This piece is titled so, due to the perception of many that the Shergar Cup is not real racing on account of the team aspect of the meeting, and the feeling that as the day progresses, shenanigans may occur in the form of tactical riding as the team scores mount up and the ‘shape’ of the final couple of races may alter due to riding tactics which would otherwise not come into play.
Personally, I am somewhat ambivalent about the meeting, but recognise that it does attract interest from outside of the racing world to the sport, which has to be a good thing. Any bets I have will be to small stakes for an interest in the races I watch.
So, let’s see if we can apply trends and history to find a winner or two. Jockeys riding today with a good record in previous Shergar Cups are Hayley Turner with 4 wins from 45 rides, Fran Berry 4 from 15, Gerald Mosse 3 from 14, and Yutaka Take 3 from 19. (Interestingly, Frankie Dettori, probably the most famous of all Ascot jockeys has a 0 from 20 Shergar Cup record, but he misses the meeting this year). One other indicator of winners is where the horse last ran. The top three tracks where winners came from last time out are Sandown with 6 wins from 19 runs, Haydock with 4 from 14, and Newbury which has a 3 from 17 record.
First up at 1.05 is The Dash. This is a 3yo+ sprint over 5f in which in the last 10 years only six 3yo’s have turned up and none even left with some place money. In terms of winner SP position there have been 3 x favs, 3 x second favs, 3 x third favs and 1 x fifth fav. This indicates we should probably not look too far outside the top of the market. Robert Cowell has trained 3 winners and has 3 representatives entered today – Sir Robert Cheval, Encore D’Or and Evergate. No other trainer with an entrant today has won the race before. 5yo’s have won 6 from 24 attempts, followed by 4yo’s with 3 from 30 and there has been one 6yo winner. My selection for a small bet in the race will be the Robert Cowell trained 4yo EVERGATE who will be in the first three in the betting and ran a good second over course and distance a couple of weeks ago.
At 1.40 is the Stayers Handicap for 4yo+ over 2 miles. In terms of market position, winners have come from favourite (twice) to rank outsider (once at 25/1) but 9 of the winners were all priced at 8/1 or lower. Half of the last 10 winners came from stalls 7 to 10. Trainer Ian Williams has won the race twice and has 2 entrants today – Byron Flyer and Stars Over The Sea. Other previous winning trainers with entries are Ed Dunlop – runs Manjaam, and Andrew Balding who runs Cleonte. In terms of age, 4yo and 5yo’s have won 9 times from 63 entries, and 6yo’s and older just 1 from 37. The interest bet for me will be likely favourite CLEONTE, a 5yo whose last race was at Newbury (see first paragraph), is trained by previous race winning trainer Andrew Balding, and is nicely drawn in stall 8.
There then follows the Shergar Cup Challenge at 2.15, a Class 3 handicap for 4yo+ over a mile and a half. None of today’s entries are trained by a trainer with a previous winner in the race. Winning SP’s have ranged from 5/1 to 16/1, and with half the last 10 winners starting at 9/1 or higher, this is a tricky race to assess. 4yo or 5yo horses have won 8 of the 10 renewals. A low draw at the 1m 4f distance at Ascot is usually a hindrance (just 1 winner from stalls 1 or 2 over 10 years), but otherwise there are few other trends with any meaningful impact. I’ll take a chance on EDDYSTONE ROCK at a decent price. He appears to be well-drawn in stall 5, has slipped down to 2lbs below his last winning mark and ran a race hinting at a possible return to form over course and distance at the Royal Ascot meeting.
The next race at 2.50 is the Mile Handicap. The 10 runnings have yielded wins for 10 different trainers and 10 different jockeys. All 10 winners have been priced 10/1 or lower, and to further whittle down our possibles, 7 of the last 10 winners were a 4yo or 5yo within the top 3 in the market. An unexpected negative is that of the 27 previous horses to run who finished in the first three in their previous run, none won. All the last 10 winners finished 4th or worse. On an admittedly low sample, a high draw (stalls 7 to 10) with 5 winners seems preferable to a low draw (stalls 1 to 3) with 2 winners, or a middle draw (stalls 4 to 6) with 3 winners. It seems to me that there are few jockeys who relish a Shergar Cup win as much as Hayley Turner, so it is her mount VIA SERENDIPITY who will be my selection on the basis of being a 4yo with a high draw, likely to be in the first three in the betting market, who is being ridden by an enthusiastic jockey with a good Shergar Cup record.
The penultimate race, where those aforementioned shenanigans may start to make an appearance, is the Shergar Cup Classic at 3.25, a 1m 4f Class 3 handicap for 3yo’s. Richard Hannon has won the race twice in the last 3 years, and today he has Sergio Leone in the race. Winners have been spread throughout the market, ranging from 2/1f to 16/1. Geldings have a fairly poor 1 from 31 record in a race which has been won by colts 6 times from 43 runs (14%) and fillies 2 times from 14 runs (14.3%). Excluding geldings reduces today’s field by three. This race has only 9 previous renewals to look at, and with all 9 winners having run in the last 4 weeks, and all having a top 4 finish last time out, I’ll go for that Richard Hannon trained SERGIO LEONE with my two bob bet.
The closing race, by which time it will possibly be very important to look at the prevailing team standings with a view to who needs what points, and who might race tactically to assist a team member, is the Class 2 Sprint over 6f for 3yo’s at 4.00 pm. This race has been won 9 times out of 10 by one of the first four in the betting, and the highest SP has been 8/1. 8 of those winners ran at the same 6f distance last time out. Without the benefit of knowing jockey team standings going into the race, I would nominate the Fran Berry ridden SHAHEEN and Hayley Turner’s mount ROUNDHAY PARK for a split-stakes bet.
Due to the nature of this one-off meeting, it is not one in which you want to wade in with hefty bets. But if you look past the issues connected with the event that various racing curmudgeons will bang on about all day today, it can be quite an enjoyable afternoon’s entertainment. I hope I have been able to pinpoint a winner or two, but whatever you back, best of luck, and enjoy the event.