Royal Ascot combines quality and quantity. The quality is high indeed, for both the class and count of the various Group races, but the quantity comes from the peppering of headache-inducing handicaps that thread through the meeting, which are big on numbers and bigger on difficulty.
As such, they can reward swings of the bat as opposed to forward defensives, and to that end here are five handicap wildcards for the week.
France has a long and lucrative link with Royal Ascot, if hardly ever bothering with handicaps. Ratio was a rarity indeed when he won the Wokingham for France, in 2003, though it was a dead-heat, and he used to be trained in Britain.
So too did Alba Power, by Hugo Palmer, prior to transfer to Fabrice Chappet ahead of the 2018 season, which started with a bang before the wheels came off.
However, refreshed by a break and reprogrammed by blinkers, he looked a different animal on his return when blitzing the field in a Conditions race at Chantilly, a Listed-class performance on the figures, the logic of which says there’s no way whatsoever he should be a 33/1 chance for the Wokingham off a mark of 98.
He may not come over, which is the ante-post risk, but the reward is obvious at the odds, and Alba Power has track form, third (in Listed company) at Ascot in his time with Palmer.
It’s remarkable to think that Dreamfield went off as short as 2/1 for last year’s 28-runner Wokingham, though he was beaten by only one, by a neck. New Graduate, in this year’s Royal Hunt Cup, is heading in the same direction in price terms, and no wonder, given his profile, as well as the power of his easy Ripon win, advertised time and again by the second, third and fourth.
All the same, the point of this piece isn’t to tell you that New Graduate has a good chance, better to have a wild swing of the bat, and few have the mood swings that Glendevon does.
He’s always looked to have more ability than he’s shown, his talent tainted by temperament, but if there was ever a scenario to stimulate him then a big-field, straight-track charge is precisely it.
He has never raced at Ascot, and he has never before raced in a field size above 12, and both of those could easily be motivational factors for him, remembering the high promise of his early days, including a fourth to Without Parole in the Heron Stakes around this time last year.
He’s an ‘iffy’ horse, but if he fancies it Glendevon can play a part in the finish at huge odds.
Agrotera was primed to perfection, for the Royal meeting, by Ed Walker last year, winning the Sandringham as favourite on her handicap debut, and Glorious Lover looks to have got the same target treatment ahead of his Ascot assignment.
Crucially, and consequentially, a mile has been saved for him until the Britannia, promising to push up his rating all the more, plus he’s already proven on the track, runner-up in a 7f Listed race up the straight course last summer.
He raised his game immediately returning this year when splitting Dubai Legacy and What’s The Story at Newcastle, and he was simply biting off more than he could chew against Jash and co in the King Charles II Stakes at Newmarket last time, though still not beaten far (4 lengths).
The Britannia is full of high-rollers, but Glorious Lover is amongst them, and the mile could be the making of him, meaning he’s a must for any short-list.
He’s much more on the radar than any of the other highlighted handicappers in this list, but it’s easy to envisage Sinjaari going off favourite for the King George V Stakes on Thursday. He was beaten a short-head in the strongest handicap of the year so far, at Newbury, despite losing a shoe through the race, and that was just the latest in a series of leaps on his ledger, still only four races in (and just three for William Haggas).
Camelot was responsible for the Oaks second and the Derby fifth, Sir Dragonet beaten less than a length, both showing a strength in stamina, which fosters the feeling that Sinjaari, a son of Camelot, will relish the increase in distance (to 1½m) at Ascot.
In short, Sinjaari has a serious amount going for him, from pedigree to profile and personnel, all of which suggests he’ll surely be a significantly shorter price come race time.
Time To Study was runner-up in last year’s Sagaro Stakes at Ascot. And now he has a mark of 96, which is 9lb lower than when he went off favourite – and finished fifth of 16 – in the 2018 Chester Cup.
So, we’re dealing in a well-handicapped horse: an extremely well-handicapped horse. That’s the plus side, because he’s tumbled in the weights for a reason, losing his mojo in the second half of last season and not getting it back in two starts for Ian Williams this year, though the trip was inadequate at Lingfield and the ground was barely raceable at Chester, in the latest edition of the Cup, at least showing more spark that day.
A revival is required, though that’s rather the point, in relation to his price, and the positive is that there are significant dots to be joined, given his back-form and given his stamina, tailor-made in theory for the long-distance Ascot Stakes. That makes him too tempting to miss at 33/1.