Steve Hughes looks ahead to the best of Saturday’s racing
There is some tremendous action to look forward to this afternoon, predominantly at Ascot where the King George is always one of the highlights of the summer (albeit this year’s renewal looks potentially substandard). However my best bet comes at York where the ground is very much different to what we have become used to of late. Vosne Romanee was a winner in the previous column on Sunday (advised 11/8).
Ascot 2.25: George of Hearts & Ulshaw Bridge
Two to follow in this hot looking handicap.
George of Hearts has looked a class act on fast ground this summer and one well suited to a big field and a strong pace. I fancied him for the Britannia at the Royal meeting but that race was a strange one where early pace lasted for once on the straight track and he had too much ground to make up. He is better judged on his second place to the classy Society Power in May over 7f where he flew home in the style of a horse who should be better suited to this mile.
Ulshaw Bridge has been doing perfectly well in the predominant small fields this summer, but I have long thought him ideal for this type of contest. He was fourth in the Silver Bowl at Haydock, but this straighter and stiffer track will be far more in his favour. Since that outing he has finished a close second back at the Merseyside track before winning at Doncaster – a track with far more in common with Ascot. Cover and a strong pace should see him in an even better light today.
York 2.40: Flying Pursuit
The winner of this contest twelve months ago, Flying Pursuit can leave his 2018 form way behind thanks to the relenting of the handicapper, but predominantly the rainstorms that hit the track late yesterday.
He was a comfortable 2l winner of this race on good-to-soft last season off 90 and then went on to record another class 2 success at Ripon on really testing ground in September off 96. His fine autumn continued with placed efforts here and at Doncaster as his rating spiralled into three figures.
This season, apart from his debut outing when in need of the run, has seen him have to contend with fast ground that he can’t really cope with. As such his mark has tumbled to 94, so with the going back in his favour he looks very well in today. He has shown early pace in his races suggesting the ability is still there and he was made favourite for a race at Ripon recently which also indicates he is working well at home. Jockey bookings might suggest he is not Tim Easterby’s first string – but those bookings were made when the ground was quick and it is not fast ground now.
Ascot 3.00: Burnt Sugar & Sabador
The Bunbury Cup from two weeks ago – run over similar ground and over this 7f trip is the significant form line for this contest and the winner that day Burnt Sugar is one of my two against the field.
In-form trainer Roger Fell has moulded this 6yo into a 7f big field handicap specialist and he produced his customary storming late finish to win at Newmarket last time. The conditions and timing of this race have worked out perfectly as he only has 1lb more to carry today and is officially 3lb well in. He won a similar contest on Irish Champions weekend at Leopardstown last year and there is no reason why his style of racing won’t suit Ascot just as well.
However I think Sabador is well worth another go. On the face of it he was well beaten at Chester last time. However the steady early pace and being held somewhat wide throughout greatly reduced his chances. The pace and the straight track will be far more to his liking today. I marked him down as a horse to follow when he finished strongly in the 2017 Britannia here having endured a troubled passage and he was a good fourth in the Victoria Cup over course and distance on his comeback run this season, despite having raced too freely. Some more cover today can work the oracle.
Ascot 3.40: Crystal Ocean
This looks best left to the Michael Stoute pair given Cracksman looks unlikely to run, and if he does go has not looked the same horse on fast ground anyway. Of Stoute’s two Crystal Ocean is preferred.
A typical improver from the yard, he was a workmanlike winner of the Hardwicke at the Royal meeting but had previously won well at Sandown and Newbury. Only narrowly touched off in the St Leger last season, stamina is a strong point over this trip, whereas Poets Word has yet to prove quite as effective over 12f as 10f.
I expect this race to be run at a true tempo with Rostropovich having run so well from the front in the Irish Derby, but Crystal Ocean has the tactical pace to track that gallop and the finishing speed to burn off his rivals in the straight.
1pt win – George of Hearts – 2.25 Ascot – 9/2 general
0.75pts each-way – Ulshaw Bridge – 2.25 Ascot – 18/1 general (1/5 odds first 4)
1pt each-way – Flying Pursuit – 2.40 York – 9/1 general
0.75pts each-way – Burnt Sugar – 3.00 Ascot – 18/1 Bet365 (¼ odds first 5)
0.75pts each-way – Sabador – 3.00 Ascot – 20/1 Skybet (1/5 odds first 6)
1.5pts win – Crystal Ocean – 3.40 Ascot – 5/2 general