The £120,000 Royal Hunt Cup over the straight mile at Ascot is one of the top betting races of the season. Here are our six horses against the hugely competitive 30-runner field for the 2021 renewal:
We’re guilty in this sport of banging on about Sir Michael Stoute having the patience and ability to improve older horses, but the fact it is keeps happening. It’s not that we are second-guessing that he will get the job done, it’s simply in the form and profile of such horses and they include his Astro King.
This Kingman colt is having only the seventh run of his career and clearly his best days are ahead of him yet. He comes into this on the back of a winter success at Lingfield, a good win ahead of Finest Sound at Nottingham and a runner-up effort at Thirsk, all in quick conditions.
He is of course creeping up the weights, but he’s getting better along with it and in a race in which the big field will tow him along he has every chance of winning once more.
Another four-year-old and one with just a little more life experience having been gelded, had a breathing operation and having run nine times including in a couple of big fields.
He did win last time out and has a profile typical of that of a Royal Hunt Cup horse, though he scraped home in a handicap last time on the track at odds-on, was beaten by Astro King (4lbs better off), isn’t improving in lumps and seemed to thrive on soft ground last season.
He’s a good handicapper and this race may yet bring the best out of him, but his low draw is a concern.
John & Thady Gosden’s Lincoln Handicap winner was expected to move on and up into Group company quickly, but he got trapped out on the wing in a slower than ideal race in Listed company last time on ground softer than ideal.
He remains an improver and better than 107 horse, meaning his 7lb rise for winning at Doncaster is of no concern. He’ll love the pace of this race, that’s been proven, he handles fast ground and is very much drawn on the right side of the track too.
He’s been beaten only on debut, once at Newmarket and in his last outing, has won his other four races and looks every inch a horse capable of going up to Group 3 level at the very minimum. Big chance once again.
Having been bought from Ireland by Sheikh Ahmed’s team this horse remains one with serious potential. He was far too far back at York when coming with a great run which then flattened out (third, 1m2f) and he was allowed to run at Epsom despite concerns about the ground where he was backed very strongly into 11/8 favouritism.
This is much more up his street and had it not been for his being drawn on the far side of the track, he may well have been the ultimate selection. He keeps his place on the shortlist, but may have been unlucky in being handed gate 6 but either way, his day will come.
John & Thady Gosden also run Magical Morning here, drawn near Haqeeqy and right next door to Astro King. There’s plenty of pace around him then and a strong run is expected of Frankie Dettori’s mount.
He has the ability and the handicap mark to do the business here, he’s certainly been backed to win, but given that this is his first run of the season there must be reservations in a contest this tough.
Mark Johnston’s Shadwell gelding Maydanny is the only five-year-old on the shortlist. He’s always been thought of as a good horse and may not have peaked quite yet.
He won twice last year including at Glorious Goodwood and was seventh in the consolation race for this event at last year’s Royal Ascot. In fact, he won the race on his side of the track and so now that he’s improved again he’s an obvious contender, though Dane O’Neill rides with Jim Crowley preferring Haqeeqy.
Irish Admiral will have to go some to defy his draw, Astro King should be prominent and Magical Morning has a great chance if OK first time up.
The vote goes to HAQEEQY to land another big handicap after his Lincoln win in March. He has all the attributes needed, has been drawn well and runs off a mark that still doesn’t reflect his true ability.