We concentrate on the Moet & Chandon International Stakes (3.00) at Ascot, a lofty title for a tough and competitive handicap, where course specialist RIPP ORF and lively outsider ISLAND OF LIFE catch the eye.
The David Elsworth trained Ripp Orf really loves this place, and ran much better than his final placing would suggest when a close up sixth to Vale Of Kent in the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket. As seems to be so often the case in big handicaps these days, the race split into two groups and the far bunch edged it. While he finished out the race well, Elsworth reaches for a first time tongue tie this time.
Even more important though is that he is back to his favourite venue and Hayley Turner is back in the plate and she gets on really well with him. The stars seem to be aligning as the handicapper has been lenient as well, and his rating of 93 is 5 lbs. lower than how he was assessed at the start of the season. Last year he finished a close third off a 1 lb. lower mark, and later went on to land the Cunard Handicap over this course and distance.
Ascot is certainly one of those "horses for courses" circuits as we saw with Tis Marvellous a couple of weeks ago. Ripp Orf is a reliable sort who looks sure to play a leading role.
Island Of Life may, at first glance, appear a less obvious contender, and that is reflected in the generous price available. She was second on her only previous visit here and that was over five furlongs which we know is much too sharp for her. Generally considered to be more of an all weather horse, they invariably fare well at this sand based straight course.
She clearly has ability and was sent off favourite at the Lingfield All Weather racing at Easter. But she was too far out the back early doors, and while she cut loose once she saw daylight she just failed to reel in the winner who had got first run.She has decent pattern form having finished third to the smart Invincible Army over a trip too short at Newcastle.
In these tight handicaps, having an in form apprentice on your side is often the difference between victory and defeat, and red hot 5 lbs. claimer Cieren Fallon brings her weight down to 8 - 8. Cieren really is a chip off the old black and has booted home 30 winners already this season.
Vale Of Kent has a 3 lbs. penalty but Frankie Dettori's mount is still respected. Last year's winner Burnt Sugar is in the mix again, while class act Larchmont Lad is interesting dropping to handicap class, He is a seven furlongs specialist, has competed at a very high level and was particularly unlucky to lose a hot contest in the Stewards Room at Leopardstown. As we might expect he has plenty of weight to shoulder though Scott McCullagh takes off a valuable 5 lbs.
Seamie Heffernan is an interesting booking for Hey Jonesy, Land Of Legends is on a hat trick while Lush Life could run a big one as she drops back in trip. But Ripp Orf and Island Of Life should give us a great run for our money.
ASCOT - 3:00
1/2 Point Each Way Ripp Orf (11/1 Paddy Power or Betfair Sportsbook both paying 6 places)
1/2 Point Each Way Island of Life (20/1 William Hill paying 7 places)
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