races, I'd expect both of those horses to get bet down prior to post.

Manifest has had a very light racing regimen since debuting last July at Newmarket.  He ran once in July, August, and October in 2009 and then came back in 2010 with races in April and May.  He's never gone more than 1 ¾ miles, but with such a lightly raced four year old colt it's entirely possible that he's still developing and improving.  Additionally, he appears to be a colt that will want to be near the lead early on as in two of his last three races he has tracked the early leaders.

Age of Aquarius has run only one poor race in his seven race career, 7th in the Group 1 Investec Derby, but he rebounded from that to finish 2nd in each of his last three races, including the Group 1 Prix Paris at Longchamp last July.  He seems like a nice enough colt but I doubt he'll represent much value come post time given the likelihood that the N.A. bettors will pound the hell out of an O'Brien trainee. 

After going through the form a couple of times I ended up leaning in the direction of Sir Michael Stoute's Ask (GB).  This colt hasn't gone 20 furlongs in any of his prior races but if you look at his last eight he seems to have performed much better when asked to run longer.  He'll open at 6/1 in the North American pool, and at those odds I think he might be a decent play to get the 2 ½ miles.