I’ve heard a rumour that this weekend’s Betfred Victoria Cup at Ascot is to feature heavily in the latest episode of the ‘Mission Impossible’ franchise. Instead of trying to disarm a nuclear device while hanging upside down on the end of a rope above infra-red motion sensors, Tom Cruise is to be locked in a room with a racecard and a form book and told he won’t be allowed out until he’s found the likely winner.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a handicap that’s so difficult to unravel. There are 29 declared runners and very few that you can dismiss out of hand. How will recent rain have affected the going? What will be the draw advantage? Last year, those drawn low dominated with the first four all starting from single-figure stalls. But that was on soft ground and, on better going later in the season, high numbers tended to come out best. It really is no surprise that Coral and Stan James are going 12/1 the field with both layers installing Newbury Spring Cup winner Haaf A Sixpence as their favourite. Ralph Beckett‘s charge comes out of stall 19 but this is a race in which it will surely pay to keep your options open regarding starting position and back two horses that will come down different strips of the track.
Our first choice is going to be LIGHTNING CLOUD. Fifth last year when coming out best of those drawn high, Kevin Ryan‘s grey will be coming up the stands’ side again this season and ran a race full of promise on his reappearance at Thirsk when only beaten half-a-length. Racing off the same mark as last year, he has plenty in his favour and can be backed at 14/1 with Ladbrokes and Skybet. My selection among those drawn low is FAST FINIAN, who beat Khubala (20/1 with bet365, BetVictor, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power) at Yarmouth last month and was only beaten half-a-length by Haaf A Sixpence on the Polytrack at Lingfield in January. Now 5lb better off, he’s 25/1 with Paddy Power, Skybet, Stan James and 888sport – clearly he shouldn’t be twice the odds of the favourite.
The others with excellent claims are too many to mention but Highland Colori, not far behind Tartiflette (14/1 with Coral) and Cape Classic (14/1 with Coral, Paddy Power and 888sport) at Haydock last month could reward each-way support at the general 16/1 as he goes well at Ascot and veteran Smarty Socks could be very well handicapped with David Bergin claiming 5lb. David O’Meara‘s nine-year-old is 33/1 with several bookmakers while Excellent Guest also represents some value at Coral’s 28/1. Lightning Cloud is taken to strike, however.