A fiercely competitive handicap with just a single winning favourite in the last twenty-six years. A race won six times in the last nineteen editions by Sir Michael Stoute and three times in fourteen by Hughie Morrision. Read on for our Duke of Edinburgh Stakes Tips and Preview for Royal Ascot 2017.
IN SUMMARY: Eyecatching on his only previous run at the 1m 4f distance despite a poor passage, SIXTIES GROOVE returned this season with a good effort at Epsom earlier this month, outpaced at a crucial stage before coming home strongly late on. A return to this trip should work wonders for Jeremy Noseda’s four year old who is on a lenient mark at presentyt. Adam Kirby takes the ride and he looks the one to beat, with perhaps the biggest danger coming from Top Tug or Appeared.
1 MASTER CARPENTER – Returned to his best at York a month ago with a comfortable five length success at the northern venue, but the handicapper has made him pay with a 10lb rise which makes him vulnerable. He is far from certain to stay the trip and recent heavy defeats off lower marks are outputting.
2 TOP TUG – Useful hurdler who is just as effective on the flat for Alan King, as proven the last twice by two good efforts in handicap company. He returned to the level with a good second at Newmarket in a competitive affair and a two pound rise was shrugged off as he won easily at Goodwood in May, travelling strongly throughout and quickening clear emphatically when asked. The handicapper has hit him with a further 5lb rise but he looked value for more on that occasion, though the drop back in trip isn’t guaranteed to suit. Each way contender under Pat Smullen if they go off hard, otherwise he may well be outpaced as this trip.
3 BAYDAR – Won four times in a row back in the summer for Hugo Palmer, but he has been soundly beaten in pattern company the last twice and needs to resume his progress back in handicap company. He’s six pounds higher than when winning at Newbury in a competitive handicap and if back to his progressive self this mark wouldn’t be beyond him, but he didn’t show much to suggest he was near that when last in the Brigadier Gerard. Others are further up the list on this occasion.
4 SOLDIER IN ACTION – Inconsistent sort for Mark Johnston who burst back into life on his latest start at Epsom to record a comfortable success at this trip three weeks ago. As a result he is six higher in the handicap which does demand a career best, but he’d be dangerous to discount as an improved display would be no surprise. Each way contender for an in form yard and needs to be considered.
5 WADIGOR – Thrice raced unbeaten colt for Roger Varian who shrugged off a 15lb rise for his handicap debut win to take another easy success at Kempton on seasonal reappearance last month. He has a further 8lb rise to contend with this time but is unexposed on both this surface and at this trip.. Silvestre De Sousa takes the ride and he’s another whose to consider as he’s firmly on the upgrade.
6 STAR STORM – Capable of holding his own at pattern level, as proven by a good second over course and distance last month in a Listed contest. He drops back into handicap company off a mark of 103, which is potentially lenient on the best of his all weather form. Conditions will suit and George Wood takes off a very useful three pounds from his back, so he’s another who cannot be discounted.
7 CAPE COVA – The return of blinkers paid dividends as he returned to form with a good third at Newmarket on his latest start in a competitive handicap. As a result he’s up a pound in the handicap, but he’s still lightly raced for top connections and is more than capable of having his say off this sort of mark. Tom Queally takes the ride and like so many in the race, he holds solid each way claims.
8 KNIGHT’S TABLE – Non Runner
9 RED GALILEO – Ran with credit on two occasions out in Meydan this winter but needs to take another step forward if he’s to be taking this for Saeed bin Suroor. He was third on his last handicap start and is now one pound lower, but that was a weaker race than this and this trip may not be far enough for him at this stage of his career. Likely to miss out on the placings on this occasion.
10 APPEARED – Roger Varian’s charge improved for being gelded over the winter, winning a course and distance contest here last month, although he still looked quirky when hitting the front.. Varian had this as the target immediately in the aftermath of that win, stating: “he likes fast ground…probably needs a bit of space between his races. I would like to bring him back here for the Duke Of Edinburgh.” With conditions in his favour and the look of a Group horse in the making, he ticks a lot of boxes for this race and looks a big danger.
11 MISTIROC – Made all in Shergar Cup race back in August and he is performing at his best at present, last seen when third at Chester in a handicap. He remains on the same mark and has wins at course, distance and on this going. He is very often a ‘nearly’ horse, with only five wins from twenty-nine starts and others look better handicapped.
12 EDDYSTONE ROCK – Made his first start at this trip on his latest run when second to Soldier In Action at Epsom, proving no match for that rival He meets that rival on four pound better terms this time but that rival has more room for improvement and this five year old doesn’t seem to be improving at this stage of his career. Others are certainly higher up the list.
13 LUSTROUS LIGHT – In poor form this season for Ralph Beckett, well beaten on his latest start at York when behind Master Carpenter and the handicapper has only dropped him two pounds. He has plenty to prove on that evidence and although the better ground should suit, he’s a risky horse to back on this occasion.
14 PETITE JACK – Progressive on the polytrack for previous trainer Neil King but he has a lot to prove back on the turf, where he was been well beaten on his two attempts so far. This is his first run for Archie Watson and he needs to bounce back from a poor run at Lingfield in April. The major worry is his turf form, and plenty to prove.
15 SHABEEB – Lightly raced four year old who returned in May at York when well beaten in a large field handicap off two pounds higher. The return to faster ground and addition of first time cheek pieces could both help, but he remains risky at present and others make more appeal on this occasion.
16 SIXTIES GROOVE – A far from straightforward sort who ran well on his only attempt at this trip back in October, despite meeting trouble in running. His seasonal reappearance over a mile saw him outpaced by proper milers, and the return to a mile and a half will be beneficial. He has proven he is best on quicker ground and can resume the rapid progression he was showing last season now he has a run under his belt.
17 MAINSTREAM – Gelded over the winter but proved rather keen on his return this season when behind Frontiersman at Newmarket. That Godolphin horse would go on to finish runner up in the Coronation Cup at Epsom on Oaks day to frank the form. A two pound raise looks more than fair but he has shown tendancies to take a keen hold and start slowly, both of which will be a worry in a field as competitive as this. The odds available look poor value despite strong connections.
18 OASIS FANTASY – Struggled off marks in the low 100s towards the end of last season following two impressive efforts over this trip, but he is now back down to a mark of 97. He had an unsuccessful trip to Meydan for new trainer David Simcock at the start of the year but showed promise last time out at York. However, it’s outputting that he has regularly struggled to get his head in front in competitive races.
19 RARE RHYTHM – Looks to be Godolphin’s first string but this five year old is returning from more than a year off the track. His last appearance came in this race twelve months ago, when he was well backed off a 9 month break before being hampered at a crucial point. Clearly far from straight forward but has shown glimpses of being a class horse on slower ground. Unattractive for this race with so many questions to answer.
20 MANJAAM – Extremely progressive last season, winning four races, he improved nearly 30 pounds in the handicap. One of just four course and distance winners in the field, that victory came off a seven pound lower mark and he struggled last time out at Goodwood. The handicapper appears to have finally caught up with him and he’ll struggle in a race of this quality.