The final race on Ascot’s Champions Day card is the Balmoral Handicap. First run in 2014, it’s a Class 2 handicap run over the straight mile, holding a first prize fund of £62,250.
The last three winners have all made their mark in group company which shows the class of this contest. A full field of twenty go to post in what is always a hugely competitive race.
Balmoral Handicap Runners
Despite their modest record in the race, two of the top three in the market are aged three.
The son of Kingman heads the market for Brian Meehan and Jim Crowley. Crowley had a huge Royal Ascot and will surely be looking forward to this colt who bolted up over seven furlongs here last time. That was a Class 3 event so he’s up in grade as well as six pounds higher but he’s still unexposed and open to better.
The other three-year-old towards the head of the betting is an Irish raider. Winner of a Listed race at Cork last time, he represents Aidan O’Brien’s powerful team. Connections will be hoping for some dry weather coming in with the pick of his runs coming on good ground.
The one to split that pair in the market is in the care of Roger Charlton. Charlton won the race in 2016 with Yuften so he has prior form. He’s had a light campaign, following up a course and distance win with a solid run in the Cambridgeshire three weeks ago. He won on heavy at Haydock last season so he shouldn’t have any ground concerns.
Jessie Harrington sends over one of her stable stars who doesn’t know how to run a bad race. Rated just 61 at the start of the 2019 season, he is now forty-one pounds higher but still right in the mix in all the big handicaps he runs in. He enjoys deep ground and a big field on a stiff track are his ideal conditions.
Rising Sand (14/1)
Jamie Osborne’s charge loves Ascot. The winner of four of his fifteen races here, the ground has come for him on the soft side. He’s arguably a shade better over seven furlongs rather than this straight mile but he is more than capable of making his presence felt at this level.
The best of the rest are headed by the David O’Meara pair, Hortzadar and Orbaan. the Yorkshire handler has an exceptional record in this contest so both will have been primed to perfection. Blue Mist isn’t the easiest horse to catch right but he has to be considered from an each way perspective and Graignes should not be underestimated. Fifth in the Prix de la Foret this time last year, that Group 1 form would make this mark of 104 workable if he rediscovered that level.
Balmoral Handicap Tip
The record of David O’Meara in this race with two winners, a second and a third in the last four years brings us down on Hortzadar. The booking of Jamie Spencer looks significant given his record on the straight course at Ascot, no-one rides this place better. In good form before a slightly below par run at York but his form there now reads 679 so it’s easy enough to think that isn’t his track. A strong pace and soft ground suit him well so he holds strong each way claims at a big price.
Balmoral Handicap Stats and Trends
Given that it’s a race that has seen only six renewals, there are not too many stats and trends to get stuck into but there are still some interesting nuggets of information..
- 5 of the 6 winners have been drawn 10 or lower, including stalls 1, 3 and 4.
- David O’Meara has already won the race twice in the six runnings as well as having the 2nd in 2018 and the third in 2016.
- A three-year-old has been favourite in four of the six renewals but all have been beaten. The age group have a combined record of 0/20 so far in the Balmoral Handicap. Four or five has been the age of all six winners.
- All six winners ran at either Ascot or Newmarket in their most recent contest.
- All six winners ran between 14 and 21 days prior to this race
- A handicap mark of 101-105 looks the sweet spot, 5 of the 6 winners in this range
The one who looks to be the best trends fit for the Balmoral Handicap is Bell Rock who gets the addition of first-time cheekpieces for the Andrew Balding yard. A four-year-old with an official mark of 103, he will emerge from stall 9 having run his last race 21 days ago at Newmarket.
Balmoral Handicap Draw Bias
Still early days in terms of this contest but low has been the place to find the winners with 3 of the 6 so far coming from stalls 1-4. That doesn’t tell the entire story though as the places have been filled by horses across the track so the potential pace bias and ground are more likely to be important.
At Royal Ascot the winners came from high until the ground dried out and the low runners started to get more of a look in as the week progreessed. At the time of writing the ground is soft heavy in places but the forecast is generally dry from now on at a track that drains well.