Jamie Spencer gives his thoughts on Ascot and York tomorrow
I was meant to go to Newmarket where I had seven rides but just before declarations closed Ralph changed his mind and decided to take Secret Gesture up to York instead so my plans got turned upside down. However, it does look a good spot for her. It’s a good race (the 2.55pm) but there are plenty of horses with something to prove in the race and I think Windhoek is the horse to beat. He’s a pretty versatile horse and he’s consistent. Secret Gesture won last time but she was disappointing in victory as the whole point of running her in that race was to give her a confidence booster and she was all out to win a neck. If she runs the way she ran on her first start of the year though when she had Thistle Bird behind her and only just got beat by Ambivalent she’d have to have a good chance. Ralph is happy enough with her and he’s decided to run at York and so we’ll see how the race pans out. There doesn’t look a whole pile of pace in the race so we’ll probably go forward and take it from there.
She’s a very light filly, she’s only in the 400 kilos category, slight and light, so I don’t think anything but huge extremes of ground would be a problem for her. Good ground really is her perfect conditions being by Galileo.
I won on Shahdaroba last week but I think he’ll struggle against these in the 2.20pm. I thought Short Squeeze looked a nice horse last year. He was a bit disappointing last time but back to seven furlongs in this race should see him in a good light and it doesn’t look the strongest of races. I thought he’d have a good chance back in handicap company.
My ride in the 4.05pm is Mercury and he’s a nice horse. I saw him two weeks ago. I didn’t ride him but he was in the gallop behind me and he looked decent. Kevin likes him. There’s not much experience in the race and the ones that have experience don’t look stars so it wouldn’t look the hardest race to win. Kevin likes to win races at York, he targets his good horses there, so while it’s never as straightforward as you think we are going there with a good shot.
At Ascot in the King George I wouldn’t be too sure that the market’s got it right. Telescope is a hype horse and I know he won well at Royal Ascot but it’s the one performance that he’s produced that suggests he’s a star. Compare that to Magician who’s run well at top level several times, like last time in the Prince of Wales and winning the Breeder’s Cup Turf last year. He’s guaranteed to run his race. I think the horse that’s overpriced is probably Trading Leather. He ran well in the race last year, he stays well, he’s got a pacemaker so you know he’s going to be up there behind the leaders. It’s going to be a “grueller”. I’d be surprised if this race is won on the bridle and I think it will be a real test from three out. The ground has obviously changed and Trading Leather’s best form has been on a fast surface so that would the only one unknown for me with him. Taghrooda has to step up a lot on her Oaks form. She was much the best filly in The Oaks and perhaps she can win this but I think it’s a watching brief with her. I don’t think the Oaks was very good apart from her, and she was different class to everything else.
I rode at Ascot today and it’s nearly soft on the round course they’ve had so much rain. It’s good to soft in the straight but almost soft elsewhere. Telescope is a big angular horse and he doesn’t look like he does anything quickly. At the Royal meeting when he won well, he stretched and stretched and stretched but I wouldn’t say he’d be a glutton at a mile and a half given the ground. I mean at Chester he walked the last 100 yards, and at Sandown, I know he needed it on his first start, but he wasn’t flying home. I think he’s got plenty to prove with how the ground has gone.
If I had a gun to the head, and knowing the families, I would go for Trading Leather and Eagle Top against the field with question marks against the rest in terms of ability or the ground. Jim Bolger always seems to eek a little bit of improvement from his horses with each run and as long as the ground doesn’t deteriorate anymore I think he’ll run well. Eagle Top has a soft ground pedigree with Pivotal obviously and Gull Wing, his dam that I used to ride. Gull Wing loved it soft, she couldn’t have it soft enough, it’s all that Sariska family, so the ground will be a big help to him.
In the International Handicap I think Horsted Keynes will struggle with the ground. He’s well capable of winning a Group race and he is the best horse in the field, but if the ground is on the easy side it will be no good to him. He’s a very light mover and he’s out of a Miswaki mare so with that, combined with Giant’s Causeway, it screams firm ground and he just has to have it quick. He had soundness problems when he was younger, and now he’s a big strong horse and over his problems but fast ground is still his thing. It opens up the race. I think Gabriel’s Lad is the one to beat given the way the ground has gone. He’s guaranteed to run his race. To win a handicap off 110 is very hard but there’s not a huge amount of strength and depth in the race.
On Sunday I like Elleval at Pontefract (4.05pm). He had his first start back four weeks ago in a Group 3 and ran well. It’s fast ground and there’s loads of pace in the race with Highland Knight, The Rectifier, Cordite and Tenor all horses that like to go forward. Elleval is a horse that likes to take his time so the race shapes up brilliantly for him. If he goes as I expect him to do so I think he’s got a great chance. It’s the first time I’ve ridden him and most of his best form is on the Tapeta at Meydan but he’s got a couple of decent bits of form on quick ground in Ireland and that shows that he does handle grass too. I think a mile is perfect for him, his ideal distance. He was second in the UAE Derby but he’s a son of Kodiac so I think a mile should be just perfect for him.