In the Royal Hunt Cup (5.00) at Ascot on Wednesday, Gm Hopkins is 9lb higher in the weights than when winning the race last year, from stall 11, but is only 3lb higher than when not beaten far, after an interrupted passage, in the valuable Balmoral Handicap over course and distance last October and could make another bold bid. The Dubawi gelding is 2-3 over course and distance, including on the prevailing good to soft going and, having won on soft going earlier in his career, shouldn’t be unduly inconvenienced if the forecast heavy showers do arrive in Berkshire between now and Wednesday afternoon.
Over the straight mile at Ascot, big fields typically split into two or three groups, with a slight bias towards those drawn low, but the first six home in this race last year were drawn 11, 19, 10, 21, 14 and 20, so Gm Hopkins is far from impossibly drawn in stall 18 this time around. At around the 20/1 mark in the ante post lists, John Gosden’s charge should give us a good run for our money.
Selection: Ascot 5.00 Gm Hopkins (20/1) to win
In the 5.45 at Salisbury on Tuesday, Duke Of North has struck up a good relationship with Rhiain Ingram, winning a similar race over 7 furlongs on the course, off a 5lb lower mark, three starts ago and running creditably in defeat over 7½ furlongs and a mile on turf and Polytrack off revised marks. He won over 6 furlongs as recently as last October, so dropping back in distance shouldn’t hinder his chance unnecessarily and he can resume winning ways. He’s spoilt his chance a few times over 6 furlongs by starting very slowly, but that irksome predisposition appears to be a thing of the past and, if so, the steady uphill climb throughout the last half-mile at Salisbury should be to his liking, as it’s been before. Rhiain Ingram has a 2-6 (33%) strike rate at Salisbury, for a level stakes profit of 16.50 points and must have a decent chance of improving that record.
Selection: Salisbury 5.45 Duke Of North to win
In the EBF Stallions Toteexacta Nottinghamshire Oaks Stakes (4.00) at Nottingham on Wednesday, Intimation is one of the lowest rated fillies in the race, according to the BHA, but remains open to any amount of improvement after just four starts and looks worthy of support. The Dubawi filly was a beaten favourite in the Suffolk Stakes over 1 mile 1 furlong at Newmarket on her seasonal reappearance in April, keeping on to finish seventh of 14, beaten 3 lengths, behind Knight Owl, but that form has already been franked by the third, Revolutionist, who won the Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar on Monday.
She’s entitled to improve for that run, her first since last July, and the step back up to 1 mile 2 furlongs is almost certainly in her favour so, while she officially has 10lb to find with Persona Grata, for example, she may well be up to this stiffer task. She’s yet to race on going faster than good but, although the going at Nottingham is currently good to firm, race is forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, so underfoot conditions could be ideal.
Ryan Moore has an outstanding 6-13 (46%) strike rate on older horses for Sir Michael Stoute so far this season, so everything looks in place for a big run.
Selection: Nottingham 4.00 Intimation to win