Raven’s poised to pass acid test

RAVEN’S Pass finds himself with one final chance to prove he is up to taking on the best milers around in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot today.

John Gosden’s colt was smart as a juvenile and looked very decent indeed when spread-eagling the field in the Solario Stakes at Sandown.

He was beaten in the Dewhurst by New Approach – no shame in that – but the soft ground was used as an excuse.

His seasonal return saw him go down by the narrowest of margins to Twice Over, but Gosden was very open before the race and said there would be plenty of improvement to come.

When he finished fourth in the Guineas his bad draw was put up as a primary reason for what was a below-par run, but there can be no fudging the issue this time.

It might be that he is just below top-class, but he is the value call in what looks a very strong renewal.

The opening Queen Anne Stakes can get Ballydoyle off to a flying start for the meeting with Haradasun.

The Australian import was the subject of strong support for the Lockinge in the ante-post market but drifted like the proverbial barge on the day.

He still ran a pleasing enough race in sixth after meeting interference and will be all the sharper for that.

The King’s Stand sees the Aussies to the fore once again but it is another overseas rival, the Spanish raider Equiano, who is of more interest at the prices.

He showed unbelievable speed in the Prix du Gros-Chene, a race that has proved an invaluable trial for this race in the past, and only gave best to the top-notch Marchand D’Or.

A reproduction of that effort will see him right on the premises.

The Coventry Stakes, won by Henrythenavigator last year, can go the way of Michael Bell’s precocious Art Connoisseur.

Unbeaten in two starts, Bell has swerved the Norfolk Stakes over five furlongs for this stronger race and is seemingly full of confidence.

Ian Williams saddled the rejuvenated Bulwark to win the Chester Cup earlier this season and has now got his hands on another quirky type in Baddam, who goes in the Ascot Stakes.

When with Mick Channon he won twice at this meeting in the space of four days back in 2006, including this race, a fair achievement over marathon trips.

Johnny Murtagh has been booked so expect a big run.

The closing Windsor Castle Stakes can go to Barry Hills’ Dabbers Chief, ultra-impressive in winning at Haydock last time.

Thirsk stage a competitive card away from Ascot, with the David Barker-trained Mr Wolf a standout in the Ladies Day Handicap as he has been drawn well and has also slipped to a tantalising mark.

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