Ascot 5.00 Royal Hunt Cup
ASCOT 5.00 ROYAL HUNT CUP
18 CAPE BYRON @ 16/1 - 1 point each way
1 ZHUI FENG @ 20/1 - 1 point each way
8 TRICORN @ 20/1 - 1 point each way
24 MEDAHIM @ 18/1 - 1/2 point each way
12 GABRIEL @ 25/1 - 1/2 point each way
SkyBet - odds to 7th place + WH + LADS + CORAL + PP to 6th place
In attacking this race there is one question I cannot answer and that is the "draw factor". The race was won last year by ZHUI FENG (tipped by Ian for Elite Service) the Going was Good to Firm and it ran prominently up against the high draw stands rail. The historic data supports middle to high as the place to be in such conditions. However, Ascot is infamous/notorious for inexplicable Draw swings. It is possible to explain "pace" as the reason, it may simply be, there is no bias. I recall betting on ZHUI FENG last year on Ian's recommendation and also a few days later on OUT DO; that was drawn LOW against the far rail and it seemed a strange logic at the time, BUT it led all the way and won! What this means draw wise for today, we will only know after the race. Low did seem to be the place to be in the most part yesterday but in the Opener LORD GLITTERS made good late progress under the stands rail for us and later on Gosden had a notable 2 year old winner blazing a sole trail up high.
I have looked at every runner in the race, I can't mention every one in terms of "why or why not" better to focus on my simple methodology. I have looked at horses being drawn high or low as having slight advantage over those drawn in the middle; that is purely on historic data and visually over past few meetings here of drying Good to Firm ground. I have looked at pace angles in these conditions and a prominent running style does look the most suitable. I have looked at horses who are able to run to full speed on Good to Firm Going with a bit of "jar" in it. Some horses don't like this type of Going and that discounts a few notable ones. I have looked very closely at Course form and ability to win at 1 mile, with tactical 7 furlong speed and a bit of "top end" stamina; and I have also looked at the "speed rating" it is after all a full on 1 mile straight gallop.
In order of my own ratings my selections are as above.
CAPE BYRON ticks every box for me, drawn in stall 25, a Course and Distance winner; happy on Good to Firm Going and in the top 10 rated on speed figures. He has only had 6 races so can improve, he has had wind surgery and they go with cheek-pieces just to focus him, Good Trainer and in Atzeni one of the best "pace judges" there is. I like him a lot.
ZHUI FENG well obviously he ticks every box, he won this last year in almost identical conditions, the notable difference is his low draw. He should though get the run of the rail over there and if he does and it is the place to be, I can't see anything drawn lower than 10, with the possible exception of Flaming Spear to trouble him, Keyser Soze could be a danger as could Raising Sand but not sure of either of those with rattling ground and the value has gone on both; so he may get company for a long way from Love Dreams and a mark of 108, primed for a follow up is not beyond him.
TRICORN is one who matches all the requirements in terms of Going; Course; Distance and Speed and they also go for some headgear and the yard could not be in better form. James McDonald is an interesting booking, showed a lot of promise in The Britannia here last year and one that could really light up the show.
MEDAHIM is actually top of the speed ratings just ahead of Zhui Feng; will love the Going and although lacking the Course form of some, is a different type, a hold up horse, he could pounce if the horses on that side go off a shade too fast and the yard is another in excellent form.
I was a bit torn between 2 for my final pick and initially liked The Tregonning Trained Mukalal; I can see that one right in the vanguard from stall 32, but it comes here without a prep race and just a doubt about the trip, IF it were to win, I would have to "take it on the chin" that I crossed it off right at the last minute; if you want a reserve in case of non runner, this is it. However, I cannot ignore GABRIEL, OK it has not won since 2016 but look at the races it has run well in. It is actually well handicapped, Dettori gets the ride, that's a story in itself, you can never leave Fahey out of the equation here and in this type of race and it is very solid in terms of all of the other markers. It simply I think needs luck in running in one of these big races and if there is any jockey to capitalise if the door opens it is Frankie.
My concerns, well there are another 24-25 of them, and I have pitched mostly "high draw" with the exception of Zhui Feng, but you have to take that chance here and I'd rather do that than pick what I rate as inferior horses drawn lower; especially when I am so unsure that low is actually the place to be....may the best horse win.