Banksea heads Cumani's twin bid to end hoodoo
5.00 Royal Ascot
Royal Hunt Cup | 1m handicap | 3yo+ | ITV/RUK
No matter what happens on the track, this royal meeting will be remembered with pride by Luca Cumani.
Cumani's daughter Francesca is hosting ITV's Royal Ascot coverage alongside Ed Chamberlin and could well find herself interviewing her father should El Vip or Banksea give the trainer a first success in the famous cavalry charge.
"I have been proud of Francesca since the day she was born," said Cumani, who now hopes to be proud of one of his Hunt Cup hopes. With Frankie Dettori ruled out, Jamie Spencer has switched from Banksea to El Vip, impressive on Newcastle's all-weather track last time, with Luke Morris coming in for the mount on the Newbury Spring Cup winner.
The super-shrewd Cumani, so often the choice of punters in major handicaps, has had only one Royal Ascot winner in the last 20 years, but since first scoring at the meeting in 1976 he has fielded a number of Hunt Cup beaten favourites and runners-up.
"Banksea is the more obvious one of the two as he's the more consistent," he said. "El Vip has his ups and downs but on his day is just as good, if not better.
"We haven't run Banksea since the Spring Cup as we didn't want his mark to go up any more. El Vip, like Banksea, is in excellent form and won his last race very well."
Abe not another Laddies says Noseda
Bookmakers know how it feels to be bitten by Jeremy Noseda at Royal Ascot and they fear another wounding.
Laddies Poker Two and Forgotten Voice landed monster gambles for Noseda in the 2010 Wokingham Stakes and 2009 Royal Hunt Cup. Not surprisingly, therefore, people took notice when last year's Britannia Handicap second Abe Lincoln was cut from 25-1 downwards over the weekend.
For his first outing in 370 days, Gerald Mosse's mount, who runs in the colours of former BHA chairman Paul Roy's wife Susan, is now vying for favouritism.
"He's not a Laddies Poker Two or Forgotten Voice sort of gamble but he's training well and goes there in top order," said Noseda.
"We've targeted this race for a while and he's drawn stands side, which I've always felt is the place to be at Ascot when it's riding fast."
Charlton has reason to lament loss of Palace
The most recent race to be axed from the royal meeting was the Buckingham Palace Stakes, a move Roger Charlton has come to regret.
The seven-furlong handicap was removed from the programme to make way for the Commonwealth Cup. Had the contest survived it would have been the chosen target for Yuften, winner of the £250,000 Balmoral Handicap over the Hunt Cup course and distance on British Champions Day but then a disappointment in the Lincoln.
"The Buckingham Palace would have been the ideal race for him, had it still existed, as he could run equally well in the Hunt Cup and Wokingham," said Charlton, whose contender starts from stall four.
"He obviously ran below expectations in the Lincoln. He was arguably on the wrong side and may have seen too much daylight.
"He won the Balmoral from a low draw. I suspect a high draw is probably what we would have preferred, but if he puts his best foot forward he has a good chance."
Bill back in pursuit of second Cup triumph
Four summers after winning the Royal Hunt Cup, George Baker's wonderful servant Belgian Bill tries to win it again at the age of nine.
Back in 2013 the frequent flyer was ridden by James Doyle to get home in front of Premio Loco. This time he is partnered by Trevor Whelan as he makes his first start since a winter stint in Dubai.
"Belgian Bill has been a complete legend," said Baker. "He's a remarkable horse, but can he come back and win the Hunt Cup again? Probably not, but he's in very good form and it was always the plan to have him fresh for one day in June."
Baker also saddles Boomshackerlacker and said: "He has been banging his door in the big handicaps and he ran well in this race last year."
What they say
Richard Hannon, trainer of Tabarrak and George William
Tabarrak loves this track and proved that last time, winning in Listed company over the mile. Top weight in these handicaps is very hard to burden, but he has plenty of class and if he gets the right run he should be right there. The older George William gets, the better he gets. He should run a very big race if he can get the right run.
John Gosden, trainer of Tashweeq, Remarkable, GM Hopkins and Castle Harbour
Tashweeq didn't like the dead ground at Sandown on his first run for a good while but should find this more his bag. Remarkable is a great old character who does everything himself and enjoys life. He's run well at Ascot before, as has GM Hopkins, who won the race a couple of years ago. He's not as well weighted as he used to be but has come up to the race well. Castle Harbour is in the July Sales and has run consistently this year and deserves to take his chance.
Mick Channon, trainer of Bossy Guest
There's a big one in him. I'm very hopeful.
Richard Fahey, trainer of Another Touch and Withernsea
Both won last time. Juice would help Withernsea but he isn't going to get any. Winning has done Another Touch no harm and we're taking 7lb off his back to help him.
Harry Dunlop, trainer of Early Morning
We're hopeful more than anything but he does have conditions in his favour. He ran well in the race last year, he loves fast ground and we've got Adam Kirby on board.
Rebecca Menzies, trainer of Von Blucher
We've had this race in the back of our minds since John Dance bought him. He's lightly raced and has straight-mile winning form on the ground. He also likes to be ridden off a strong pace. He should outrun his big odds.
Charlie Appleby, trainer of G K Chesterton and Blair House
It was a good performance at Epsom from G K Chesterton. If he can reproduce his last run it will make him very competitive. He doesn’t have to make the running. We couldn’t see any pace beforehand on his last two runs, so we decided to go forward and keep things simple, but we should be guaranteed a strong pace this time. Blair House is making his seasonal return after being gelded and has a fair bit to find with some of the others. A bit of cut in the ground would have been helpful.
Les Eyre, trainer of Cote D'Azur
It's a massive day for us. He's in fantastic nick and certainly as good as we could possibly have him. If the handicapper is right about him we must have a chance.