A busy day of horse racing action with the Shergar Cup, the annual ‘team’ event at Ascot taking centre stage. It is joined by a Betfred backed card at Haydock with the Group 3 Betfred Rose of Lancaster Stakes - a cracking contest - plus action from Newmarket and one of the best juvenile races for years over at The Curragh.
The Shergar Cup is the marmite of horse racing as the team element doesn’t enthuse some, but there are winners to be had and team tactics never come into play.
Horses still run on their merits and if there is a standout bet on the card, it has to be unlucky Goodwood loser SUPER SUPERJACK (pictured above). Owned by a big Aston Villa fan, he was bought and named before Jack Grealish’s £100m move to Man City, but the 5yo has been a rapid riser himself this season.
A quick fire double in the spring included a course and distance victory off an 11lb lower mark, but his improvement has continued in defeat. A close second at York with an interrupted passage was followed by a staying on second dropped in trip at Salisbury and then the luckless run eight days ago at Goodwood over two and a half miles when he was stopped twice in his efforts. He is up another 4lb but they were nicely clear of the third and last year's Silver Saddle winner, Nicola Currie, can take maximum points here for the ladies’ team.
The Betfred Rose Of Lancaster has produced a good field of ten runners for the £80,000 contest.
Grocer Jack is a likely short priced favourite and I have to be against him here. The assessor put him up 8lb for what looked an impressive nine length win at Newbury, but I think he was flattered. Despite pulling freely up front, his main market rival was equally keen and failed to fire with the rivals all being disappointing to this season.
It was his first start in this country, but I think there he was made to look better than he might be and I’m looking to be against him at the cramped odds.
Anmaat beat Intellogent at York in the John Smith’s Cup, one of the toughest handicaps of the entire season. He steps up in grade while Intellogent was a Group 1 winner in his French days plus has won at this level too. Both are closely matched and should be involved.
I like two at a price to small stakes each way and hope at least one hits the frame.
CERTAIN LAD wasn’t far behind Anmaat and Intellogent at York and hasn’t had much racing since winning a similar contest on Ebor day at York in 2020. He handles cut in the ground (there’s been rain on Merseyside in recent days) having finished a heavy ground third here in his youth and could outrun his 33/1 price.
The other one is BRENTFORD HOPE for Richard Hughes and Pat Dobbs. He ran in the Old Newton Cup here last month and although only seventh, that doesn’t tell the whole story. His young jockey made a move far too soon and he hit the front too early, still travelling strongly, but he emptied out under his big weight over the twelve-furlong trip. A drop two furlongs with ease in the ground means this one time Derby fancy has his ideal conditions and can be smuggled into the race late on. Jamie Spencer is particularly effective on him, so Dobbs will know how to handle the 5yo who has some fair Group form on his CV and has the first time cheekpieces to aid him too.
The Listed Dick Hern Stakes looks at the mercy of OSCULA if her busy campaign doesn’t catch up with her, although it showed no signs at Goodwood last week. That was her sixth run since Derby weekend at the beginning of June that has seen her win at Listed and Group 3 level alongside three runner-up efforts in pattern company too.
Although yet to win at a mile and carrying a Group 3 penalty, she rallied gamely to win at Goodwood, was just chinned close home at Ascot when keen and has won on soft ground in France last season. She has kept her form remarkably well and should have too much class for her rivals.
They are headed by Crenelle who was third in a Sandringham that isn’t working out too well and is held on the formbook by OSCULA on a line through Heredia, while Thundershower was a narrow winner at Nottingham three weeks ago but the second was beaten again a couple of days ago to let the form down.
Floral Splendour is the unknown quantity, having bolted up at the track three weeks ago on her debut but the time was nothing special and the second has been well beaten since.
One of the best juvenile races we have witnessed for many years takes place here for the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes.
Bradsell beat both Persian Force and Blackbeard in the Coventry at Royal Ascot, with both going onto Group 2 honours subsequently, Persian Force landing the G2 July Stakes and Blackbeard taking the G2 Prix Robert Papin. Back in third was Royal Scotsman who also landed a G2 at Goodwood last week.
It is a race farmed by Aidan O’Brien in previous years, winning it SIXTEEN times since 1998, although none of the last four renewals have gone his way.
This year he is represented by Blackbeard and also Windsor Castle Stakes and G3 Anglesey Stakes hero Little Big Bear. Immediately behind him at Royal Ascot was a pair of subsequent Listed winners and the Super Sprint scorer, Eddie’s Boy.
We cannot discount Johnny Murtagh’s charge either, Shartash. He chinned Blackbeard in the G2 Railway Stakes to throw his hat in the ring.
It is a fascinating clash that I want to just enjoy without a financial interest. If pushed, maybe Persian Force offers the value to turn the Royal Ascot form around with Bradsell who we haven’t seen since, but this truly is a juvenile contest to savour.
*18+ | BeGambleAware