There are plenty of stars on show this weekend, and that's just the jockeys riding in the Shergar Cup!
The meeting at Ascot isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it's a real crowd pleaser and there are some decent betting opportunities. For those who don't know about it, the Shergar Cup is a jockeys' competition in its 13th year, with top jockeys riding on four teams representing Great Britain & Ireland, Europe, the Rest of the World and The Girls with points awarded in six races. There will be some names that are familiar and some less so.
Here's a quick guide to the teams...
The Girls are captained by American rider Rosie Napravnik. She has won some top races in the States including the 2012 Kentucky Oaks and the 2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Lisa Allpress comes from New Zealand and she will be joined by a more familiar face, Cathy Gannon.
The Rest of the World team will be led by Gary Stevens, who needs no introduction. He has ridden four winners at Royal Ascot so won't have to acclimatise to the track. Japanese rider Yasunari Iwata has ridden in this competition before and he has plenty of success in his homeland having won the Japan Cup three times and he has also won the Melbourne Cup. Singapore based Brazilian Joao Moreira makes up that team.
Europe are led by top French jockey Gerald Mosse. Ioritz Mendizabal, from Spain, is also a part of the team as is Andrasch Starke, who is known for his association with Danedream and who won the King George on her here last year.
The GB & Ireland team will be popular with punters with the team being led by Kieren Fallon, who will be joined by James Doyle and Kevin Manning. It should be a good occasion and away from the team competition Mark Johnston is generally a trainer worth following at this event.
Away from Ascot there is a classy card at Haydock and it's exciting to see Sir Michael Stoute's Telescope amongst the declarations. He is set to run in the Rose of Lancaster Stakes which will be only his second start of the season after his belated reappearance in a Leicester Conditions Stakes last month (he won by 24 lengths!). His absence has stood him in good stead in this race as he is penalty free and will only carry eight stone 8lbs. He is also the highest-rated and is a fresh horse. On paper there aren't any obvious negatives and he will be a short price to win this mile-and-a-quarter Group 3.
City Style is another horse who has had a quiet time recently. The Godolphin-owned colt hasn't run since his sixth place in the Dubai Duty Free in March. He has some consistent form at Group level, including placings in the highest grade, but he is yet to win one. He is seven years old now and won't be improving.
Noble Mission has plenty of talent, but isn't completely straightforward. The fitting of a hood has helped him, but again we know all about him and he is vulnerable against a horse like Telescope. Telescope is entered in various Group 1 races this Autumn and this looks like a suitable stepping stone. His main target could well be the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe for which he's currently 14/1 with Sky Bet and you could do worse than take that now if you fancy him, because he will be much shorter if he is to win this race in good style.
Charlie Appleby saddles City Style for the Godolphin team in that race and later on the same card he could have a winner with Expressly in the Dick Hern Fillies' Stakes. This filly won on her debut at Ascot at the end of last month to give the former assistant to Mahmood Al Zarooni his first winner with the licence at Moulton Paddock Stables and he has his team in great form.Expressly has only had the one start and looked impressive there; she is a half-sister to Rio de la Plata and looks capable of further improvement. She wore a hood on her debut which seemed effective and that headgear remains in place on Saturday; in fact four of the ten runners will wear a hood in this Listed contest. She doesn't hold any fancy entries mind you, but is worthy of respect here.
At Newmarket the feature is the Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes for two-year-old fillies over seven furlongs. The trip looks like it will bring a bit of improvement out in some of these, notably Wedding Ring (Charlie Appleby) and Baby Bush (Richard Hannon).
Amazing Maria is already proven at the trip and this lovely big filly has an entry in the Group 1 Fillies' Mile. She is trained by Ed Dunlop who is a master with decent fillies and she warrants plenty of respect. Ihtimal is also in the Fillies' Mile and Saeed Bin Suroor's charge ran well to be third in the Chesham at Royal Ascot last time out and looks capable of improvement. I'm going with Amazing Maria who can continue her progression over this trip.
On Sunday there is a top-class renewal of the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville. With the likes of Dawn Approach, Intello, Declaration of War, Moonlight Cloud and Elusive Kate amongst the entries it should be an outstanding contest.
This one mile Group 1 is a real clash of the titans with Intello the likely market leader for French trainer Andre Fabre. His only defeat came in the French Guineas and he was unlucky not to win there, so he deserves to top the betting for this classy contest. He has won over a mile up to an extended mile-and-a-quarter in the French Derby and it's interesting to see him sticking to a mile rather than stepping up in trip with the Arc in mind later in the season. He isn't bred to stay a mile and a half so it seems the most sensible option.
Dawn Approach was only just beaten by Toronado in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and this race could come too quickly after that defeat. Mind you, Sheikh Mohammed wasn't scared of turning him out at Royal Ascot after his Derby defeat and that proved to be the right call. I couldn't go with him so soon after that though and won't be with him on Sunday.
Elusive Kate has won her last two starts for John Gosden including that controversial defeat of Sky Lantern at Newmarket and then a win in France over this course and distance last time out. Moonlight Cloud is another major player for French trainer Freddy Head. She was fourth behind Excelebration in this last year and could have been called an unlucky loser. She is a smashing mare with 10 wins to her name and comes here having won the seven furlong Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest earlier this month where she beat Lethal Force in impressive style taking the track record with her in the process.
Given the likely prices it may be worth taking a chance on her. I think Intello will be a tough opponent, but he is likely to be a pretty short price so it's the mare for me, she looks to be the best mare in training in Europe and will give the colts a good run for their money.
Telescope in the Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock
Expressly in the Dick Hern Fillies' Stakes at Haydock
Amazing Maria in the Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket
Moonlight Cloud in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville on Sunday
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