Steve Hughes looks ahead to the big finale of the 2019 flat season at Ascot
Very testing ground on the straight track at Ascot, so soft ground specialists are likely to be to the fore. I have selections for all three races raced solely on the straight course. I also have a suggestion for one of Ffos Las’ feature jumps contests of the year, the Welsh Champion Hurdle.
Ascot 1.35: Cape Byron
A huge field for this Group 1 sprint and Cape Byron can land a first win at the highest level at his favourite track.
He now has four wins at Ascot, including all three visits in 2019. Having initially been trained at trips of a mile and even beyond, he has since proven more than quick enough at this distance of 6f. That was certainly the case when he won a Group 3 here two weeks ago, travelling strongly throughout.
That race came on soft going and was his second win here under testing conditions. Given he has winning form of up to a mile, the fact the going will be so gruelling today means his stamina will come further into play which can only be a positive.
Ascot 3.20: King of Change
Coming into this race somewhat under the radar, King of Change has yet to show what he can do on ground softer than good. However his breeding strongly suggests he will improve for it and I think he offers value in the QEII.
Beaten in two starts at the back end of last year, he made all to win an ordinary novice at Nottingham in the spring. However he had clearly been showing plenty at home because trainer Richard Hannon had no hesitation in aiming for the 2000 Guineas. He was proved justified in doing so when the colt beat all bar Magna Grecia.
Given a break after that with an autumn campaign in mind, he returned to win a listed prize at Sandown last month, showing plenty of resolution in doing so. I also noted though he looked somewhat ill at ease on drying ground and I think he will appreciate the slower surface here. Certainly as a son of Farhh he is bred to enjoy soft going.
Ffos Las 4.15: Monsieur Lecoq
a real mudlark, Monsieur Lecoq also has plenty of pace and against plenty of rivals he might prefer a longer trip, I think he can make a winning reappearance.
He races keenly, which is a slight worry especially as he comes into this fresh from a seven month summer break. However Nick Williams horses have started the new campaign well and his keen going nature did not hold him back last season.
He was a convincing 9l winner of a good handicap at Sandown and then almost defied a 13lb rise when second at the same track in the fiercely competitive Imperial Cup. He bounced when down the field the following week at Cheltenham, but is easily excused that below par effort. With the going typically slow at Ffos Las, Monsieur Lecoq has his favoured conditions and provided Chester Williams can settle him early he looks the one to beat.
Ascot 4.40: Kick On & Escobar
A typical wide open handicap but with only 11lbs between top and bottom weights. Two horses drawn on opposite sides of the track are preferred.
Kick On is a group winner taking on handicappers. A very enthusiastic front-runner, he bounced back to form when taking the Group 3 Sovereign Stakes at Salisbury last time. That race on good-to-soft suggested a liking for a slower surface and also indicates a preference for racing best fresh – he was an impressive winner at Newmarket first time out this season. Another two months off since that last run could prove a bonus.
Escobar is a standing dish these days in this sort of race. Indeed he was a fast finishing third here two weeks ago over 7f behind Kynren. I think the extra furlong is what he needs these days. He certainly ran a cracker in this last year when second to Sharja Bridge. Whilst most of his career he has raced on fast going, those two runs confirms he handles cut just as well. There looks to be enough pace early here to bring his strong finish into play.
0.75pts each-way – Cape Byron – 1.35 Ascot – 10/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 4)
0.75pts each-way – King of Change – 3.20 Ascot – 12/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 4)
1pt win – Monsieur Lecoq – 4.15 Ffos Las – 100/30 Bet 365
0.75pts each-way – Kick On – 4.40 Ascot – 12/1 Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 6)
0.75pts each-way – Escobar – 4.40 Ascot – 18/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 5)