This is a typically fierce John Smith’s Cup line-up. Even without the likes of Aaddeey, Surrey Pride, Nicholas T and Al Zaraqaan for numerous reasons, our shortlist is top-notch. These are the six horses we think are worth concentrating on:
Roger Varian’s four-year-old grey must have a serious chance with juice back in the ground.
After running a reasonable ninth in the Lincoln to begin his campaign, he was well beaten at Chester where his trainer stated that he simply didn’t handle the track. Last time out, he was beaten 10 lengths in the Royal Hunt Cup but the ground was too quick for him.
Before that, he won for the fourth time on rain-softened ground at Newbury over a mile and his running style suggests he will see out this mile-and-a-quarter trip nicely.
Sir Michael Stoute’s runner “won” the race on the near side in the Royal Hunt Cup, and it’s thought now that he can see out this trip even on slower ground.
He does seem to be improving, but not in great lumps so without knowing just how effective he can be in these different race conditions and given that he’s gone up another 4lbs since Ascot, he should be approached with a little caution given his relatively skinny price. He has a chance nonetheless.
Saeed bin Suroor won the Royal Hunt Cup with Real World in spectacular fashion and it seems that Godolphin’s former no.1 is making somewhat of a comeback.
He has a knack these days not so much for numerous Group 1 races, but readying horses for big handicaps and he now has another major contender in the shape of Bright Start. A four-year-old son of Medaglia D’Oro, this sort of ground could actually be right up his street.
He has, much like his daddy, been doing his best work on the dirt with a win and two seconds in Dubai continuing his progression at the beginning of the year. He was even better last time at Chelmsford, and while he has finished second six times in nine races, he is a winner and could be very well handicapped.
David Loughnane is gaining quite a reputation and that could be enhanced even further should Dark Pine run to his best level in this race.
Last in the Duke of Edinburgh at Royal Ascot, he will be more comfortable on slightly better ground and over the same 1¼-mile trip over which he won at Chester back in May.
With form figures of 1141 at Ripon, those three wins being his only ones to date, Fishable is getting a reputation as a track specialist.
However, at York two runs ago he lost many lengths at the start and got no sort of run in the closing stages, eventually getting to 12½ lengths of Surrey Pride. He was a close second here last October too and could yet be a few pounds ahead of the assessors.
The Andrew Balding/King Power team have two horses in the line-up, Johnny Drama arguably being the more fancied runner. Good Birthday however has some pretty strong form of his own, including a Zetland Gold Cup win at Redcar.
The ground was perhaps too quick when he was beaten last time out, so his being 4lbs higher than his Redcar win and with another month and a half of experience behind him, he should still be considered fairly handicapped. 7lb claimer Callum Hutchinson takes some more weight off his back.
Ascension has gone just a little under the radar in the build-up to this race, but on all known evidence has a very fair chance.
Royal Hunt Cup runner-up Astro King may prove to be the archetypal Sir Michael Stoute improving four-year-old, but these race conditions are very different from last time and we can’t know for sure how well he will handle them.
The one with the most potential in terms of the handicap is BRIGHT START. A number of Medaglia D’Oro’s better progeny put in some of their best turf performances on softer ground, meaning we may even see another chunk of improvement coming from a horse we reckon is well handicapped anyway.