You wouldn’t expect anything else from an Ascot novice for two-year-olds, but newcomers from the yards of Haggas, Varian, Palmer and Gosden make this a hot-looking race, though none of them has the high-hope entries that another debutant does.
Martyn Meade knows what a proper juvenile looks like, stressing the significance of the engagements he’s put in the diary for Business, namely the Group 2 Royal Lodge and the Group 1 Dewhurst.
Business is by Siyouni, one of the sexiest stallions around right now, and he was bought (for €180,000 as a yearling) by Phoenix Thoroughbreds, owner of stable star Advertise (now a non-runner), who bids for the Sprint Cup at Haydock a few hours after Business makes his debut at Ascot.
Selecting Ascot as his starting point says something, and the Group-race entries shows he means Business, in all an exciting novice to kick off the card at 1.35.
Ripp Orf’s record at Ascot is scarcely believable, his form-figures reading 131254, despite the average field size in those six races being 23. Only 1lb higher than when winning this last year, under the same rider (Jason Watson), Ripp Orf is bound to be thereabouts, but the market is telling you exactly that.
At longer odds, Sanaadh is worth a punt, deserving a change of luck following two eye-catching runs in similar-standard handicaps, at Newmarket and Goodwood, latterly a fast-finishing fifth behind Salute The Soldier and Tabarrak, and connections happy to take on that pair again here.
As for Mountain Peak, he has blown more cold than hot this year, and he’s by no means the only course-and-distance winner in the 5.05, as there are five others, Royal Birth amongst them, and he’s more interesting than most because of his rider, Marco Ghiani beginning to make a name for himself but still claiming the full 7lb, which can make a big difference in races like this.
FAITH IN FAYLAQ
A bump in the progressive road or the end of the progressive road? That’s the question after Faylaq failed as favourite over this course and distance eight weeks ago, putting on hold his Group-race aspirations.
It was a surprise (to me at least) that he was only second, but the 25/1 winner, Floating Artist, was subsequently beaten a little over a length into fourth in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood, reflecting a rather brighter light on Faylaq.
There was still some immaturity about Faylaq under pressure that day, and this bigger field is likely to help him, given his strong-travelling style. And, the size of him, the two-month break might have done a lot for him, in tandem with the fact Faylaq is one of the best-bred horses in training, by Dubawi out of Danedream.
From Danedream to Dane O’Neill, who gets his chance on Faylaq because Jim Crowley, the owner’s primary jockey, can’t desert Khaadem in the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock the same afternoon, though it’s worth remembering that Crowley swerved July Cup day at Newmarket to partner Faylaq at Ascot last time, saying something of his regard.
It’s a strongly-contested race, as befits a £100k handicap, but Faylaq has a sense of unfinished business about him, and for me he ought to be favourite.
The most prestigious sprint handicap at Ascot all year is the Wokingham at the Royal meeting, and this year’s edition was one of the best: the winner, Cape Byron, subsequently contested the July Cup, the next three home all won next time, and fifth-placed Summerghand has since finished fourth in the Stewards’ Cup and second in the Great St Wilfrid.
Sixth home, doing best of the far-side few, was Gunmetal. He returns to Ascot on Saturday with his mark having dipped below 100 for the first time in over a year, despite all of his powers being intact, easy to excuse his mid-field finish at York last time because 5½f was just too sharp for him there.
He looks a good bet in the 4.30, also partnered by William Buick for the first time.