Given the requirement for extra races at this year’s royal meeting, it is fantastic to see a consolation race for the Royal Hunt Cup which gives what are in their own right some very good handicappers the chance to land a big win.
One or two on our shortlist could well have been considered leading lights for the Hunt Cup itself, especially the selection who has plenty in hand and should give a really good account of himself.
As a match fit four-year-old trained by Richard Hannon who is lightly raced and improving, Brian Epstein simply had to make this list.
A winner on Kempton’s standard-to-slow track in 2018 and again on good to soft at Musselburgh last season, the rain that has arrived at Ascot won’t bother him as it will many in the field while his running style points at him potentially seeing out this stiff mile in good order too.
He’s handicapped OK and seems primed for a big run.
Mark Johnston is a win machine and he has hit the ground running since the resumption of racing, this Hamdan Al Maktoum four-year-old by Dubawi hosing up at Yarmouth the other day on just his third racecourse start.
That was on firm ground and on a flat track however, so taking an average of that form along with his runner-up effort last season on heavy ground at Nottingham, adjusted for improvement, makes him appear just a little less well handicapped than you’d think at first glance and while he is very much considered here, he may just need another day.
William Haggas’ five-year-old, ridden this time by the excellent Tom Marquand, has some solid form in the book and is the sort of reliable type you’d imagine will be keeping on when the race gets going in earnest.
How well handicapped he is, how well he can go fresh and how much he’ll prosper in these conditions however all beg questions and as such while he makes the shortlist of possibles, he is passed over for win purposes.
Unfortunately because of some very easy to spot variables, all in the positive, the price available on Ouzo may not be as big as we want.
Trained by Richard Hannon, drawn up the rail, ridden by Ryan Moore and coming into the race after a solid neck second to Bell Rock at Newmarket all mean this horse will be on more shortlists than just this one.
That said he is getting better, will relish the conditions and on all known evidence would look to still be a good few pounds ahead of the handicapper and so without some bad luck in running or an unfortunate injury it looks impossible for him not to run a big race. Easily the best on paper for us.
Keith Dalgleish sends a couple down for this race and his four-year-old Red Bond is one who remains capable of better than what he’s shown thus far.
While his third to Daarik at Newcastle over seven furlongs recent looks good, it didn’t necessarily move him forward and more impressive arguably was his win at the same track over a mile in January which makes the conditions of this race seem appealing.
As long as he’s as good on turf, he has to enter calculations under jockey Callum Rodriguez.
Since coming to Roger Varian from the UAE Sheikh Ahmed’s runner has done well, albeit without particularly improving a whole lot in his four turf runs in the UK.
He has already handled Ascot well however and it could well be that wants this slightly softer ground, so after a good rest he is taken to improve a fair bit and make his mark in this race and/or in future valuable handicaps at around a mile. Andrea Atzeni rides.
Five of the shortlisted six look very close to us. Salayel could improve plenty, Nicklaus has a solid profile as does Red Bond, Brian Epstein has plenty going for him and if taking to these conditions better than expected Maydanny could have a bit in hand.
The one ahead of the assessor, who easily has the most provable factors in his favour right now however, is OUZO and he is the one who at 5/1+ would still look very good value.