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Day 5 Royal Ascot 2024 Preview: Middle Earth Can Continue Progression In The Hardwicke

After four days of terrific racing the end is finally in sight as we approach the final day at Royal Ascot. The card is extremely competitive, but I do have a strong fancy in the Hardwicke Stakes.
Royal Ascot

2.30 Chesham Stakes – Bedtime Story/Miss El Fundi EW

I do think this is probably the weakest two-year-old race of the week. However, I did like the debut of Bedtime Story. She was doing her best work late on, and she hit the line hard. I think she’s got the scope to possibly develop into a 1,000 Guineas horse next season, and Aidan O’Brien has done well in this race in the past, winning it with two fillies, so it’s definitely worth noting.

Speaking of fillies, I think Miss El Fundi is very interesting for Sir Mark Prescott. We’ve already seen him in the winners’ enclosure at Royal Ascot this week, but you wouldn’t normally see him pitching a juvenile in the deep end. Her debut effort was encouraging, as she was an eye-catcher when finishing fourth at Kempton and suggested she would learn from that experience. Her dam, Miss Celestial, was a good two-year-old with the same connections, and she went on to win a Listed race. At 33/1 she could be one that goes under the radar.

3.05 Hardwicke Stakes – Middle Earth (Win)

I think Middle Earth is a horse that we’ve not gotten to the bottom of yet. He progressed well last year, and he was a good winner on his seasonal return in a Group 3 at Newbury, where the form has since been boosted. Also, his sire, Roaring Lion, has had a very good record at Royal Ascot with his progeny and had a winner and several placed horses this week. With the ground in his favour, I think he has a great chance of keeping up his progression.

3.45 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes – Shartash EW 

Even though this isn’t a classy renewal, it certainly is competitive. Originally, I wanted to side with Mill Stream, but I am not sure if Ascot is going to be his track. I’ve now come to Shartash for Archie Watson. He’s 2/2 since joining his yard, and I’ve been impressed with both of his wins, both of which have come over 7f. This will be a different test coming back down to 7f, but he’s won it before, and horses coming back down in trip have a good record in this race. He’ll like the conditions and should still be going well at the end. He’s a live contender.

4.25 Jersey Stakes – River Tiber (Win) / Never So Brave EW

I have a soft spot for River Tiber, and I thought it was a good effort for him to finish third in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. He’ll strip fitter for that run, and I expect to come forward for it. Dropping back in distance will be fine for him, and coming back to Royal Ascot is also a plus, as he won the Coventry Stakes here last year. I think he’s the one they have to bear.

One horse at a bigger price I would like to keep on side is Never So Brave for Sir Michael Stoute. He’s 2/2 this season, and he was a very comfortable winner at Chester. As a two-year-old, he finished second on both starts behind Group 1 winners Ancient Wisdom and Van Deek, so he’s shown he has a lot of class. He could be the typical horse Sir Michael Stoute does well with improving with each run, and maybe this could be the day he announces himself to the big time.

5.05 Wokingham Stakes – Harry Three EW / Unequal Love EW

This is a proper cavalry charge, but I am going to be putting up two selections. The first of them is Harry Three for Clive Cox. He was a classy horse a couple of years ago winning some competitive handicaps at the likes of York, and eventually went on to compete in group company. However he’s had a couple of issues along the way.

On the other hand I thought he made an encouraging return in a Listed race at Salisbury last month to finish fourth and he’ll probably come on a lot of that. Furthermore the jockey booking of Ryan Moore is very eye-catching as he won on him the last two occasions he’s won on him. He’ll like the ground and I can see him being in the mix.

Unequal Love is the other horse on my shortlist. She’s been lightly campaigned this for William Haggas this season winning a Listed race at Newmarket and then running well in a Group 2 in Ireland, where she rallied well in the final furlong to finish fifth. Stall 1 for her might be tricky, but she’s a classy filly.

5.40 Golden Gates Stakes – Old Faithful EW

Aidan O’Brien wouldn’t have too many handicap winners at Royal Ascot, but I quite like the way how Old Faithful won last time out at Navan. Ryan Moore rode him on that occasion, and he responded well to hands and heels, and it looked to me like he didn’t want him to win that far. Maybe connections wanted to protect his handicap mark for Royal Ascot, but either way, I think he could be better than his mark of 89. For me, I’m happy to take a chance on him each way.

6.15 Queen Alexandra Stakes – Run For Oscar EW

Run For Oscar probably should have won this race last year, but he got going far too late, and he could only finish third. His trainer, Charles Byrnes, has given him the same prep as last year with a run at the Curragh, and it looks like this has been his main target. We know he stays well, and the conditions will be fine. I think this can be his day to get his head in front.

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After four days of terrific racing the end is finally in sight as we approach the final day at Royal Ascot. The card is extremely competitive, but I do have a strong fancy in the Hardwicke Stakes.
Read also...