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Royal Hunt Cup (Heritage Handicap) (Class 2)
- Royal Ascot
One of the most competitive races of the week as always, a maximum field of 30 runners will be stretched across the straight mile for the first prize of almost £110,000. Read on for our Royal Hunt Cup tips and betting preview.
IN SUMMARY: As always a wide open contest, with the likes of Banksea, Fastnet Tempest and Abe Lincoln all likely to be popular with punters. It can be tough to support a horse at shorter prices in such a competitive contest so at bigger odds, BOSSY GUEST gets the vote. Sixth in this race last year when the ground would have been plenty soft enough for him, he was third in the Jersey Stakes the year before. A big field and strong pace suit him well and he can be played late by Silvestre De Sousa.
1 TABARRAK – Winner of the Lister Paradise Stakes over this course and distance last time, he is yet to finish out of the first two in seven career starts. Good to firm ground suits well but a mark of 111 in a handicap is going to take some defying and will probably be better served back in pattern company.
2 BATTLE OF MARATHON – A regular in these cavalry charges, he was fifth in this contest last year from a three pound higher mark. The drying ground has gone against him now so he is difficult to support with any confidence.
3 TASHWEEQ – Runs in his first handicap, having been outclassed in Group races the last thrice. He showed very little at Sandown on his return from a long absence and it’s hard to think that he is capable of playing more than a minor role.
4 MASTER THE WORLD – Infrequent winner is still ten pounds higher than his most recent winning mark, at Newmarket in June 2015. Was third in the Balmoral Handicap from a pound lower mark over this course and distance in 2015 so is not a forlorn hope, with his stamina for ten furlongs likely to be beneficial late on.
5 REMARKABLE – Shaped better than the bare result in the Victoria Cup behind Fastnet Tempest but was then very disappointing behind G K Chesterton at Epsom. Has the ability to make the frame from this sort of mark if all drops right for him but would need a little more to get his head in front.
6 GM HOPKINS – Won this race in 2015 on good to firm ground from a two pound lower mark. He scored again over this course and distance when landing the Paradise Stakes last year but showed little afterwards. Gave himself little chance on his 20171 return when rearing at the start but under perfect conditions, a big run in this race once again would be no surprise.
7 YUFTEN – Picked up the Balmoral Handicap from a four pound lower mark on Champions Day 2016 over this course and distance. This race is likely to have been plan A ever since but he didn’t show an awful lot on his return in the Lincoln. Quick ground is ideal and if his most recent effort can be excused, there is no reason not to think he will be in the firing line again now.
8 BANKSEA – Half a length in front of Fastnet Tempest in the Spring Mile at Newbury and now seven pounds better off at the weights. That was a career best effort but easily explained by Sara Cumani, “Banksea just used to get himself in a tiz and it’s amazing what the gelding operation has done.” Beaten less than a length into second on four occasions last season, he was starting to look untrustworthy but Newbury was turning over a new leaf. He is still relatively unexposed and if the gelding operation has truly sorted out his quirks, he could be a Group horse in the making.
9 BRAVERY – Winner of the Lincoln this season, he has struggled to back that effort up in a couple of runs since. Consistency was never his strong point when he was trained at Ballydoyle so he could bounce back given a strong pace and large field.
10 HORS DE COMABAT – The quicker the ground the better for Denis Coakley’s gelding, a regular at this track without getting his head in front. He was never going quick enough in the Victoria Cup over seven furlongs here, but was beaten less than four lengths at the line. He is an unlikely winner but those betting with firms offering extra places could be rewarded.
11 BOSSY GUEST – A bit of an enigma, but a horse who has produced some of his career best efforts at this track. Third in a Jersey Stakes and sixth in this race last year from a pound higher mark, when the ground will have been plenty soft enough for him. Gets on well with Silvestre De Sousa and it would be no surprise to see him charging home late into the frame, looks to have a very solid each way shout at a tasty price.
12 ANOTHER TOUCH – Ran a huge race in the Spring Cup, going down by just half a length to Banksea. He won a quality handicap at Nottingham last time but the six pound rise is going to take a bit of defying, despite having plenty in his favour, with quick ground, a big field and strong pace all perfect for him to be seen at his best.
13 BALLET CONCERTO – Sir Michael Stoute’s runners are always worth a second look given the way they progress as they get older. He looked a Group horse in the making when landing the Spring Mile at Doncaster on the opening day of the turf season, but was well seen off in a pair of starts since, including when finding trouble at an inopportune moment in the Diomed. Those were both on much more undulating tracks than Doncaster and it might be that a flatter mile would benefit his cause but, he would appreciate more cut.
14 BIG BAZ – Winless since November 2015, he has slid down the weights this season, finishing midfield in similar races at Newbury and Nottingham. He would be a threat if back to his peak, but is best watched until such time as he shows signs of halting his decline.
15 EARLY MORNING – Eighth in this race last year, he returned to the track in August to land a mile handicap at the Shergar Cup meeting. He is four pounds higher than that now but he has run well on all three starts at Ascot so an each way chance is certainly there for him.
16 CASTLE HARBOUR – Made a promising start to his career, winning on his first two starts, but it has generally been downhill since. He sports first time blinkers here but first time cheekpieces made little difference at Goodwood last time with this trip appearing to stretch him in the past.
17 BOOMSHACKERLACKER – Pops up in a big field handicap once a season, as he did over seven furlongs at Newbury last July. He was well beaten in this contest last year and on his 2017 return so looks to need a little more respite from the assessor.
18 ELLEVAL – Just 1/42 on turf tells a story, but he has spent the majority of his career swimming in deep waters. He was placed off this mark at Meydan in February over nine furlongs and might just find a few gone beyond recall over this shorter trip.
19 BELGIAN BILL – Winner of this race in 2014, this will be his fourth run in the Royal Hunt Cup. He is three pounds higher than he was when successful which doesn’t make the task this nine year old faces easy. He ran well finishing third twice and fourth once from this mark in Meydan over the winter so despite the advancing years, he could sneak the frame.
20 ZHUI FENG – Put up a bold sight in both the Lincoln and Victoria Cup this season, heading the field before succumbing late. He won’t find it easy to get to the front in this field and the percentage call is to oppose with his mark in triple figures.
21 FASTNET TEMPEST – Winner of the Victoria Cup over seven furlongs on this straight track in May. He showed a smart turn of foot on that occasion, a huge key to getting him out of trouble at Chester last time. Drawn 1 and missing the break, he had a lot to do in the short home straight, but once a gap opened he shot through to win snugly. Both of those wins have come over seven furlongs but he won twice over a mile last year so this trip is no concern.
22 VON BLUCHER – Progressive for John Gosden last year in decent handicaps, particularly effective when the ground is quick. He has now joined Rebecca Menzies, a much under-rated trainer of jumpers but he will need a clear career best to score here.
23 ABE LINCOLN – Runner up in the Britannia Handicap at this meeting last year from a seven pound lower mark, he has not been seen on the track since. This is only his sixth career race but despite the inexperience, if he can repeat the run from last year he is likely to be right in the mix, could well be a Group class performer in the making.
24 EL VIP – Lightly raced, he made a mockery of a mark of 94 in a Class 3 Newcastle handicap last time. He began the season when third to Oh This Is Us at Bath, travelling like the best horse in the contest, he just flattened out a little close home. The big field and likely strong pace are going to play to his strengths so it would be no surprise if he were to make an impression on this race at the business end.
25 G K CHESTERTON – Gelded over the winter, he went in many notebooks when scoring in impressive fashion at Redcar as a juvenile but a three year old campaign left plenty to be desired. He debuted in 2017 when runner up to George William at Nottingham, form that ties in nicely with those at the top of the market. Wins at Newmarket and Epsom, showing a nice turn of foot on both occasions have impressed although he was gifted a soft lead in each and it will be considerably more difficult to boss this much bigger field in similar fashion.
26 GEORGE WILLIAM – Has progressed well from an opening gambit of 76 at the start of the 2016 season to his current perch on 98. He was briefly short of room when behind Fastnet Tempest in the Victoria Cup, so that effort can be upgraded a little, with the step back up to a mile looking beneficial to his chances. That was after a win at Nottingham and a fine effort at Newbury, form lines that tie in with a number of others at the head of the market.
27 WITHERNSEA – Had dropped back to a winnable mark when scoring at Newbury last time on soft. His four career wins have all come with plenty of cut in the ground so he is easily opposed under these conditions.
28 MY TARGET – Had an excellent Winter on the all weather, rattling off four handicap wins in a row over a mile at Lingfield. He failed to get anywhere close to that level of form from an eight pound lower turf mark last time in the Victoria Cup and can only be watched.
29 COTE D’AZUR – Rapid improver, has climbed the weights by forty one pounds since going handicapping for the first time. Good to firm ground is perfect for him but chances are, this is going to be beyond him at this level.
30 BLAIR HOUSE – Lightly raced, he finished up last season with a runner up effort over ten furlongs at Newbury. Gelded over the winter, chances are that there will be better to come from his this season but this is not an easy place to make a season debut.