Friday’s Royal Ascot Tips: Two stayers catch Tom Collins’ eye in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes

22 June 2023

Three days down, two days to go at Royal Ascot this year - a meeting that has gone in favour of the bookies so far. There is plenty of time for that to change, however, and selective betting might reap rewards by the end of the week.

3.05 Ascot, Group 1 Commonwealth Cup

A handful of exceptionally talented horses have won the Commonwealth Cup since its inauguration back in 2015, so it is no wonder that this three-year-old sprint has quickly become one of the most hotly anticipated and exciting events of the week.

This year’s renewal might not have the strength-in-depth that we have become accustomed to over the last couple of years, but it features last year’s highest-rated juvenile and recent Sandy Lane winner Little Big Bear, who will be one of the so-called ‘bankers’ for punters towards the backend of Royal Ascot.

Rated 10lb higher than his nearest rival, Little Big Bear looks to have an excellent chance of taking his career record to six wins from eight starts. He had excuses for both of his defeats, too. He was chinned on debut after showing inexperience by getting lonely in front, while he was struck into in the 2,000 Guineas on his seasonal reappearance - a race that would have stretched his stamina anyway.

One viewing of his Phoenix Stakes success last year will firmly put to bed any talent doubts and, although he rode the near-side bias at Haydock 27 days ago, he was much the best horse and wasn’t asked to fully stretch out inside the final furlong. I’m happy to take skinny odds on Little Big Bear following up with Sakheer considered the only threat on the cut back in trip. 

Selection: Little Big Bear @ 2.1

3.40 Ascot, Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes

A maximum field of 19 runners will head to post for this mile-and-a-half contest, which presents a great opportunity for punters to land a big-priced winner. Godolphin’s Al Nafir, who hasn’t run for 258 days, tops the market along with the hat-trick-seeking Teumessias Fox, but I’m out to get both of them beaten.

The layoff is a major concern for the former, who is making his first start after a gelding operation and 10lb rise in the weights. He could be a black-type performer, but that is more than factored into his price and he represents very little value on what we’ve seen. Teumessias Fox has progressed this term, but he won a race dominated by forward-going types on a track that similarly favored front-runners last time. He could have been flattered by the margin of his success.

With that being said, I actually think Okita Soushi should be favourite for Joseph O’Brien. This son of Galileo, who has Ryan Moore booked to ride tomorrow, stayed on powerfully to finish third in the Copper Horse Handicap at this meeting last year and has won twice in the interim at Dundalk.

He returned from a 84-day break in the Group 3 Saval Beg last time and travelled beautifully before becoming a touch outpaced inside the final two furlongs. That was the perfect prep run, yet the handicapper has leniently dropped him 3lb for this seasonal target. Drawn well in stall nine, he can use his abundant stamina late in the day to pick up the leaders.

I have also got to chuck a few quid on Max Mayhem, who I saw win at Kempton back in April. He fought on gamely to fend off a subsequent Newmarket winner despite being wide throughout in the Rosebery, and rider Benoit De La Sayette couldn’t pull him up until he completed another circuit of the track.

Epsom didn’t suit him last time, unfortunately, but he should prefer the stiff track at Ascot and I’m sure he’s well handicapped. My only worry is the quick ground, but I can’t ignore him at massive odds.

Selection: Okita Soushi @ 8, Max Mayhem @ 32

6.10 Ascot, Palace Of Holyrood House Stakes

This could be the race in which SBK ambassador George Boughey gets off the mark at Royal Ascot this year. He purchased Conquistador for 36,000gns from John and Thady Gosden after four novice defeats, but this horse has always shown promise and it was the stable switch and drop back to five furlongs that has seen him improve.

Conquistador cosily beat subsequent five-time winner Radio Goo Goo, who reopposes in this race, on his debut for the yard despite giving him 10lb. He then built on that display with an impressive last-gasp surge to beat the highly regarded Kerdos at Lingfield last time out when it looked like he was set for second.

He’s been hit with just a 3lb rise for that, which has seen him scrape in at the bottom of the weights here, and could be a 100-rated performer running off just 86. I like his middle draw and this big field should result in pace to chase. The only downside is that the 14/1 previously available was snapped up earlier in the week.

Selection: Conquistador @ 6.8

Friday’s Royal Ascot Tips

Little Big Bear (3.05 Royal Ascot) @ 2.1
Okita Soushi (3.40 Royal Ascot) @ 8
Max Mayhem (3.40 Royal Ascot) @ 32
Conquistador (6.10 Royal Ascot) @ 6.8

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