Rachael Blackmore bids for more big-race glory - but this time she's on the Flat
5.00 Royal Ascot
Ascot Stakes (Handicap) | 2m4f | 4yo+ | 0-100 | ITV4/Sky
Sometimes a race just jumps out at you as a hot contest and that happened in April when Sleeping Lion and Postileo fought out the finish to the Queen's Prize at Kempton and pulled seven lengths clear.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating and not a single winner has emerged from that contest. However, it might be too early to pass judgement on the strength of the form because only three of the runners have competed since and the acid test comes today.
Sleeping Lion is around 14-1 for the Copper Horse Stakes (6.10), but before then Postileo aims to salvage his reputation and prove he is still an improving young stayer. He has twice been beaten since Kempton, but he looked unlucky not to win the Chester Plate.
He made relentless headway from an unpromising position to take second but couldn't get to Green Brook, who benefitted from an enterprising ride and had the run of the race from the front. There was another excuse for Postileo last time at Haydock when he finished fourth in a hot-looking staying handicap but challenged on the seemingly unfavoured far side.
There will be no excuses for the Roger Varian-trained runner here and last year the trainer dominated staying races in Britain, saddling ten winners from 27 runners in races over 1m5f-plus. That's a 37 per cent strike-rate for a £1 level-stake profit of £10.07.
One of the easiest ways to make money at Royal Ascot has been to back Willie Mullins-trained runners who were ridden by Ryan Moore. The pair have struck with five winners from just 12 runners (42 per cent strike-rate) for a £1 level-stake profit of £15.50.
That suggests Moore will have had the pick of the Mullins trio and the fact he has chosen M C Muldoon ahead of Royal Illusion and Rayapour can probably be considered a tip in itself.
The final word goes to Cape Gentleman, another Irish-trained runner. His trainer Emmet Mullins has been prolific in jumps races in Britain in the last five seasons (8-21; 38 per cent), but the success hasn't been replicated on the Flat. He is 0-10 in British Flat races in that time.
Race analysis by Graeme Rodway
Blackmore back on the Flat
Rachael Blackmore conquered Cheltenham, made history at Aintree and she will now bid to tick off another festival milestone with her first ride at the royal meeting aboard Cape Gentleman.
The 31-year-old has 11 winners on the Flat in Ireland and rode in last year's Irish Derby for Cape Gentleman's trainer Emmet Mullins. However, she is winless from just two rides on the Flat in Britain.
Mullins said: "Rachael is riding over two and a half miles every day of the week, while most of those she is riding against are probably averaging a mile. You'd like to think it is some sort of advantage."
On Cape Gentleman – a Grade 2 winner over hurdles at Kempton earlier this year – he added: "It's exciting to have a runner at the meeting. It's a big jump, but it's a tight handicap and he doesn't have to give away too much weight."
What they say
Willie Mullins, trainer of Rayapour, M C Muldoon and Royal Illusion
Ryan [Moore] is a big plus for M C Muldoon. We think he'll get this trip but we're slightly concerned about how he will handle the fast ground. Rayapour will handle the ground and his pedigree suggests he'll stay this trip. Adam Kirby is riding well and with the help of first-time cheekpieces he must have a great chance. Royal Illusion has a great each-way chance. She won the 2019 Irish Cesarewitch and a reproduction of that form would put her in the firing line.
John Gosden, joint-trainer of Golden Rules
We've had this in mind for him since April and we're pleased he's managed to get into it. They can get a bit strung out in the race but he's a good old galloper and stays well.
George Boughey, trainer of Lostwithiel
He won his first two and was second on his next two starts. He's a raw, improving horse and is from a family that stays miles.
Roger Varian, trainer of Postileo
He's had three good runs this season without winning. He looks like he's going to stay well but it's a tough race.
William Muir, joint-trainer of Just Hubert
He looks great and has come out of his last race, where he ran extremely well, in good shape. The trip suits him to a tee and the ground will be fine. I haven't got any negatives to say about him.
Alan King, trainer of Coeur De Lion
He's in good order and we were pleased with his run in the Chester Cup. There's a slight concern about the ground as it'll be as quick as he wants it – his best form has been with a bit of dig in the ground.
Reporting by Matt Rennie
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