It’s a case of before the Lord Mayor’s Show with the racing this weekend because Royal Ascot takes places the week after next. There are some competitive handicaps at Newmarket but the John Of Gaunt Stakes is the main race on the card at Haydock where Growl has the form to deliver in this Group 3 contest. It must be said the racing does not get the pulse going so any betting should be kept to a minimum.
Royal Ascot is the most prestigious Flat meeting in the world as it brings together the best horses from Europe and other racing nations. Over five days there are eight Group 1 races and 18 Group races in total. In terms of prize money it is the richest meeting in Britain. Royal Ascot is as much a social occasion as sporting event but the racing is world class. It’s also a favourite week for the Queen and she goes every day. She won the Gold Cup with Estimate in 2013 and has won 71 races at the track.
One theme this year is the potential for entries from Irish jumps trainers. Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Jessica Harrington could be represented. No trainer has ever trained the winner of the Cheltenham God Cup and Ascot Gold Cup in the same season but Harington has an outside chance of doing just that. She is a dual purpose trainer who has just had her best season ever in major National Hunt races. Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls have plans for runners at Ascot.
Racing should potentially get more column inches in the mainstream Press in odd years when there is no football World Cup or European Championship Finals. However, there are always other major events going on which means racing misses out on a great deal of coverage. The day’s cards used to be sacrosanct but now some newspapers only cover the main races of the day. Most print publications don’t employ full time racing correspondents as all the info can be found online.
Tomorrow’s fare is very ordinary and is competing with the French Open, Lions Tour and Champions Trophy. The coverage is being shunted onto ITV4 and the broadcast could attract the smallest viewing figures for live racing since ITV became the sole terrestrial broadcaster. The John Of Gaunt Stakes is a Group 3 race over seven furlongs for colts, geldings and fillies aged four and older. Female horses receive a three pound weight allowance and the male horses carry nine stone to nine stone and five pounds.
Growl has the highest Racing Post Rating and on past form has a few pounds in hand over the opposition. Graham Lee takes the ride which is an interesting storyline ahead of Royal Ascot. He is the only jockey to have ridden the winner of the Grand National and Ascot Gold Cup. Lee was a successful jumps jockey and is now producing the goods in terms of winners on the level. He has built up a great relationship with Richard Fahey who trains Growl.
Growl won a handicap race at Windsor last June carrying nine stones five pounds. At the time the horse looked like a Group horse running in a handicap. Growl then won at Listed level and has earned a race in Group company. The horse has run to the same rating on the last three starts and is in theory the best horse in the race at Haydock. The distance and going should not be a problem. Grown carries five pounds less than the ante post favourite Breton Rock and that concession could be crucial.
Breton Rock has run to a career best level of one pound behind Growl and but over a longer period of time. The highlight was finishing third in the Lockinge Stakes, behind Ribchester and Lightning Spear. That is outstanding form and the drop back in class is a positive. A more accurate measure of the horse’s ability is the down the field run in the Champion Stakes. On that evidence Growl can use the five pounds weight advantage well and win the John of Gaunt Stakes.