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Ascot Stakes preview

The only handicap race on day one is a long one, the 2m4f (that's approximately 4000m if you prefer measurement systems which don't date back to the Dark Ages) Ascot Stakes. Willie Mullins backed up Simenon to win this race and the Queen Alexandra Stakes last year, is there a similar hardy warhorse in this field? Kieran Kenneally, @kierankenneally casts the magnifying glass over the field.

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Ascot Stakes

For me, at times horse racing can be a very visual sport. Ratings, pedigree, jockey, trainer etc all go out the window. Sometimes I see a horse run and I say to myself, back him next time! I picked the Ascot Stakes tomorrow for one such horse, Justification!

In his last race in the Chester Cup I watched him closely because I had backed him and he had a very troubled passage and was very unlucky. That race was a better quality race than this with horses like Simenon, Countrywide Flame and Address Unknown finishing ahead of him. Simenon, himself unlucky in the same race is now third favourite for the Gold Cup on Thursday and Address Unknown has since run third in a listed race.

Justification travelled like a good horse at Chester with Ryan Moore hugging the rail but on a very tight track the gaps never appeared for him. Blocked on more than one occasion when he did get clear the race was over. Still beaten only just over four lengths, he would in my opinion have finished in the first three with a clear run. In a weaker race, the wide open expanse of Ascot likely to suit and a long finishing straight Justification can win this at a very juicy current price of 7/1.

The jumps trainers have farmed this race over the years and are well represented again. Philip Hobbs (2), David Pipe (2), Nicky Henderson, Willie Mullins and Jonjo O'Neill are all here but they may come away empty handed this year.

Tiger Cliff has the bookies running but could be priced up on the wave of emotion a Cecil winner would produce rather than what he has shown on the track so far. A horse with plenty of potential, I'm just not sure he is ready to win a race of this quality at this stage of his career.

Mubaraza would have to enter the equation if you fancy Tiger Cliff because they are weighted to be very close to each other on their most recent running.

Well Sharp could be one of the better horses for the jumps trainers and has some good recent flat form as well. He would also seem to be a horse that will relish the 2m4f trip.

Blue Bajan has the best form of any horse in the race but at 11 yrs old finds it hard to win these days and makes little appeal.

Midnight Oil for the powerful Willie Mullins stable has probably the best form of the National Hunt horses and also some decent flat form. There is a link through a horse called Caravan Rolls On to Tiger Cliff that suggests to me that at the weights Midnight Oil will struggle to beat Tiger Cliff.

Lieutenant Miller has had some good recent runs but at a lower level.

Junior won this race in 2010 but is now 10 yrs old and this is a better race.

Mawaqeet is an interesting runner for Sir Michael Stoute but Paul Hanagan prefers Mubaraza.

Selection is a win bet on Justification at 7/1.

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