Hanson: Selections for Day 3 of Royal Ascot on June 17
The weather is forecast to change for the worse for Days 3 and 4 at Royal Ascot on Thursday and Friday. Course conditions will undoubtedly be worse Friday than Thursday, but the extent to which the rain will affect the course in time for Thursday's racing would be pure conjecture at this writing, which makes handicapping selections some 40 hours ahead of time rather challenging.
However, it doesn't appear as if there will be significant surprises in many of the longer features on Thursday regardless of surface condition. Here's how we see things:
Norfolk S. (G2) -- Race 1 (9:30 a.m. ET)
#12 PERFECT POWER (15-1) wheels back on very short rest after an eye-catching maiden win second out at Hamilton on June 9, where he produced an impressive quick burst and smoothly drew off against an overmatched group. This field obviously much stronger, but if he can reproduce that kick over potentially softer ground, and with the likely aid of a strong pace, he could run a big race at a price for Richard Fahey. Sire is a Flying Childers (G2)-winning son of Kodiac.
#3 Go Bears Go (12-1) made all in taking a course-and-distance maiden first out, but likely to be coming from off the pace this time with the Wesley Ward-trained duo of #9 Lucci (3-1) and #10 Nakatomi (5-1) likely to both fire from the gate. #13 Project Dante (12-1) and #7 Korker (20-1) both have positive soft-ground form, with the latter an impressive recent winner at Carlisle. #2 Cadamosto (9-2) is an obvious danger for Coolmore if he runs as well on turf as he did on the all-weather, but will take a stand against at the price.
Hampton Court S. (G3) -- Race 2 (10:05 a.m. ET)
#1 ONE RULER (9-2) should appreciate the step down in class following sixth-place efforts in both the 2000 Guineas (G1) and Epsom Derby (G1), and ground shouldn't be an issue either. If the forecasted rain hits early and hard, as expected, it will be in his wheelhouse as he captured the Autumn (G3) over soft and then narrowly went down to eventual Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) winner Mac Swiney over a boggy Doncaster track in the Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1) in October.
#3 Mohaafeth (6-5) looked potentially special heading into the Epsom Derby (G1), so much so that he was my top selection, but in the event was scratched a couple hours before post time due to the state of the ground. Trainer William Haggas perhaps will be more reticent at withdrawing here, too, no matter the condition of the course, which is less undulating and challenging for a young horse than Epsom. I might regret standing against him, given what he's shown this year and my earlier optimism, but if it does get wet and he doesn't like it, I'd prefer not being tied on at close to even-money.
#4 Movin Time (5-1) only beat maidens last out at Newmarket, but did it in a way that suggests he's got a bright future and won't be out of place against this field.
Ribblesdale S. (G2) -- Race 3 (10:40 a.m. ET)
#6 ESHAADA (4-1) might find 1 1/2 miles a bit of a stretch on pedigree, but the filly has prevailed in both starts by measured necks, the latter a minor 1 1/4-mile Oaks trial at Newbury last out over #7 Gloria Mundi and #3 Aristia. Proved ready to run in that May 15 event, her first since early November, and remains with upside.
#11 Noon Star, a regally-bred daughter of Galileo and Midday, is an obvious threat after finishing second in the Musidora (G3) at York behind Snowfall, who later freaked by a record 16 lengths in the Epsom Oaks (G1). Noon Star was at a tactical disadvantage against that rival, and forfeiting a chance at Epsom due to a blood disorder perhaps a blessing in disguise in advance of this consolation prize.
Gold Cup (G1) -- Race 4 (11:15 a.m. ET)
A potentially historic renewal of this 2 1/2-mile meeting centerpiece has #4 STRADIVARIUS (4-5) seeking a record-equaling fourth victory in this event, and he looks hard to oppose as the odds-on choice following a strong comeback win in the April 28 Sagaro (G3). Handles any type of ground and can head back to his Newmarket home a legend if he runs his representative race.
Finding the horse to use with Stradivarius in the exacta looks like the best way to play the race. #10 Santiago (12-1) is intriguing at the potential price, given his back class and success at this meet last year in the Queen's Vase (G2). Could be sitting on his best run of the season to date in the third start of his form cycle after earning minor checks in the Vintage Crop (G3) and Yorkshire Cup (G2).
#9 Emperor of the Sun (15-1) is a vastly improved colt this term following a dominating win in the Levmoss S. at Leopardstown, while #12 Subjectivist (5-1) is the logical second choice in the early wagering off recent wins in the Prix Royal-Oak (G1) and Dubai Gold Cup (G2), though he's certainly not immune to throwing in the occasional clunker. #5 Trueshan (8-1) outran an out-of-form Stradivarius in last fall's British Champions Long Distance Cup (G2) and should strip fitter following a close second in the Ormonde (G3) at Chester.