In the last five years, each of the four teams has ‘won’ the Shergar Cup, the ‘Girls’ doing so twice. Now that’s sport for all. For this edition of Ascot Angles, let’s examine not just the humans, as is the Shergar Cup way, but the horses in the context of the riders and teams to try to determine who may come out on top this year.
REST OF THE WORLD
Three overseas jockeys, and three Shergar Cup virgins, Vincent Ho the only one of them with any experience at all of riding in Britain. People may point to the fact that the Rest of The World has won the team competition six times (out of 18, more than their fair share), but on three of those occasions Frankie Dettori was the team captain, in the early years, and Silvestre de Sousa led the way in 2016.
It’s a pretty simple start for Kawada aboard the point-and-shoot merchant in the Dash (1.05), but it will be trickier for him in the Stayers (1.40) and the closing Sprint (4.00), because of the trip, probably too far for Grandee and probably too short for Woven.
His best chance looks to be Big Kitten in the Challenge (2.15), for William Haggas, fresh from the horse’s sixth (of 21) to Arlington-bound Pivoine in the John Smith’s Cup at York, when making the running, though he hasn’t always looked so straightforward.
This calls for expert timing, because each of Zahra’s five rides comes from off the pace, though, on paper, his book is better than most, largely as it includes Indianapolis in the Challenge and Never Do Nothing in the Classic (3.25).
The former did best of those held up in the Old Newton Cup (fourth of 17), and Never Do Nothing wasn’t got to the bottom of when third over this course and distance last time.
The Stayers often turns into a stern test at the Shergar Cup, with one or two tending to let rip from the start, and the faster they go the better for Theglasgowwarrior, a lively longer-shot for Zahra, for a trainer – Jim Goldie – who has sent out Shergar Cup winners from his Scottish base.
The race that Hayley Turner misses this year is the Mile (2.50), and while she’ll have one eye on her team-mates, the other will be on Power Of Darkness, a horse she knows very well, partnered this day by Vincent Ho.
Power Of Darkness ought to be favourite for the Mile, still not the finished article but usually making it count when he gets to the track, winning three of his last five, including last time at Salisbury when overcoming a very slow start.
It helps that one of Ho’s other rides has been there, done that and got the T-shirt as far as the Shergar Cup is concerned, Genetics successful in the Challenge in 2018 (when a reserve), not arriving on the same roll this time around, but there were better signs on his away day in Spain in June.
He’s on a three-year-old in the opening Dash, interesting in itself, and Street Parade will appreciate dropping back to 5f after his last couple of no-shows over 6f.
The Silver Saddle heroine from last year, Hayley Turner, is joined in the Girls team by two trend-setters of sorts, Jamie Kah having set a new record for winners in a season by a female rider in Australia, and claimer Nanako Fujita already the most successful lady jockey in Japan’s racing history. And, collectively, it’s easy to argue that they’ve struck luckiest with the draw of all four teams.
Four of Turner’s five rides are at single-figure odds, increasing in expectation, each one better than the last, at least in theory. Sapa Inca in the Classic and Pass The Vino in the Sprint, a pair of three-year-olds in the zone, hint at a high-scoring end to the day by Turner, and 13 Ascot wins – including one at this year’s Royal meeting – shows she knows exactly what she’s doing around there.
Turner once rode Lancelot Du Lac in a July Cup, and Melting Dew, in the Challenge, is an interesting one on his 2018 form, having slipped 8lb in a misfiring season so far, plus he ran very well at Ascot once before (close second).
The secret to team success is steady and sustained scoring, and it’s easy to envisage Jamie Kah doing her bit in that regard, with most of her rides having a ‘there or thereabouts’ feel to them. In the first two races, Final Venture and Lorelina certainly fit that bill, but her best chance of a winner may be Another Batt in the Mile.
He’s got top weight for a reason, usually keeping better company, and his run in the International (7f) at Ascot a fortnight ago suggests a revival is imminent. It’s a round mile for the Shergar Cup, and stall 1, which Another Batt has, is sometimes as much a curse as a blessing, something Kah has to be aware of.
She may be able to slip into cruise control early on, because Foolaad and Blue Laureate have both been to the Shergar Cup previously, the latter finishing runner-up in last year’s Classic, but a stayer now, and even her Challenge partner Koeman is a course-and-distance winner.
Fujita has the widest draw to combat in the Classic, aboard Zuba, but he’s particularly well bred (by Dubawi out of Purr Along) and his win at Kempton earlier in the week might just be a springboard, picking up only a 3lb penalty for that.
That horse, from that stall, is perhaps the biggest test of her jockeyship, which is part of the reason she’s here, exciting for us to see.
GREAT BRITAIN & IRELAND
Local knowledge. It’s an advantage, of course it is, but possibly more in theory than in practice, considering Great Britain & Ireland has won the team competition only once since the nations were re-merged in 2012.
Spencer is a Shergar Cup regular, but having Tudhope on the team is reactive and rewarding for his wondrous work so far this season.
On his Shergar Cup debut, O’Shea will have done his work by the time of the 4.00, the two races prior likely to be his most telling contribution, as Via Serendipity (Mile) and Vivid Diamond (Classic) are both musts for the shortlist in their respective races.
Via Serendipity won the Mile last year, and Vivid Diamond is a flourishing front-runner for Mark Johnston who was caught only by one over this course and distance on her latest start.
Two of his other three rides are ‘sleepers’ of sorts, well handicapped if they reawaken, and Aircraft Carrier (Stayers) has been gelded during a break, while Temple Church (Challenge) is taking a drop in class.
High amongst the trainers who’ve added fuel to the fire in Tudhope’s title charge is William Haggas, so it’s fitting they’ve been drawn together for one of the races, with Borehan in the Classic.
It’s probably only his third - or fourth - best chance on the day, however, according to the formbook, which says that Billy Ray in the Stayers is his primary player, on the back of his second to Withhold in the JLT Cup at Newbury.
If Great Britain & Ireland are within striking distance of the lead ahead of the last, then it spells danger for the rest, despite having only two shots to fire for the Sprint, because Spencer’s got the favourite and Tudhope rides Hero Hero, who might well have been a sprinter all along and only now gets the chance to prove it.
What’s likely to be the shortest-priced horse on the card is Victory Day in the last, and Spencer is doing the steering on him, maintaining a partnership from York where they got within a head of landing a high-value handicap.
Two months off since then is more a positive than a negative for a horse who has raced just four times, more so given the stable (William Haggas). The stalls are on the stand side, and he’s drawn in 12 which puts him right against the rail, potentially in harm’s way, with traffic and trouble brewing, but that’s where Spencer comes into his own.
And therein lies the power of Spencer, the generator for the GB & Ireland team, in that he can make magic happen, even though none of his other rides are front and centre on form.
Adrie de Vries collected 27 points in his previous Shergar Cup, in 2017, and Gerald Mosse needs no introduction to British racing, but the captaincy goes to Filip Minarik, established amongst the top riders operating in Germany.
Of all the teams, Europe has gone the longest since its last win (in 2014).
What A Welcome (Stayers) and Mandarin (Challenge) are, in particular, two nice rides to land upon, the former 2 from 2 at Ascot and the latter on a hat-trick. Stamina is the foundation of German racing, and stamina is fundamental in the two events in which Minarik has his best rides.
Riding for Andrew Balding (Stone of Destiny, Dash) and Richard Hannon (War Glory, Mile) can only be a plus point, given the Shergar Cup record of one and the recent form of the other.
Twice a winner of the individual award at the Shergar Cup, the Silver Saddle, Mosse starts Saturday with a bang, aboard likely favourite Danzeno in the Dash. Danzeno ran well at the Royal meeting at Ascot, as did Time To Study, Mosse’s ride in the Stayers.
The rest of his rides are liable to be at double-figure prices, Jack’s Point in the closing Sprint having the form to play a part but perhaps not the speed, more used to 7f.
ADRIE DE VRIES
The Stayers is the one he misses out on this year, ironic given he won it during his Shergar Cup debut in 2017. But Euchen Glen that day benefited from an enterprising ride by de Vries, and the same may be on the agenda for Sophosc in the Classic, the only identifiable front-runner in the field.
Stall 1 makes his things slightly complicated in the Sprint, on Kinks, as it leaves them on the wing, away from where the action tends to unfold against the rail, but his form is strong, having beaten Pass The Vino last time.
It’s hard to get away from Great Britain & Ireland in the team competition, partly for the Ascot-attuned riders but more so for the equine squad they’ve got, amongst them the favourites for 3 of the 6 races, including the day’s banker Victory Day, in the Sprint.
As far as the individual award is concerned, the Silver Saddle, you could do worse than having a few quid on Mark Zahra at 12/1, as there’s a fair case to be made for every single one of his rides, likely to score repeatedly if nothing else.