Royal Hunt Cup
Finding a horse that’s likely to excel in a strongly-run, large-field scenario can be half the battle in a race such as the Hunt Cup (acknowledging that draw can scupper even the best-laid plans), and Mubtasim ticks plenty of boxes as a horse that may well come into his own under such circumstances. He’s without a win since his two-year-old season and yet to even run in a handicap, but there are a few reasons for thinking that a race such as this could be the making of him.
Firstly, arguably the best effort of his career to date was achieved at this track, when third in last season’s Jersey. Mubtasim was dropped out and nearest at the finish that day, shaping as though sure to be at least as effective over a mile, but has still to be tried at the trip, finding six furlongs inadequate on his reappearance this time round before again leaving the impression a mile was likely to suit when a running-on second to the smart Tabarrak in a seven-furlong listed event at Haydock last month. Strictly from a handicapping angle, it’s hard to make a case for Mubtasim being necessarily well treated, but it’s more the expectation that he’ll thrive in the Hunt Cup scenario that makes him interesting, likely to be dropped out before hopefully weaving his way through late.
Unexposed horses find it harder to get into high-end handicaps these days, a BHA mark of around 99 the bare minimum required to get into the Wokingham in recent years, and that’s one of the reasons why the unbeaten and highly-promising Dreamfield is at such odds for the 2018 renewal. At the time of writing he’s a general 4/1 shot and, whilst fully accepting that a mark of 103 could underplay his ability by some way (he holds entries in the Diamond Jubilee and July Cup), it’s very hard to recommend backing a horse in the Wokingham at such a price.
So, we’ll try a couple at longer odds. Gilgamesh and Growl have very different profiles but, all things being equal, are well enough treated to be thereabouts at the very least should things drop right. Gilgamesh is still lightly raced for a four-year-old and, on the evidence this season, still on the up, faring best of those who raced on the ‘wrong’ side when seventh in the Victoria Cup here before scrambling home in a handicap at York. Both those races were over seven furlongs, but Gilgamesh has an impressive cruising speed that suggests he could be even more effective back at a strongly-run six. It’s the same scenario that brings out the very best in Growl, too, the minimum trip no use to him behind Kachy at Chester on his first run back last month. That should have put him spot on for this and there’s no denying he’s back to a good mark now, 7 lb lower than when beaten less than a length in the Stewards’ Cup last year. Growl has put up some of his very best efforts at this course, including when runner-up to The Tin Man in the Champions Sprint a few years back, and Out Do showed last season that age is no barrier to success in handicaps such as the Wokingham these days.
1 pt – Mubtasim, Royal Hunt Cup, Royal Ascot - 20th June
0.5 pt each – Gilgamesh & Growl, Wokingham Handicap, Royal Ascot - 23rd June
16/1 & 20/1 general
1 point win Recoletos,Queen Anne Stakes, Royal Ascot – 19th June
10/1 bet365, Ladbrokes, Boylesports, Betway, 9/1 Coral, some smaller firms
2 points win Sioux Nation, Commonwealth Cup, Royal Ascot – 22nd June
6/1 bet365, Skybet, Ladbrokes, Coral, 5/1 general
1 point each-way City Light, Diamond Jubilee, Royal Ascot – 23rd June
16/1 general, 20/1 bet365, Boylesports