'There is no denying the phenomenal training that has gone into Rohaan'
5.00 Royal Ascot
Wokingham Stakes (Heritage Handicap) | 6f, 3yo+ | ITV4/Sky
Ascot's straight course tends to favour sprinters who are ridden cold – it's a long way home without cover on this wide track – and a glance at the race comments for winners of the Wokingham since 2011 features 'held up' on eight occasions.
The two anomalies have come in the last two years as Cape Byron (2019) and Hey Jonesy (2020) were always up in the vanguard before fending off allcomers.
Setting your stall out early may not be the big negative it once was – we saw Highfield Princess make pretty much all the running in the Buckingham Palace on Thursday and Real World was never far off the pace before romping home in the Royal Hunt Cup on Wednesday.
If that is the case then Pendleton, Desert Safari, Punchbowl Flyer and the aforementioned Hey Jonesy, who is back in an attempt to retain his crown off 1lb higher, are worthy of heading your punting shortlists. Drawn all across the track, that quartet could be fighting it out for early advantage.
Should they go harder than ideal, a particular danger in the worsening conditions, then we could see the Wokingham revert to a hold-up performers paradise and ante-post punters, who plunged into the David Evans-trained Rohaan after his Sandy Lane Stakes success, may be celebrating.
There is no denying the phenomenal training that has gone into Rohaan this term. Rated 55 when he won his first handicap in early December, the three-year-old has virtually been on the go ever since and has clearly thrived off his racing. Incredibly, he now possesses a mark of 112 and, given his love for this course and distance, he deserves to head the market. Rider Shane Kelly will have a choice to make from stall ten, though.
Drawn directly inside him are course-and-distance scorers Fresh and Chiefofchiefs, who would both benefit from a strongly run race. The latter, who is the mount of Jamie Spencer, has halved in price in the last week and won the consolation prize for this race last year off 4lb lower. Charlie Fellowes has plotted his route back here ever since.
Group 1 form comes courtesy of Tis Marvellous, who may be regressing at the age of seven but appears well handicapped on his best form at this track. It wouldn't be wrong to say that he hasn't delivered as many victories as his talent warrants (5-33 career record), but this track clearly brings the best out in him and he was only beaten three and a quarter lengths by Battaash in the King's Stand last June.
The Jessica Harrington-trained Indigo Balance spent a couple of seasons in Australia for Peter and Paul Snowden before returning this spring. His six-length romp at Tipperary showed the fire still burned brightly, and he can also be considered a class angle after his creditable fourth in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes as a juvenile.
Race analysis by Tom Collins
Fanshawe hope fit and fresh but draw a concern
The draw rather than the ground is the "million dollar question" for James Fanshawe, who is hoping Fresh can go one better than stablemate Audarya did when runner-up in Wednesday's Prince of Wales's Stakes as he tackles the Wokingham.
Heavy rain on Friday was not concerning Fanshawe, whose runner has been towards the head of the market since winning over course and distance last month.
"He's got a good record on softer ground so we were glad to see the rain come," said the trainer. "Where he's drawn is going to be the million dollar question. We're in stall nine and have to decide which way to go.
"I've found in the past that the more discussions you have the more complicated it gets, so we'll see how the race pans out. He did well to win last time and has trained well since."
The market is headed by the Queen's King's Lynn, who didn't get the clearest of runs through when finishing seventh in Tuesday's Group 1 King's Stand Stakes and has been declared to make a quick reappearance.
He has form on soft ground when runner-up in a Doncaster handicap last October, but as John Warren, racing and bloodstock adviser to the Queen, pointed out, he has "never encountered ground like this".
What they say
Alastair Donald, racing manager to King Power Racing, owners of Lampang
Whether Lampang will be favoured by this very soft ground is an unknown, but he should stay seven furlongs and has what might be a good draw.
Jessica Harrington, trainer of Indigo Balance
He will love the soft ground, adore it in fact. He's got the perfect draw against the near rail in 24 and he's dropping from a Group 2 into a handicap. I think he's got a great chance.
Clive Cox, trainer of Tis Marvellous
I would have preferred it not to have rained even though he won on soft at Leicester. He loves this track and comes to life at this time of year.
Adam Ryan, assistant to Kevin Ryan, trainer of Hey Jonesy
I was very pleased with Hey Jonesy last time out – the trip was a bit too far for him. He came alive at this meeting last year and I'm hoping he does so again.
Charlie Fellowes, trainer of Chiefofchiefs
He'll have no problem with the ground, especially over six furlongs. He's been trained with this race in mind, and ran very well in the Victoria Cup at Ascot in May. I don't really know what to make of the draw now the rain has come.
David O'Meara, trainer of Gulliver
He will love the soft ground and the more attritional, the race the better it is for him. He's better when he's off the bridle, being hunted along and tends to come good from halfway. The track will suit him.
Eve Johnson Houghton, trainer of Punchbowl Flyer
He loves swimming and the heavier the ground, the better. He's on a roll after wins at Windsor and Haydock and is in great form.
Reporting by Lewis Porteous
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