Royal Ascot 2023 Eyecatchers: Tom Collins identifies six horses for your tracker
By Tom CollinsLatest Horse Racing Odds
25 June 2023
Royal Ascot had just about everything: high-class performances from the equine elite, several extreme longshots, glorious summer weather, and the customary fashion and culture that sets it apart.
Although it proved to be a difficult punting week, the fantastic thing about this sport is that you learn a great deal in every race. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of six horses who are worth following for the rest of the summer.
Race: Wolferton Stakes, Tuesday
Finishing position: 6th
Why you should follow this horse: Ran well on wrong ground for out-of-form trainer
Godolphin (0/26) and Charlie Appleby (0/18) had a miserable week on the Berkshire turf - something clearly isn’t clicking inside the powerful operation at the moment. The majority of Appleby’s runners didn’t perform anywhere close to their best, but King Of Conquest was an exception in the Wolferton and he should be monitored closely going forward.
This son of Lope De Vega was first off the bridle in a race run at a good clip from the outset and it looked as if he would fade out of contention, but he stayed on powerfully under hands-and-heels riding to pick off tired rivals. King Of Conquest only found fifth gear late in the day, and he clocked the third-fastest sectional between 3f-2f (12.33 seconds) and 2f-1f (12.58s) poles, as well as the quickest final furlong in the field (13.19s).
Perhaps we will see him next in the Listed Gala Stakes at Sandown next month, but I would be much more interested in backing him towards the end of the campaign over a longer trip on good to soft or soft ground.
Race: Queen Mary Stakes, Wednesday
Finishing position: 7th
Why you should follow this horse: Should have no trouble winning a maiden
The far-side was the place to be on day one, but that quickly switched on day two as the GoingStick suggested the stands’ side held an advantage. 18 of the 26 runners in the Queen Mary came on the favoured strip, leaving those who raced on the opposite side with little chance of winning.
However, Flora Of Bermuda and Lady Pink Rose caught the eye by drawing four lengths clear of their low-drawn rivals and both ran far better than their finishing positions state. The latter might have the most upside out of the pair - it was just her second career start and she only had the slow-starting Bundchen behind with two-and-a-half furlongs to go.
She’s yet to win a race, but Wednesday’s performance has left me with little doubt that a maiden victory is just around the corner.
Race: Windsor Castle Stakes, Wednesday
Finishing position: 11th
Why you should follow this horse: Eyecatching mid-race move and tenderly handled late
Barnwell Boy is another two-year-old who was drawn on the wrong side of the track on Wednesday. He attracted plenty of support before the off, but he was left without cover a full three furlongs from home and didn’t get the required tow into the contest to show his best.
Rider Oisin Murphy had to use up way too much of this juvenile’s energy to get him competitive and the fact that he was able to power into a prominent position with a furlong-and-a-half to run was commendable. Murphy let him coast home late once the race was over - a wise move to save him for his next target - and he might be overlooked moving forward due to the ‘0’ in his form figures.
It definitely wasn’t a ‘bubble burst’ moment and something like the Molecomb at Glorious Goodwood could be a good target if Charlie Johnston opts to keep him over five furlongs. I wouldn’t hesitate to back him over six furlongs, either.
Race: King George V Stakes, Thursday
Finishing position: 5th
Why you should follow this horse: Fared best of those close to suicidal pace
Have you ever seen a mile-and-a-half contest run like a sprint through the opening four furlongs? If the answer is no, make sure you watch the replay of this year’s King George V Stakes.
As can be the case with a big field, there was a real scramble to get across into a decent position going into the first bend and that led to a breakneck pace being set by Davideo, who was drawn widest of all. Rossa Ryan didn’t relent immediately after hitting the front, however, and frankly ridiculous sectionals eventually led to a wicked pace collapse with the efficiently ridden closers surging through late.
Davideo, Sisyphus Strength and Mr Mistoffelees - the trio who set the pace - ended up crossing the line in the final three positions. And, although being near the front is generally an advantage on the round course at Ascot, only two of the first six through the early stages finished in the top 10.
Perfuse fared best of them in fifth and she has to be marked up. This filly came into the homestraight swinging on the bridle and somewhat surprisingly quickened once asked for effort, before the early fractions took their toll in the final furlong. She could easily progress into a Group performer, but she will have the opportunity to take advantage of her handicap mark first.
Race: Hampton Court Stakes, Thursday
Finishing position: 3rd
Why you should follow this horse: Significant improvement likely over longer trips
Sectional timings tell you that the pace in the middle part of Thursday’s Hampton Court Stakes was slow, which ultimately led to a sprint for the line. Although eventual winner Waipiro came from pretty far back, the majority of the horses who contested the finish were positioned in midfield.
The one place you didn’t want to be as the final sprint began was last as quickening into an increasing tempo is extremely difficult, yet that’s where Bold Act found himself. Much like Charlie Appleby’s aforementioned King Of Conquest, this gelding didn’t travel with much fluency turning for home but stayed on admirably to claim a never-nearer third at the line.
Although his pedigree suggests he will be seen at his best between a mile and a mile-and-a-quarter, I’m excited to see what he can produce over further. His last two starts have indicated that he wants a significant stamina test and I’ll be putting a few quid on when he gets it.
Race: Palace Of Holyrood House Stakes, Friday
Finishing position: 2nd
Why you should follow this horse: Exceptional turn of foot to hit the front
The field for the Palace Of Holyrood House Stakes split into three groups - seven horses went far-side, six ran down the middle and 13 came near-side. Six of the first 10 to cross the line came from the latter pack, which unsurprisingly included the winner.
However, the best two horses in the race in my opinion burrowed a lonely furrow down the centre: Conquistador and Kerdos. The former was clearly chucked in off a mark of 86 and ran a very good race, but he played second fiddle in his group to the Clive Cox-trained Kerdos, who surged through the front-runners to hit the front with two furlongs to run.
If you watched this race on ITV4, they cut to a side camera at the time that Kerdos made his monumental move and it was breathtaking how easily he put two to three lengths into his closest pursuers under a relaxed Rossa Ryan.
He sustained his effort all the way to the line, but shifted around six horse widths to his left in order to join eventual winner Rhythm N Hooves and that perhaps cost him the race. Quick ground brought out the best in Kerdos and I’m sure he’s a group horse masquerading as a handicapper right now.