Horse Value Price Early Price Result SP
Akmal 3 5, bet 5/1e 7 9/2
Yes Mr President 5 7/2 5 5/1
Askar Tau 11/2 7/2 8 5/1
Aajel 13/2 10 2 13/2
Balkan Knight 12 33 9 28

A Class 1 Group 3 stakes, not my usual fare but need a mid-week fix :-) I imagine these races will provide value opportunities in the coming weeks despite the obvious weight difference between runners, which has to make things less random than handicaps.

The most likely winner is Akmal in my book. 7 wins last season and still only 4 yrs old so room for progress still. Topspeed has him clear top-rated which is always reassuring. He had a prep run over an inadequate 12f which should have got him fit for today. I had hoped he would be a longer price this morning but have learned not to place too much store in the RP’s forecast prices, the only odds in the paper today. At the bookies I took 5/1 Ladbrokes, Corals offering 4/1.

There are several front-runners so plenty of pace early on. I have heard that ‘duels’ for the lead do not actually have such a tiring effect as you would think so don’t rule Akmal out on that ground. I also have the notion that Ascot favours front-runners. That tends to preclude the hold-up horses (Illustious Blue, Mojave Moon and Montaff.)

The dangers are likely to be those tracking the eventual lead namely Oasis Knight, Electrolyser and Askar Tau, of which only Askar Tau rates formwise.

Of the others, Yes Mr President might prefer softer ground according to trainer Mark Johnston and Aaajel scores low on ratings (though is lightly raced, a plus generally.)

That leaves the possible fly in the ointment, Balkan Knight. 12/1 in my book but 33/1 early available. Hasn’t won for a while and appears a notch or two down classwise (has won Listed races), I find it hard to see him breaking that losing run against the selection. Nevertheless, my rule from last season (bet the longest-priced which is value) would apply making him the bet. In the event, I have him as value to place.

The bet then is Akmal to win, 5/1 early, and an exacta: Akmal to beat Balkan Knight. Usual condition applies – I get to cry if Balkan does go in :-)
Akmal was held up behind the leader Aajel and clearly struggling against the bridle. About a mile out he was allowed to go on but his challenge was not enough and he rapidly sank back.

Aajel, a value price at 9/1 in the morning, tried to make all and nearly succeeded, only losing it to Illustrius Blue in the final yards. I had Illustrious marked down distancewise but he clearly gets 2 miles, being held up.

Balkan Knight didn’t figure at any stage. Electrolyser ran well to come third.

Bettingwise, Aajel was better value (with hindsight) though I am not too unhappy – would Akmal have done better allowed to go on? Something to check next time.