Day 4 at Royal Ascot is all about the speedsters, with the Commonwealth Cup over 5f the centre-piece on a seven-race card which also includes the Albany and the Norfolk Stakes.
That should make it a fast and furious afternoon in blistering Berkshire, but there’s room for the middle-distance stars too in the Hardwicke and the Queen’s Vase.
Add it all up and you get five fantastic Group contests on the penultimate day at the Royal meeting, and we’ve previewed all of them, plus the bookending handicaps, in our ITV Racing Tips.
Race 1 – Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes – 13:15
These opening handicaps have been difficult to predict all week, but Art Power could be a Group horse in waiting and may make for a very warm favourite in the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Andrew Balding’s inmate bolted up by over 5l on racing’s return at Newcastle earlier this month, showing a blistering turn of foot in the process.
He’s been given a very attractive mark based on that performance, and with a favourable high-draw is expected to run a big race for a yard in red-hot form.
Will To Win and Dancin Inthestreet are expected to put up the main challenge, while Electric Ladyland should also be there or thereabouts after making a winning return at Haydock.
Race 2- Albany Stakes – 13:50
Like the Chesham on Day 2, most of the two-year-olds involved in this 6f sprint haven’t had much time to prepare since their debut run. Most, that is, but not all, which leads us to Flying Aletha for Wesley Ward.
The American trainer loves to send his best juveniles to Royal Ascot, and he could be forgiven for thinking Flying Aletha is his best chance of the week after she dispatched the fancied Lime by 5l at Gulfstream.
Crucially she’s had almost a month’s prep for this, which in theory should put her at an advantage over Mother Earth, who finished well on debut for Aidan O’Brien and Golden Melody, who scored well at Haydock.
Race 3 – Norfolk Stakes – 14:25
Our traders have priced up Eye Of Heaven as the one to beat here after Mark Johnston’s hopeful won comfortably at Newmarket with Windsor Castle fourth and first Get It and Tactical in-behind.
He won’t have it all his own way, though, and The Lir Jet makes for an interesting contender after the newly purchased Qatar Racing runner broke the all-age course record over 5f at Yarmouth earlier this month.
Lippazaner has run well twice in the defeat for Ballydoyle, while Golden Pal has the benefit of an extended prep for Wesley Ward. Imperial Force’s Newmarket form has been franked and is also worthy of inclusion.
Race 4 – Hardwicke Stakes – 15:00
While the form of last year’s Derby is still open to question, it was hard to not be impressed by Anthony Van Dyck’s comeback run when just 2½l behind the classy Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup at Newmarket.
A repeat of that performance will make him tough to beat, with Elarqam likely to be his main challenger if Mark Johnston’s five-year-old can cope with the step up to 1m 4f.
The son of Frankel ran consistently well last season over shorter, with the way he finished behind subsequent Prince of Wales’s winner Lord North in the Brigadier Gerard suggesting this extended trip should suit.
Morando will enter contention if there’s plenty of cut in the ground, although Defoe has plenty to find after bombing out at Newmarket when behind Anthony Van Dyck.
Of the remainder, Hamish is worth a check in the market pitched in at this level on his return. William Haggas’s inmate won two decent handicaps over 1m 5f last term before being touched off by the likeable Trueshan last time out.
Race 5 – Commonwealth Cup – 15:35
There are plenty with chances at the top of the market in this 6f dash, with the top-rated Wooded for French trainer Francis-Henri Graffard the one who could be of most interest.
The Wootton Bassett colt was campaigned over 7f last season but stepped back to 6f on his reappearance in a Group 3 at Chantilly and subsequently romped home by an impressive 3½l.
That’s probably some of the best form on offer, and it makes him a live contender alongside the likes of American raider Kimari and unbeaten speedster Pierre Lapin for Roger Varian.
Elsewhere, Golden Horde was twice behind the impressive Earthlight last season, while Millisle and Lope Y Fernandez are turned out again after a limited break. Mums Tipple is also of interest back down at 6f.
Race 6 – Queen’s Vase – 16:10
Nine line-up for the final Group contest of the day and there’s plenty to get excited about with Al Daraban, Born With Pride, Santiago, Nobel Prize and Berkshire Rocco all near the top of the betting.
The latter of those is the first to pique our interest after the way he chased home Epsom Derby favourite English King in the Derby Trial at Lingfield earlier this month.
Andrew Balding’s star was well clear of the third that day and looked to have plenty left in the tank, so the extra 2½f on offer here should suit him down to the ground.
The trainer won the race last year with Dashing Willoughby but that pales in comparison to Aidan O’Brien who has saddles the winner of the Queen’s Vase in five of the last ten years.
Nobel Prize looks to be his best hope after impressing in the mud at Naas on his last start, while previous Oaks favourite Born With Pride should enjoy the step up in trip after a solid comeback spin at Kempton.
She won a Listed event from subsequent Irish 1000 Guineas winner Peaceful last season which also warrants respect.
Race 7 – Duke of Edinburgh Stakes – 16:40
You’ll be hard pushed to find a more competitive betting heat all week than the Duke of Edinburgh, with over half of the field given a realistic chance by our traders.
Dubai Future is one who’s available at a middling price and should come on from his last appearance when runner-up in a Group 3 at Meydan. He’ll need to overcome a wide draw but he has a chance.
Elsewhere, West End Charmer’s recent form leaps of the page, although there are question marks over this trip, while Durston has form with St Leger runner-up Sir Ron Priestley and looks certain to get involved.
There are cases to be made for plenty for others, too, in a race which could go in any direction.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication