Gold can take silver in cracking QEII

FOR two reasons, I’m not going to even attempt to get Frankel beaten in today’s QEII Stakes at Ascot.

Firstly, I truly feel it would be a fruitless task, and, secondly - for reason less hard-nosed - I don’t particularly want to see him beaten. If I thought there was a profit in it, I might be open to the idea but even taking him on at odds of 1-3 is likely to end in disappointment - and who wants to be disappointed watching Frankel win?

His presence on the card gives some credibility to the name Champions’ Day and it’ll be a let-down of huge proportions to fans and organisers alike if he is eclipsed.

With three-parts brother Bullet Train in the field to ensure the race does not turn into a dawdle, it seems pointless to look beyond him.

But there must be punting opportunities for racing fans and the market without the favourite has a much more open look to it.

The state of the ground is important. Ascot management have watered the track this week to ensure it’s not firm and, as stands, it’s likely to run on the fast side of good.

French raider Immortal Verse has been at her best on ground with some give in it, but she’s in the form of her life right now and she should also have the race run to suit.

She was an easy winner of the Jacques le Marois last time, where the arguably waining Goldikova was second, and employed last-to-first tactics to win the Coronation previously. In the Ascot race, she was visually impressive but the race appeared to fall apart in front of her. She’s certainly dangerous if coping with the conditions but there may be value in opposing her on grounds of the ground.

Excelebration won on very testing conditions in France last time but he’s twice run very well behind Frankel on good to firm ground.

As one that’s likely to run reasonably close to the pace, he should get first run on many of his rivals. He has huge place claims and makes some appeal at 7-4 without the favourite.

The other one of interest is Dubawi Gold, who was behind Excelebration last time out but will be more at home on today’s conditions.

He’s the apparent second string of the Hannon team, which also runs Dick Turpin, but he might be the one more suited to the way this race looks likely to be run.

He came from way off the pace to finish second in the Irish and English 2000 Guineas, and will be similarly deployed by Johnny Murtagh this afternoon. With a fine turn of pace as his most potent weapon, he’ll be making strong late gains and, at odds of 12-1 without the favourite, it could pay to take a chance that such tactics reap dividends.

Dick Turpin seems to have returned to his best after a busy early-season campaign in which his form tapered off. Poet’s Voice won this race last year but this is a different breed of a renewal and he’s yet to recapture that sort of form in 2011.

All eyes will most certainly be on Frankel, but if you’re interested in the sideshow, Dubawi Gold and Excelebration may be the ones to concentrate on.

In the fillies’ and mares’, it may be worth opposing favourite Vita Nova. Henry Cecil’s four-year-old has progressed nicely this year but she counts just a handicap victory as her sole success of the season. It’s a big ask for her to make the Group 1-breakthrough at this stage of a long season, and she is best left alone. Ferdoos, on the other hand, has had only one run in 2011 and that came all the way back in May when she rallied to beat Vita Nova in a listed race. If Group 1 winning trainer Roger Varian has her fully wound-up after a long absence, she should go very close. The market will reveal her well-being.

Nathaniel one for exchange players

SO YOU THINK is favourite for this afternoon’s Champion Stakes but I would have grave concerns about backing him after the really tough race he had at Longchamp, where he finished fourth in the Arc.

I don’t subscribe to the idea that he got a bad ride that day. He didn’t have the tactical pace to overcome his bad draw early, and therefore had to be delivered late. He made good inroads but he wasn’t doing any more then Snow Fairy in the last furlong and I’d struggle to make up the circumstances under which he would have beaten winner Danedream.

I also thought he looked out on his feet in the closing stages and, though Aidan O’Brien’s decision to run him must be treated with the utmost respect, I just could not bring myself to back or recommend him now.

Supporters will argue that he thrived on aggressive campaigning in Australia, but the Arc was the best race he’s ever run in and he’ll need to be a wonder horse to have bounced back this quickly.

Had he not run at Longchamp, I’d certainly be backing him at 9-4 but, in the circumstances, he could be one to swerve for today. The decision to keep him in training for next year came as a pleasant surprise. Although he’s done precious little wrong, he probably hasn’t wowed racing fans in the manner connections may have expected, but it’s good to know that he may have the chance to do so in 2012.

King George winner Nathaniel has recorded all his best form on good to soft going and it seems that his achievements have been ignored, with the belief that he will not go on today’s ground.

His last two outings (King George and King Edward VII Stakes) were both at this course and, while the drop in trip asks another question, he’s drifted to a dangerously big 13/2. A true-run race would negate the concerns about the trip, and he looks just the type to attract market support. Although it’s a wide-open race in which Dubai Prince represents the ‘could-be-anything’ category, Nathaniel looks a likely type for exchange traders.

Twice Over is bidding for a unique hat-trick as he won the last two runnings of this race, when it was staged at Newmarket. He has winning form here at Ascot and arrives in great form, but he had little to spare when beating stable-companion Midday last time and this is much tougher.

Bullet to blaze a trail in Laurels semi-finals

If Rockchase Bullet is the same dog that ran here in the first and second rounds of the Pat Hennerty Sales Irish Laurels, he will win tonight’s opening semi-final and, at bookmakers’ offers of 6/4, all those who believe he is, should fill their boots.

Of course, the proviso above is not made lightly, for there was reason to suspect that the effects of some stunning performances were catching up on him when he scraped through to this stage with a last-gasp grab of third spot in his quarter-final heat.

It’s an awful lot to ask of Ronny Wuyts’ dog to continue to produce the sorts of effort he wowed us with in weeks one and two, but if he is at the top of his game here, the draw could work perfectly in his favour.

National record holder Leeview Jet is drawn on his inner and connections of Rockchase Bullet will be hoping that their closest rival will pop out and set the speed.

In coursing the hare, Leeview Jet moves right off the rail as he races the backstraight, and that will leave Rockchase Bullet with the whole of the track to work with.

The pace the beaten Derby finalist showed to come from some eight lengths behind Sede Vacante a fortnight ago would be irresistible were he to turn close to the pace.

The make-up of the race suggests he will turn second and that should setup a winning run.

The draw for the second semi-final certainly favours Dream Walker, who remains unbeaten in the stake and returns to his favoured pitch along the rails.

Tom O’Neill’s dog overcame plenty of trouble to win his quarter-final heat from trap three but he was far more impressive when racing in the red jacket in previous rounds.

With Happy Hermit certain to move wide in the early stages, the Derby runner-up will enjoy the inside of the track to himself - provided the rails-seeking Razldazl Rioga does not overcome what looks a terrible draw out in five.

Dolores Ruth’s dog excelled from what looked a desperately tough pitch last week but, again, has enjoyed little luck with the draw. National Puppy Stake winner Deerfield Music, drawn on his immediate inside, produced one of the performances of the Laurels when trouncing his rivals in the quarter-finals and he provides just the first stumbling block for Razldazl Rioga.

The wide-running Happy Hermit will provide the second barrier to his attempts to commandeer a rails pitch. It’s all against Razldazl Rioga here and, if he can overcome this, he will have to be taken very seriously in the final. While Dream Walker will take the beating, a best price of 11-10 is no more than fair in a top-class heat.

Cashmas have priced all runners to reach the final/not to reach the final and, although the overrounds aren’t entirely appealing, the immensely talented St Louis Charlie looks like he’ll enjoy a dream run and is worth an interest at 5/4.

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