This is another frightfully competitive Wokingham Stakes, with any number of these horses providing their owners and trainers with confidence.
Horses will have been laid out, plots will have been hatched and professional bets will be placed on so many of the 28 runners, but it’s our job to somehow whittle down the field.
To win a Wokingham a horse needs to have certain attributes and we reckon these six are the best of the bunch:
Michael Dods and Connor Beasley’s runner has a fantastic profile for this event.
From a proper six-furlong pedigree, Blackrod is just four years old and has run nine times. He is the classic improving handicapper.
Beaten on debut on Newcastle’s Tapeta, Blackrod was then average when winning on good to soft. He was beaten on softer ground twice more, but since being campaigned exclusively on good ground or faster he has been excellent.
He has run over the last year only in very valuable handicaps, winning three of them and being placed in the other two.
He saw things out very well up the hill at Newmarket last time and should handle Ascot perfectly. He will be flying on the quick ground, has a good draw and still looks to be ahead of the handicapper.
James Ferguson hasn’t been among the winners lately which was a concern at first, though his Deauville Legend went very close on Thursday in the King George V Stakes.
First Folio is another improving type, though he’s not climbing the ranks as quickly as some. He was a good second in a Listed race last time though and should have got closer to Blackrod too, so has a chance.
Fresh will undoubtedly be well backed, perhaps even over bet to a degree.
His chances are obvious to be fair. He was second at Kempton in April and was a decent fourth over seven furlongs here last time out.
He was also second in this race last year which is why the money is coming in, but he was arguably in even better form then and is 2lbs higher in the handicap now.
Rohaan hasn’t been in the same form this term as he was twelve months ago, but last year’s winner will no doubt have been aimed at a repeat and he is now 3lbs lower in the handicap that when taking the last renewal.
The concern is that last year he was flying coming into the race, but hasn’t won another contest since and it may be that he is vulnerable to the younger, improving horses.
Marco Botti’s grey Cable Bay gelding comes into this on a hat-trick having won nice races at Haydock and Newbury over the past month.
He’s a six-furlong specialist and ran nicely when third on his seasonal debut over this course and distance, so rider Ben Curtis will be looking to make best use of that experience.
His draw on the far side may yet prove to be a hindrance, but this year we don’t know if that will be true until they are already a couple of furlongs into the race.
We’ve been waiting this year to see how often Shadwell have got it right. They sold many of their horses, keeping only the ones they clearly felt will win big prize money as the season goes on.
Tabdeed, formerly with Owen Burrows, is one they got rid of and he’s now with Archie Watson, although his sale may have something to do with his age as well as the fact that he’s a gelding.
The lightly-raced seven-year-old’s very best performances came around about this time last year, but he’s improving all the time with his new trainer and ran very well in Listed contests at both Windsor and Haydock so is no forlorn hope.
Last year’s winner Rohaan will attract plenty of support. He’s lower in the handicap now and so may yet have a great chance, but double winners of races like this are understandably rare.
First Folio comes into this in the form of his life and at four, he of course is likely to have plenty more to offer yet.
The one that ticks the most boxes however is the tough and classy BLACKROD. Michael Dods is a past master with sprinters, the form is rock-solid, and it would be no shock to see Blackrod banging on the door (sorry) late on.