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1.15 Golden Gates Handicap (1m2f)
A handicap for three-year-olds to kick things off on day three and some growing reputations set to be tested.
John Gosden typically does well in this type of race at the meeting and he's represented here by Hypothetical with Frankie Dettori on board. It was of course on this day last year that 'Mr Royal Ascot' gave the bookies a heck of a scare as he threatened to repeat his 'through the card' heroics.
One that appeals more, however, is TRITONIC at 12/1 for trainer Alan King. He was progressive last summer, winning at Ffos Las and Newbury over a mile before coming up short in the Group 3 Zetland Stakes at Newbury on his final start.
The soft ground there, as opposed to the mile and a quarter trip, was likely a key in his below-par showing.
He has changed owners since and will race here for the first time in the familiar silks of the McNeill Family. Oisin Murphy is booked for the steer and a mark of 95 is something he's fancied to negotiate successfully before too long.
Global Storm confirmed he's still on the upgrade when taking a Newmarket handicap 11 days ago and while he's got a penalty to shoulder for that win, the Godolphin contender should give a solid account with William Buick taking over.
Second pick in this tricky opener, however, goes to the Richard Hughes-trained MAORI KNIGHT. The son of Camelot couldn't have done any more on his return at Haydock, losing out in a heads-up/heads-down finish against a clearly progressing rival. Beaten on the nod, he looks very well treated now off the same mark of 83 and should be there or thereabouts.
1.50 Wolferton Stakes (1m2f)
Four-year-olds have traditionally enjoyed a rare old time of it in the Wolferton and that hasn't really changed since the race moved from a Listed handicap to a Listed contest in 2018.
Addeybb was the latest of that generation to score last year and it might prove best to stick with them again now.
Last year's Chester Vase winner Sir Dragonet has been something of a let down since his close-up fifth in The Derby at Epsom last June. He could only manage second as odds-on favourite on his return at Naas and is drawn higher than ideal give the turn to be negotiated early on.
John Gosden has two fine chances in the shape of DUBAI WARRIOR and Crossed Baton, with preference for Rab Havlin's mount from them. He continues to progress on the all-weather, last sighted winning the Group 3 Winter Derby at Lingfield over this trip in February with something to spare.
He is penalised for that but, with just one turf run previously, strikes as one that could improve again back on grass. He's drawn low and should be ready to race handily for a stable in scintillating form and seeking to win this race for the fifth time in nine years in both guises (handicap/non-handicap).
Perhaps the standout on form is Andrew Balding's FOX TAL. At four, he's only had six career starts, winning at Doncaster in a conditions race last September after 319 days off before running a fine fourth behind Magical in the Champion Stakes (soft) over C&D.
He has likely got more to come and clearly handles this place well while he's also got the all-important low draw from which to get his racing position.
Selection: Dubai Warrior @ 17/2
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2.25 Jersey Stakes (7f)
The Gosden/Dettori axis will certainly prove popular with King Leonidas in the Jersey. The son of Kingman is 2-2 so far, both wins at Newmarket, and looks to have plenty of talent at his feet.
He's taking a first step into deeper water now and having been installed as 10/3fav, he looks short enough for what he has achieved.
Godolphin filly FINAL SONG is a viable alternative at the prices. A course winner over 5f last summer, she enjoyed a good spring campaign in Dubai and returned to these shores with a pleasing fourth in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket behind runaway winner Love.
The way in which she finished suggests this drop in distance is going to be a help and she is likely to give the boys something to think about.
Connections of MOLATHAM won't want to see any rain coming, but good-to-soft ground should be fine. He progressed quickly to win a Listed Doncaster race at the Leger Festival in September and his final run in a Newmarket Group is forgiven as he may have 1m/heavy ground in tandem against him.
Jim Crowley showed himself to be in excellent form on day one and the leading rider should have solid credentials here with the in-form yard of Roger Varian.
3.00 Chesham Stakes (7f)
Nine runners for the Chesham and four once-raced winners in the form of Bright Devil, First Prophet, Modern News and Concessions.
Pinatubo won this last year en route to being champion two-year-old and his trainer Charlie Appleby will have leading hopes that Newmarket maiden winner Modern News can go well now.
Of the quartet that have won, the one that was most taking is Andrew Balding's BRIGHT DEVIL. He was a 25-1 outsider at Newmarket in a 6f maiden but never really looked like doing anything but win having bounced out and made the running. He held off the right market rivals in Godolphin and Cheveley Park newcomers and looks sure to make further progress up in distance.
GOLDEN FLAME didn't win on debut at Haydock but he will have learned plenty having made the running and engaged generously in battle with Devious Company. Being from the Mark Johnston yard, a step forward is very likely and he'll have good claims if exhibiting the tenaciousness we so commonly associate with the Middleham handler.
Next Best: Golden Flame @ 11/2
3.35 Gold Cup (2m4f)
The hat-trick seeking STRADIVARIUS is tough to oppose despite being very short in the betting.
The standout stayer of his generation, John Gosden's winning machine finally saw his sequence of success snapped here on Champions Day by Kew Gardens.
He returned to action at Newmarket in the re-routed Coronation Cup this month and ran a perfect prep race behind Ghaiyyath over a trip that wouldn't have tested his stamina. He is the reigning champ and he is 5-5 when racing beyond two-miles and it will be a major shock should Frankie Dettori's mount not break the will of his rivals in the closing stages.
The one to chase him home might be last year's St Leger third NAYEF ROAD for Mark Johnston. He has got some course form having finished third in the Queen's Vase at this meeting a year ago. He also looked to be still going forward when winning the Sagaro Stakes over two-miles on the Tapeta at Newcastle on his recent return to action and might just be one that relishes this battle.
Selection: Stradivarius @ 8/13
4.00 Britannia Stakes (1m)
William Haggas and James Doyle team up here with recent Newbury winner JOHAN, who was gaining his third success in five career starts when scoring in good fashion this month on his return to action.
He was brought through steadily in that race by Doyle and showed a strong will to get the better of Breathalyze in a joust going to the winning line. Even allowing for the additional 5lb he has to carry for his success there, he looks to remain well-in off this mark of 93.
He's just as effective on good to soft ground but, in all probability, he'll have a sound surface to work with here and looks a massive player.
Market leader Finest Sound commands respect given the manner of his win at Haydock but one that might be worth playing at a big price is the unbeaten DANCE FEVER for trainer Clive Cox.
He had plenty in hand when winning a nursery at Kempton on his handicap bow back in November and the form of that race gives heart to his claims here. A mark of 91 is manageable and this extra distance looks likely to unlock further improvement this season.
4.40 Sandringham Stakes (1m)
This race revolves around AFRICAN DREAM after John Gosden's filly put up a strong effort at Newbury last week in novice company. She was attempting to give away 7lb to a smart, Group 2-placed rival in Stylistique and almost did so successfully.
The winner was runner-up in the Rockfel at Newmarket last autumn and a literal interpretation of that Newbury run suggests that the Gosden filly has been let in very lightly from an opening mark of 80 (due to go up 16lb in future). She then holds the ace-hand and with her trainer having brought up a half-century of Royal Ascot winner on Tuesday when Frankly Darling mopped up the Ribblesdale, it's hard to go against her.
One to throw in against the favourite is Oisin Murphy's mount ALABAMA WHITMAN, who finished a fine fourth in the Albany here 12 months ago before scoring at Carlisle. Her final two outings were in a French Group 3 and the aforementioned Rockfel Stakes; where she was outclassed.
That said, back into a handicap from a mark of 93 and with Oisin Murphy enlisted; further progress is very likely this season. Form on the track counts for plenty and there's plenty of juice in the price.
Selection: African Dream @ 2/1