A huge day of action awaits on Friday at Ascot with arguably two of the races of the week. Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck goes head to head with Elarqam in the Hardwicke and potential superstar Pierre Lapin struts his stuff in the Commonwealth Cup. Here we preview all the key races on Royal Ascot Day Four in our Royal Ascot betting preview.
The starting point has to be Eye of Heaven, who arguably put in the best juvenile performance we’ve seen so far this season at Newmarket. The form has been given a real boost following Tactical’s win in the Windsor Castle earlier in the week and it looks significant that Frankie Dettori, who regularly partners Wesley Ward’s raiders, is instead aboard the Mark Johnston colt.
American trainer Ward has spoken highly of Golden Pal, citing him as his ‘best chance of the week’, but his string is still to make an impact this year so is passed over. The chief threat to the market leader may come from The Lir Jet, now in the ownership of Qatar Racing following an impressive victory at Yarmouth. He looked a real speedball that day but probably won’t get his own way in front this time and may have to settle for minor honours.
Aidan O’Brien and Sir Michael Stoute have traded blows over this contest plenty of times, however it’s only the former that is represented this year and his former Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck sets a high bar. He's very short in the market, though, and his performance in the Coronation Cup did raise the question over whether his International forays had left a mark.
Last year’s winner Defoe returns but this is a much stronger renewal and they may all have to go some to pick up Elarqam, who just failed to beat Prince of Wales winner Lord North on his seasonal reappearance at Haydock. The extra two furlongs raise a slight question mark, especially if the ground deteriorates further, but if he can get into a steady rhythm early he may well be able to grind this out.
The market is headed by one of Royal Ascot’s big talking horses, Pierre Lapin. Roger Varian’s colt ran out a ready winner of the Mill Reef and given the weight of market support, he could be really special.
There are question marks over a lot of the runners here. For one, will the drop back in trip benefit the likes of Mum’s Tipple and Millisile? Perhaps the former but, as wildly impressive as that York win last year was, he’s running out of chances to prove it wasn't a fluke. If the ground were to come up soft/heavy then Shadn could be interesting for the in-form Andrew Balding yard at a big price. He got within two lengths of Pierre Lapin at Newbury on fast ground and would likely get closer in preferred conditions.
However, the value in the race looks to lie with Golden Horde, beaten just a neck in the Middle Park at Newmarket. The son of Lethal Force held his form really well last year and is versatile ground wise. It would obviously be preferable if he was coming into this with a run under his belt, but Clive Cox appears to have his string in good nick and it’s hard to envisage him out of the frame.