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Alex Hammond previews the big races on Thursday's Royal Ascot card

King of Rocks ridden by Richard Hughes comes home to win The Cantor Fitzgerald Debt Capital Markets National Stakes at Sandown Racecourse. PRESS ASSOCIATIO
Image: King of Rooks has been one of the season's most impressive two-year-olds

Alex Hammond previews Thursday's action at Royal Ascot where she fancies Luca Cumani to come away with the biggest prize.

Thursday’s action gets underway with the Norfolk Stakes and I’m keen to see how Richard Hannon’s King of Rooks fares.

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I tipped him up when he won the National Stakes at Sandown and the form of that has worked out really well with runner up Buratino winning the Woodcote at Epsom impressively. If Buratino wins the Coventry on Tuesday, this horse will be even shorter.

Flying Frankie (Dettori) rides King of Rooks because the horse has since been snapped up by Al Shaqab Racing. Main danger could be the (now) Godolpin owned Log Out Island, a stablemate of the selection.

This horse has only had the one start, winning an Ascot maiden and William Buick takes over from Richard Hughes for the new connections. It’s King Of Rooks for me once again @ 5/6 with Sky Bet.

Time Test ridden by Ryan Moore leads the field home to win the Al Zubarah London Gold Cup at Newbury.
Image: Time Test leads the field home to win the Al Zubarah London Gold Cup at Newbury.

The Tercentenary Stakes is a Group Three over a mile and a quarter and it will be hats off to The Queen if her horse Peacock can win here. Trained by Richard Hannon, this colt won a listed race at Newmarket last time out. But it’s his penultimate run that catches the eye when he was beaten a length and a half by subsequent Derby winner Golden Horn.

Disegno was third that day and has since been chinned on the line in the Dee Stakes by Not So Sleepy at Chester, the better ground will be more up the former’s street on Thursday. 

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The horse I like though is Roger Charlton’s Time Test. This will be a step up from handicap company, but he’s from a lovely family and shouldn’t have any problems taking the leap.

The race he won at Newbury on his reappearance was the London Gold Cup and that also produced the winner of this race 12 months ago (Cannock Chase). Prior to that win his trainer said he had been working well with none other than Al Kazeem and given he should improve for that, as he was still babyish, it bodes very well for his future. So, Time Test is the selection @ 7/2 with Sky Bet.

Curvy ridden by Wayne Lordan (left) win the Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes during the Tattersalls Irish Guineas Festival at The Curragh Racecourse.
Image: Curvy ridden by Wayne Lordan (left) win the Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes during the Tattersalls Irish Guineas Festival

The Group Two Ribblesdale Stakes has some smart entries with Irish 1000 Guineas winner Pleascach heading them for Jim Bolger. Godolphin have been getting their cheque book out again and bought this filly last week and she looks like going off odds on favourite to give the boys in blue another winner.

She is potentially even better over this mile and a half trip and she has the added advantage of avoiding a Group One penalty in this race as they are only awarded to fillies that won over a mile and a quarter or more.

It’s hard to find a serious opponent, but Curvy may be worth a punt. David Wachman’s filly beat Giovanni Canaletto over a mile and a quarter at the Curragh last time out. Her half sister, Thakafaat, won this race when Ascot was staged at York, so there could be a bit more improvement to come over the extra couple of furlongs.

She’s steadily improving and deserves her place in the line up. Whether she’s good enough to beat the hot favourite remains to be seen, but at 8/1 with Sky Bet, Curvy offers an each way alternative.

Image: Mizzou storms clear to win the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot earlier in the season

The feature on Thursday is the Gold Cup, a Group One over two and a half miles. Sadly, owner/breeder Michael Owen suffered a blow on Saturday with the news the apple of his eye, Brown Panther, has suffered a leg injury and misses the race.

The contest could cut up further if the ground remains fast. Horses that won’t enjoy the current conditions are Clever Cookie (non-runner), Tac de Boistron and Forgotten Rules.

The race would be the worse for their absence, but it seems unlikely that we will get rain before Friday and any watering will be done to ensure it doesn’t get too quick, rather than to make any appreciable change in conditions.

Luca Cumani’s Mizzou wouldn’t want the ground lightning fast, but good to firm would be fine. He has winning form at this track, in the Sagaro last time out and whilst we don’t know he’ll definitely stay the trip, he runs as if it is within his compass.

Given the ground is unlikely to be suitable for some of the entries I’ll stick with him to continue his progression in the staying division – Mizzou is a 9/2 shot with Sky Bet.

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