It was a privilege to be at Royal Ascot on Thursday and to witness first-hand history being made as Her Majesty the Queen's Estimate landed the big race of the meeting the Gold Cup. This came hot on the heels after Lady Cecil had saddled Riposte to land the Ribblesdale and it was just one of those very special days that sport can throw up now and again.
The final Day of Royal Ascot 2013 is the weekend highlight starting with the opening Chesham Stakes for juveniles over seven furlongs; Richard Hughes has long considered Bunker his banker of the meeting despite the fact that the champion jockey was not aboard the colt when he made a winning debut at Haydock. He must go close and I can pass on a good word for Street Force and jockey-of-the-moment James Doyle, but the selection must be the maiden Friendship (2.30) who met trouble in-running when finishing third on debut at Listowel.
Ryan Moore has ridden the winner of the Hardwicke Stakes for the last three years and his mount Sir John Hawkwood steps up in class having won two decent handicaps so far this term; Ektihaam must go close but I favour Mount Athos (3.05) who seemed to improve last year for Luca Cumani and made a cracking return when running away with a Group 3 at Chester last month. Kieren Fallon keeps the mount which seems a rarity this week as the former champion has lost a number of high-profile rides and he will be keen to get a winner on the board.
The feature event on the card is the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and we could do with a drop of rain between now and post time given there were a number of significant non- runners because of the fast ground which led to a track record in the opening Norfolk Stakes on Thursday.
It doesn't look a vintage renewal but Society Rock (3.45), who is also ridden by Fallon, won the corresponding race on soft ground two years ago and showed he doesn't need plenty of cut in the ground to be seen at his best when winning Haydock's Group 1 sprint back in September. He showed he was as good as ever when scoring at York on his reappearance and he must go close to regaining his Ascot crown.
The big betting race of the day is the Wokingham Handicap and the short-list is particularly long with Nocturn, Royal Rock, Palace Moon and the selection Rex Imperator (4.25) who has always promised to win a big one and can finally fulfil his potential. Now trained by William Haggas, who saddled the winner of the corresponding race back in 2009, the selection ran a cracker at Doncaster last time and as long as he has the necessary luck you need for these big handicaps he must run well and is currently 10/1 and each way ¼ odds 5 places at BetVictor.
Sir Michael Stoute had his first Group 1 winner since 2010 with Her Majesty's Estimate earlier in the week and he saddles both Rye House and Opinion in the Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap but I just favour Highland Castle (5.00) who returned to form at Newmarket last time and is only 5lbs higher this afternoon for David Elsworth. The selection has a very good draw in stall three but the hope is that jockey Liam Keniry doesn't' hold him up right out of the back of the field as it is very difficult to come from a long way back on the round course in the short home straight.
I hope French raider Shahwardi (5.35) can go one better than last year when he finished runner up in the closing Queen Alexandra Stakes to Simenon who franked the form in no uncertain terms when finishing runner up in the Gold Cup on Thursday. No Heretic is not guaranteed to stay but is a personal favourite and is one of a number of dangers in a tricky looking finale.
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