It’s Royal Ascot next week – as prestigious a flat racing festival as you could wish to see – and with nice weather predicted it should be another cracking few days of racing for spectators and punters to enjoy.
The Queen is expected in Berkshire; it’s unlikely she will be quaffing Prosecco on Ladies Day but you never know – and a healthy crowd is expected to descend upon the famous track.
There are plenty of big races to look forward to including nine Group 1 contests in all, but none quite get the juices flowing as much as the Ascot Gold Cup; flat racing’s own nod to one of the National Hunt’s most lucrative prizes.
You’ll have to wait until Thursday June 22 for the big race, and the declaration stage is still a few days away too. As we know, ante post betting is fraught with risk, but there are two in the market that really stand out at the prices offered. A calculated risk is recommended!
Winner: Order Of St George (11/8)
After taking this title 12 months ago in a supremely impressive showing, Order Of St George would have been highly respected by the bookmakers this week anyway, but knowing just how well defending champions do in this renewal has sparked added interest.
Yeats, Royal Rebel, Drum Taps and Sadeem have all retained their titles on the hallowed turf in recent times, with the former winning an incredible four Gold Cups in a row between 2006-2009. There is clearly a precedent for repeat success in this renewal.
And then there was the sparkling return to form in his last outing in the Saval Beg Stakes, albeit over the much shorter 1m 6f trip. Order Of St George stayed on nicely too, which suggests there’s plenty more in the tank ahead of this 20f affair.
If we were being ultra-critical, we might argue that this isn’t the most sparkling edition of the Ascot Gold Cup as far as the field is concerned. But we mustn’t let that cloud our judgement: Order Of St George is a proven winner on course and over distance, and even though 11/8 isn’t the best value in the world it is still justified.
Each Way Bet: Sheikhzayedroad (14/1)
There is still bits of 14/1 knocking around with some bookmakers on this outstanding eight-year-old, and while the older horses don’t tend to do so well in this renewal we’re willing to make an exception for a powerhouse that appears to be peaking in the autumn of his career.
His last two starts yielded bronze medals in Dubai, but conditions are so alien out there we are happy to ignore those outings. Instead, let’s focus on his last trio of races on British soil: third in the Gold Cup 12 months ago as a 40/1 shot, and then a pair of victories in the Doncaster Cup – where he just saw off the advancing Quest for More, and then the prestigious British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot; beating Quest for More, Order of St George and Simple Verse in the process.
Why is his price so long? Perhaps as a nod to the firmer spring/summer ground, but even so we’re happy enough with the mark given his outstanding upward trajectory. An each way flutter should provide punters with plenty of interest next week.