Ante-Post Value – The King’s Stand Stakes
It’s less than ten days until the Royal meeting at Ascot opens its door to some of the finest equine talent around and most of my ramblings between now and then will be in an attempt to land on some ante-post winners! Of course, it’s worth pointing out that the ground could end up being in any sort of condition depending on whether there’s rain or shine, and therein lies plenty of risk.
First up, I’ll take a look at the King’s Stand Stakes, a Group 1 for the 5-furlong speedballs. These sprints can often throw up surprise results but this year’s renewal looks to be between the top four in the market to my eyes and that’s where I’ll be concentrating on proceedings for the moment.
Kevin Ryan’s Hot Streak is the obvious starting point after his really impressive win in the Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock last month. The 3-year-old gave top apprentice Oisin Murphy his first stakes-race success by making all of the running at pace to defeat fellow Qatar Racing-owned Pearl Secret by a cosy half-length. The pair were a fair way clear of the rest, relative to what you’d expect in a sprint, and it’s an effort that entitles the horse to be heading the market, no doubt.
The pace that he shows, however, may leave him vulnerable inside the last half-furlong or so on this stiffer track when the going gets tough and despite his profile being attractive, very much so, the price to go with it looks about right. He will be placed at worst, barring issues (might not want the ground to be any quicker than good-to-soft), but he’s no value.
Shea Shea and Sole Power, last year’s runner up and winner of this race, are up next in the market at 11/2 & 6/1 respectively. Both are highly admirable sorts who have shown that they’re as good as ever this year despite being 7-year-old’s and I won’t be ruling either out by any means, but won’t be backing them at those prices. They’re not worthwhile bets.
The one that I think might be worth playing at 10/1 is David Barron’s 5-year-old Pearl Secret. I’m a bit biased here as he’s trained by my favourite trainer but the son of Compton Place has long looked like one who will turn into a Group 1 winner at some point and hopefully this year he can build upon his solid third in the 2013 running of the race when little more than a length behind Sole Power on ground livelier than ideal (said to want it soft, so rain is welcome; that was also his only run of 2013 and first since the previous August).
Barron clearly has the horse’s issues sorted this term, as we’ve seen him on the track three times already, and he put in a career-best in the Temple Stakes last time out when finishing a half-length behind Hot Streak, never being nearer than at the finish (will be 2lbs better off with that rival here as well). The stiffer track that he will face next week is going to be in his favour – quite possibly more so than the current favourite – and, in my opinion, it would be terribly disappointing were he not to go close once again.
Of course, he’ll need to be drawn where the speed is (race-pace is key to this fellow; he needs a solid pull throughout) and soft-ish ground would be another help, but there’s an ocean of talent there and he’s relatively young for a sprinter, whilst he’s definitely unexposed in the grand scheme of things. I know that he probably doesn’t have the room for improvement that Hot Streak does, at least not on paper, but this is the first time that Barron has got him right in a couple of years and that Temple run was highly encouraging. If he gets his conditions, etc, etc, he has a better chance than 8-10/1 would suggest and I’ll give him the early, albeit tentative enough (as punting ante-post is hard!), nod of approval.
Selection for the King’s Stand Stakes (3:45 Ascot; Tuesday, 17th June):
Pearl Secret – 10/1, available with a couple of firms. 8/1 generally.
Post by James Boyle.
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