Simon Rowlands

Simon tipped up 14-1 winner Hukum on Wednesday and has three selections plus analysis online for Thursday at Royal Ascot, live on Sky Sports Racing.

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Published 16:22 17/6

The vagaries of the British weather will not have been far from the minds of most punters this week and seem particularly relevant when considering Thursday’s card at Royal Ascot. Conditions were by no means testing on the first two days but some localised downpours are predicted for Wednesday night and Thursday.

If those downpours arrive at Ascot, they could change the nature of the drastically. The admirable Stradivarius – going for his third successive win in this race – copes with soft ground but is a quickener rather than a grinder as stayers go.

On a number of occasions, he has got down to nearly 11.0s furlongs – something which other stayers simply cannot match – most recently when third to Ghaiyyath in a 12f Coronation Cup diverted from Epsom to Newmarket less than two weeks ago.

Stradivarius is a very good stayer, of that there is no doubt, but his rivals have regularly played to his sit-and-sprint strengths over the years. That may change here.

Both Withhold and Moonlight Spirit tend to get on with things, and the latter may in part ensure that his stable-companion Cross Counter does not fall foul of a tactical event as happened when he was a close-but-never-nearer fourth in this 12 months ago.

Cross Counter seems not quite as good as he once was, and may be a two-miler in any case, but there is one horse in this field that will relish the two and a half miles and any rain, and that is TECHNICIAN.

It is not that Technician must have it soft – he finished sixth in the latest St Leger on good to firm – but it very much plays to his long suit of stamina, as he showed by winning Group races at Longchamp after that Doncaster run, notably the Prix Royal-Oak from the top French stayer Call The Wind.

Technician can take a bit of winding up, but jockey Oisin Murphy will know that, and the pair have two and a half miles this time to get into overdrive. On soft ground he would deserve to be something like 3/1, on good to firm something like the 7/1 he was earlier this week. There is more upside than downside, the way I see it.

The mathematics of this 8-runner race with an odds-on favourite make it especially appealing from an each-way point of view (110% win book, just 89% place book, at the time of writing), so the advice is to back Technician in that manner: let’s hope that rain does arrive.

If it does it could spell bad news for supporters of Molatham in the preceding , as the colt bombed out on soft on his final start at two years.

He would be pretty interesting otherwise, even against rivals as good asKing Leonidas, Monarch of Egypt and the French Guineas fourth Celestin, as he was good enough to beat Wichita at Doncaster as a juvenile. But there is less leeway in his price and a bigger downside for his prospects, so that makes this a no-bet race for me.

The remainder of day three at Royal Ascot is a mix of Listed Races and Handicaps, all of them ultra-competitive, of course.

Well, the and the could be thus described were it not for the presence of a couple of handicap “good things”.

African Dream (20 lb well in?) at a very short price makes the latter unplayable to me, but FINEST SOUND (just the 14 lb well in?) still looks eminently backable in the former.

Finest Sound’s win at this one-mile trip at Haydock 10 days ago came in a decent time, with excellent late sectionals (35.25s for the last 3f) and with a good deal of ease by five and a half lengths. A 5 lb penalty should be insufficient, though it has to be admitted that he is far from the only well-treated horse in this 24-runner field.

The opening is a tough puzzle to crack, but it is another good each-way race (18 runners and four places at the time of writing) and I reckon it is worth having a stab with CEPHEUS at long odds.

He quickened smartly to beat the useful Volkan Star at Newmarket on his debut and was out of his depth and out the back in the 2000 Guineas on the same course on his only start since. A mark of 87 could well underestimate him, and this son of Sea The Stars should stay this 10f no problem.

The problem with the Listed is that the best horses – Eclipse third Regal Reality, Champion Stakes fourth Fox Tal and Derby fifth Sir Dragonet – may be better another day but collectively look priced about right. This looks a race best watched as a result.

传奇sfAs does the Listed , in which each of the nine two-year-olds has raced just once and could still be described as promising.

WEDNESDAY'S COLUMN

Published 16:26 16/6

There is no doubting what the highlight of Wednesday at Royal Ascot is, as the is the sole Group 1 and one of only two Group races on the day-two card.

The race’s winners include some real notables of the sport, among them Mtoto, Dubai Millennium, Ouija Board, So You Think and Highland Reel. A select band of seven will go to post to attempt to add their name to that roll of honour.

According to the bookmakers, Japan传奇sf is easily the likeliest winner. Maybe, but he is priced up as if he is a superstar already rather than a very good horse who lost as many races as he won last year. The important one he won – the Juddmonte International at York, narrowly – gives him a favourite’s chance, but that’s about it.

It is tempting to take him on at a shade of odds on, perhaps with Addeybb, who is well-nigh Japan’s equal at his best, or with a real outsider in Bangkok, whose defeat by Japan at Royal Ascot 2019 came at an unsuitably long trip for him. Addeybb’s chance would be improved by rain, but the ground was not as soft as given officially on Tuesday, judged by times.

In the end, I came to the conclusion there were better opportunities elsewhere, so I will be sitting this one out. It is well worth watching what unfolds, though: Headman and Barney Roy add more class, while the Gosden-trained pair of Lord North and Mehdaayih are no mugs either.

is a fascinating encounter between eight useful and promising three-year-olds. Juan Elcano has the best form, having finished fifth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last time, but there is a chance that FIRST RECEIVER is a bit of a monster in the making, and he is worth a punt at the odds.

“Monster” is what he looked when winning by seven lengths and six and a half at Kempton 15 days ago, though that was against ordinary opposition. Nonetheless, First Receiver ran a decidedly useful time and showed the kind of long, relaxed, stride in forging clear after 2f out that should see him thrive at an extra 2f here.

Russian Emperor has a bit of a reputation at Ballydoyle but shapes as if he will not come into his own until tried at even further.

A bit of sectional and striding analysis helped where HUKUM in the is concerned, but the visual boys and girls will not have missed this, either, so impressive was the son of Sea The Stars at Kempton last backend.

Hukum stormed home from off the pace that day to salvage what for a long way looked a lost cause, and sectionals have him a 100-rated horse at a minimum: he goes off just 90 here.

Such is the likely strength of this race that having even that much in hand may not be sufficient against some who may be Group horses in the longer-term. Hukum also has a slightly tricky draw and the lack of a recent run to overcome.

But his odds more than compensate for that in a race in which the mathematics point towards an each- way rather than win bet, especially as you may get enhanced place terms if you shop around.

For the final selection, head to the . RANCH HAND is well suited by conditions and one of the few in a field of 19 still with potential. His absence since October is not a worry given how well the Andrew Balding stable has been performing since the break.

Indeed, one imagines Ranch Hand might have been racing off quite a bit higher than 99 had he contested a race like the Chester Cup in the interim. He is another to side with each way.

Neither the nor its makes great appeal, as, on limited evidence so far, the most interesting horses may be drawn on the “wrong” side.

is full of lightly raced two-year-olds and is definitely a race to learn from rather than bet heavily on, in my view.

Simon Rowlands

Ascot 13:15

Ascot 15:35

Ascot 16:10

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