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King Edward VII Stakes preview

One of the features on Friday's card is "Ascot's Derby", and covering it for the blog is speed ratings expert, Steve Lines - @sjlone1

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King Edward VII Stakes

The Friday of Royal Ascot will be the first time the media and journalists have to ‘engage brain’. The previous headlines have written themselves: Timeform have achieved their aim of rating Frankel the best horse of all time. That’s another tick off their ‘bucket’ list; the ratings will be invaluable next time Frankel lines up against Brigadier Gerard……… So You Think continued to prove what we all know – he’s good but not great. Frankie won the Gold Cup; so copy submitted and back in the bar in time for the football.

Noble Mission would help provide some copy due to being Frankel’s brother. A resolute galloper he will be suited by further softening of the ground, being 2 from 2 on ground with soft in the description. He doesn’t do anything quickly, and although he will be suited by the step up to 12 furlongs the short Ascot straight could be his undoing. He has yet to race around a bend in public and I’m sure he will trade higher in the run than his current price of 9/2.

Astrology is the short priced favourite. A winner on soft ground at Chester, beating handicappers, he then had an easy lead as pacemaker in Camelot’s Derby. Seemingly exposed last year when beaten in Group races at Newmarket and the Curragh his recent runs flatter him. He is likely to be pestered for the lead by Thought Worthy who attempted to pressure him at Epsom but didn’t handle the camber and now will be more at home on this easier surface. O’Brien’s At First Sight, Black Bear Island and Yellowstone all followed the Derby/King Edward VII route with no success. I expect Astrology to drift from his current 11/8.

William Buick has chosen Shantaram over stablemate Thought Worthy. Collateral form with Derby second Main Sequence (Lingfield Derby Trial) matches him very closely with Astrology. He made hard work of winning a Newmarket maiden but John Gosden knows geese from swans and has triumphed in this contest twice in the last ten years; his recent St Leger winners Lucarno and Arctic Cosmos have also performed credibly. Obviously very well regarded he could be a trading vehicle as I expect him to travel well even if he’s not tough enough to finish the job.

Thought Worthy has a verdict over Farhaan and Noble Mission in Newmarket’s Fairway Stakes. Proving himself a tough individual after being headed and then repelling all challenges after regaining the lead, he has now had three hard races this year. As a prominent runner he may be compromised if battling with Astrology but Dettori has no stable retainer to guard so may ride his own race; which may not aid Shantaram!

Thomas Chippendale will be suited by the way the race is run. A hold-up performer, he is taking a major step up in class from a Newmarket maiden. He showed a good turn of foot after travelling smoothly. He is another who can be played as a back-to-lay; whether he is tough enough, has the class or will stay is unknown, but his cruising speed should keep him in the contest long enough to take a small bet to nothing.

Farhaan showed the best turn of foot when fourth behind Thought Worthy and Noble Mission at Newmarket. This ability and no evidence of acting on soft ground don’t suggest these are his ideal conditions. Entered in the Irish Derby and Irish Champion Stakes he obviously has some talent but he can’t be backed today.

The same applies to Initiator. An easy winner of a Windsor maiden, only connections know if he will be suited by the conditions.

Speed ratings show no surprises with Astrology coming out top through his Derby run but Shantaram's run at Lingfield shows him to be competitive at this level.

The market leaders are solid, tough performers who will make this a test of courage as well as ability. Likely prominent runners Astrology and Thought Worthy are likely to be pushed by Noble Mission from Swinley Bottom; he will have to be well in touch approaching the home turn if he’s not to get outpaced on entering the straight. This scenario is likely to set up for a finisher; whether the ‘pretty boys’ Shantaram and Thomas Chippendale have the talent or determination to get past leads me to back both as back-to-lay plays. I will lay Astrology, although I could be in trouble if Frankie decides to not to press the lead, I still have four worthy rivals running for me.

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