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We head into the fourth day of Royal Ascot 2023 today. Just like the first three days, we look set to be in for a fine day’s racing from the Berkshire venue.
On Day Four, the feature race will be the Coronation Stakes, but before that, there’s a cracking handicap race to get the juices flowing. 19 runners are set to go to post for the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, which will be contested over one mile and four furlongs.
Can Al Nafir come back with a bang?
In the early betting yesterday, Al Nafir was strong, looking as if he’d go into today’s race as favourite, though support has since come for a few others, which means that though far from a big-price, the returning runner is unlikely to start the race with market supremacy.
Of course, he’s likely to be well supported and the big question is can he return from 259 days off to give his best in a race of this nature? Charlie Appleby is known as something of a master trainer, so it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if the four-year-old turns up ready to roll, while he’s unlikely to be given a less than sufficient ride from the almost-always-in-form William Buick. However, winning a prestigious handicap of this nature takes some doing if you’ve not run for the best part of a year, while it’s not as if he’s getting in here off a lenient-looking handicap mark.
Currently rated 100, Al Nafir looks up against it. Since 2003, this race has been run on 20 occasions. Only three horses rated above 99 have won during that time. Make of that what you will, but I’d certainly think twice before getting stuck into the Godolphin runner.
Haunted Dream can haunt the lot here
At odds of 22/1 in places this morning, Haunted Dream looks like a very solid each-way poke to my eyes. Back in October, over this trip, this horse finished behind Al Nafir in third in a big handicap at Newmarket. That form should not be ignored. He’s now better off at the weights with that rival, while he’s had the benefit of a recent run too.
On reappearance after 195 days, the four-year-old got the job done at Chelmsford, winning a Class 3 over ten furlongs in snug fashion. He’s only gone up 2lbs for that, which could turn out to be lenient. A mark of 96 is nicely in line with most of the recent winners of this race.
The fact that he’s not been used since that Chelmsford win in April suggests that maybe connections have had this race earmarked for a while, so don’t be surprised if he runs a big race. After all, trainer Ed Dunlop has been in decent form of late, firing in seven winners in the last 14 days.
Best Bet: Haunted Dream (each-way) @ 22/1
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