Back Course Specialists in Ascot International Stakes

We warm up for the Galway and Goodwood festivals with the 26 runner International stakes which is as competitive as it gets over 7 furlongs.

That handicap precedes a stellar renewal of the King George stakes at Ascot this afternoon. It's great to see 11 top class horses battle it out in a clash of the generations. If Auguste Rodin wins, then he sure is the real deal following his Derby wins at Epsom & the Curragh. 

The midweek rainfall at Ascot is good news for connections of Vafortino. He won the Victoria Cup over course and distance in 2022 on good ground but prefers a bit of soft in the going description. Vafortino is a solid and consistent performer in these heritage handicaps. He stays the stiff seven furlongs at Ascot well having won over a mile on good to soft at Goodwood at the backend of his 2022 season.

This season he finished second and third behind Rebel Territory in too hot handicaps in the spring. The fast ground was against him in the Buckingham Palace stakes at Royal Ascot. Vafortino bounced back and was nabbed on the line at York over 7f on good ground a couple of weeks ago. He is nicely drawn in the middle and should go forward with 5lb claimer Kaiya Fraser riding for the first time. Kaiya’s claim leaves Vafortino carrying 9-2 which is a big help in such a competitive handicap.

Escobar is the class horse in this race competing off top weight of 9-12. I am not overly concerned about the weight as he has proven in the past, he can win these heritage handicaps carrying big weights. He has a serious turn of foot off a strong pace so the quicker they go up front the better. The rain softened ground should help bring the leaders back to the field approaching the final furlong making this a proper test of stamina.

Escobar won over course and distance last October in a similar race when rated 107 which is the same mark he runs from here. Frankie Dettori is booked to ride and he loves it at Ascot riding winners anyway they require be it off the front or from out the back. Dangers lurk everywhere such as recent Bunbury cup winner Biggles, Irish Lincoln winner Baradar & multiple Ascot winner Fresh.

Ascot 3:00

0.5 point each way Vafortino 9/1 William Hill else 17/2 Paddy Power & Betfair SB, all paying 6 places.

0.5 point each way Escobar 18/1 Betway 8 places else 18/1 generally, 6 places.

Best of Luck, Nicky