For the second time in as many weeks, Group 1 racing will light up Ascot Racecourse for 2018 Winterbottom Stakes Day.
The Winterbottom Stakes has continued to improve year-on-year since the turn of the century and we’ll be treated to an outstanding edition of the feature sprint this weekend when a smart local contingent step out alongside an impressive group of interstate raiders.
Multiple Group 1 winner Viddora remains the firm favourite to defend her crown in the Winterbottom, but she’ll face plenty of resistance from the likes of Enticing Star and Malaguerra.
Only seven horses will step out in the first on Winterbottom Stakes Day and it does looks like Agent Pippa’s to lose. Agent Pippa ($2.80) stormed home to win at this track and distance two starts back before a credible performance for sixth in the Group 3 Prince Of Wales Stakes (1000m) last time out. She’s rock-hard fit and drawn perfectly on the rails. With even luck, she’s the one to beat.
Six two-year-olds have been confirmed in the field for this year’s Crystal Slipper and of those horses, only three have exposed form.
The Paul Jordan-trained Specialism ($1.60) has opened the clear favourite in betting after recording two impressive wins from as many starts. On exposed form he probably wins, but he is simply too short for me and I am happy to stay out of this race from a betting perspective.
Another race with a clear favourite in betting and I am confident that Arcadia Prince ($2) will justify his position in the market. Arcadia Prince resumed this time for a smart win over 1400m at Belmont before finishing second behind Jeraft at this track and distance in late October. His performance to win the RTG BM72+ (1400m) here two weeks ago was impressive and he is primed for another big performance on Saturday. He has the notable advantage of William Pike in the saddle and could enjoy the run of the race from barrier 3.
The Neville Parnham-trained Platoon ($2.25) failed to fire last weekend, but he will relish a step back from Group 2 company into the fourth on Winterbottom Day and looks the horse to beat. The Playing God colt broke his maiden in impressive fashion first-up and has continued a good rise through the grades; finishing second over 1400m at Ascot before a credible performance for fifth in the Listed Fairetha Stakes (1400m). He is rock-hard fit and will be hard to hold out with only 54kgs in tow.
Stable mate Ouqba Jack ($6.50) has continued to receive interest in betting and looms as a live threat, while last-start winning Nordic King ($5) could prove to be the value in the field, particularly with William Pike in the saddle.
Eleven horses have been confirmed in the field for the fifth and the Adam Durrant-trained Royal Command has opened an odds-on favourite ($1.85). The Street Sense gelding ran well to place at his first two starts this time but was flat last time out and would need to improve noticeably to return to the winner’s stall in this race. He’s drawn wide and has been charged with carrying a heavy weight and does look to be a bit of a false favourite.
I’m happy to take on Royal Command and I think that Rising Sea ($6) is the horse that can do it. The Sebring gelding ran on well to finish fourth over 1200m first-up in October and hit the line to finish second last time out. The rise in trip is ideal and he is ready to peak third-up.
This is one of the most open races on Winterbottom Stakes Day from a betting perspective and there is a case to be made for more than half of the fifteen-strong capacity field.
I’m leaning towards the Simon Miller-trained Fine Scent ($7.50) at her current price. The All Too Hard mare has been charged with overcoming a potentially sticky barrier (12), but she’s rock-hard fit after three runs this time and will carry winning form into the race. If she doesn’t have to do too much work early, I’m confident she can fight out the finish.
The Winterbottom has continued to improve year-on-year and we’re set for an outstanding edition of the Group 1 sprint on Saturday. A talented local crop will line up alongside several impressive interstate raiders and there’s plenty of value to be found in betting.
Viddora ($2.90) broke through for a maiden win at the highest level in this race last year and looms as the horse to beat again. Having progressed to an easy win in the Magic Millions Snippets (1200m) last summer, Viddora resumed for second in the Group 3 RN Irwin Stakes (1200m) in April, but failed to fire in the Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m) and was returned to the paddock. Her run and win in the Group 1 Moir Stakes (1000m) first-up in spring was outstanding and she can be forgiven for her most-recent run in The Everest (1200m) as she simply did not handle the heavy going. She has a class edge over her rivals on Saturday and could enjoy the run of the race from barrier 5.
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The undefeated Illustrious Tycoon ($3.40) will resume in the penultimate on Winterbottom Stakes Day and can continue his impressive run of form. The son of Written Tycoon has only made three appearances at the races since debuting in June last year, but he’s easily won on each occasion and has trialled well in the lead-up to this race.
Former Lindsay Park galloper Dam Ready ($12) will carry winning form into this race and can fight out the finish at a nice price. 1100m is ideal and he’ll enjoy a big drop in the weights, as well as an ideal barrier.
I’ll be happy to have something on both of these horses at their current prices.
A capacity field to end the day and I am happy to follow race favourite Magical Charm ($3.40). Magical Charm clearly required the run when she tailed off to finish second at Geraldton first-up, but her two most-recent performances have been outstanding, and she is subsequently chasing a third-consecutive win. William Pike can take her forward from barrier 3 and she’ll give them something to chase.
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