Jamie Spencer and Ascot’s straight track need no introduction at all, certainly not to each other, and not to us who’ve seen the magic happen time and time again with the soul-satisfying synthesis of rider and racecourse; and there are two possible performances of such a conjuring trick on Friday.
Firstly, in the mile classified stakes at 1.55, there’s Prejudice, and the case of a horse who needs Spencer more than Spencer needs the horse, as Prejudice’s returns so far have felt like talent short-changed, with just one career win, which came in a 0-75 at Redcar, two years ago.
Just two months ago he was beaten a short-head at Newcastle by Audarya, who followed up in a Group 1 in France next time, which only emphasises the talent that Prejudice has wasted, and the trickiness of persuading him in front. In other words, just the job for Jamie.
After three runs for other jockeys, and in cheekpieces, Spencer is back on, the headgear is back off, and the horse is doing something he hasn’t done since 2018, by running over as short as a mile, so there’s a number of catalysts in play to stimulate Prejudice, who has it in him to win this, if Spencer can sprinkle some of that straight-track gold dust.
It’s also a case of friends reunited for Spencer and Tiger Crusade (3.05 Ascot), who haven’t got together since a win at Yarmouth last September, though the horse has run only the twice since, playing the patient game, trademark Simcock.
He was beaten at short odds (6/4) in a handicap over this course and distance in July, when third, but rather underestimated the winner River Nymph that day, who got the jump on them all, and has followed up since.
There’s still a sense that Ascot might be the perfect playground for Tiger Crusade, and Spencer the perfect jockey to prove that point, while being drawn in the same zone as Hieronymus will help, as a target, in this big field. There’s a quartet of 3yos in the race, but Tiger Crusade is the one of them with the most potential. With Spencer slicing through on Tiger Crusade, this could be something to see, at 3.05.
ST LEGER IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Dawn Patrol, who was to Galileo Chrome at Doncaster, won a Group 3 at the Curragh last Sunday, acting as Exhibit ‘A’ for the strength of form, and at Ascot on Friday we get ‘B’ and indeed ‘C.’
Having covered himself in glory in second, Berkshire Rocco faces just three rivals in the Listed Noel Murless Stakes (2.30), over the same sort of trip as the St Leger, and it’s a “gimme” on the face of it, a stone clear of his rivals on official ratings, but there’s always a worry that the Doncaster hangover may dull his powers, only 20 days on, as he had an especially hard race, in the teeth of it more than the other principals.
What else brings them closer together is that we don’t yet know the limits of either Albaflora or Without A Fight, neither of whom raced at two, and both trying this trip for the first time. In short, this mightn’t be as straightforward for Berkshire Rocco as the odds would suggest.
Over a lesser trip, in much lesser company, the 12f novice at 4.15, Tyson Fury reappears after being thrown into the deep end at Doncaster, where he had the distinction of running the fastest furlong of any horse in the race: 11.58 secs, for the fourth-last furlong.
That titbit alone suggests there’s a good horse in there, despite understandably checking in only ninth in the St Leger, and Friday’s race is well within his means, at least in theory, but in practice he has to give weight to unexposed horses from the yards of Haggas, Balding and Gosden. All the same, he’s gone from underdog at Doncaster to the big dog at Ascot.
If the aforementioned Tiger Crusade comes good in the 3.05, it’s a boost for Society Lion in the 4.50, as there was just a neck between them when first and second at Doncaster in July, since when Society Lion has continually nudged up his rating, overhauled only late on in a big field over 7f at Ascot last time.
That’s prompted a change in direction, a switch to sprinting, for the first time in his life, having never before raced over as little as 6f. But it might be just the ticket, as he’s always a strong traveller, sometimes spilling over into keenness.
There’s plenty of pace in the race, which will be a big benefit to Society Lion, and there’s a chance that 6f is what he’s wanted all along, by Invincible Spirit after all.