The big betting race at Royal Ascot on Wednesday is the Royal Hunt Cup run over the straight mile (17:00), and Raising Sand looks to have plenty going for him following a cracking run on seasonal reappearance.
This Jamie Osborne trained seven-year-old is a real course specialist, having won three times and been placed on three other occasions from 10 starts at the Berkshire venue.
The son of Oasis Dream is also two from four at the track over the 1m trip of this, and was far from disgraced in this contest 12 months ago when keeping on to finish a never nearer four-length seventh of 30 to handicap blot Settle For Bay.
Raising Sand also ran well or when a keeping on 3 1/4 lengths eighth of 20 to Ripp Orf in the 7f Cunard Handicap here, and when eighth of 33 to Wissahickon in the Cambridgeshire at Newmarket.
He then gained a deserved big race success with an authoritative display to land the competitive 15-runner Challenge Cup over 7f at this venue.
Real course specialist
After racing in-touch in the hands of Nicola Currie, Raising Sand made smooth headway travelling strongly two from home.
He then quickened smartly to lead just inside the final furlong and, despite wandering, cosily beat old rival Ripp Orff by two lengths having arguably hit the front too soon and idled.
Raising Sand went on to round off the campaign with a solid three-length sixth of 22 to Sharja Bridge in the Balmoral Handicap over course and distance off a mark of 102.
There was lots to like about his return to action here last month when fourth of 26 to Cape Byron in the 7f Victoria Cup off his current mark 103.
After racing towards the rear, he kept on nicely to be nearest at the finish and beaten just 1 3/4 lengths.
That should have put Raising Sand spot on for this and the step back up to a mile is sure to suit. He has the perfect profile for this, so at 10/1 with Betfair looks the one to be on in a fiendishly hard puzzle to solve.
Consistent Kynren sure to go well
If ever a horse deserved to win a big handicap like this, then it’s the David Barron trained Kynren.
This five-year-old enjoyed a tremendous 2017 when winning three of his four starts. Although he failed to get his head in front last season, he did post some cracking efforts in defeat.
They included first time up at Doncaster when going down by 2 3/4 lengths when third to High Acclaim in the 20-runner Spring Mile.
Kynren also ran well when a fine 7 3/4 lengths third of 33 to ultra-progressive handicap blot Wissahickon in the Cambridgeshire at over 1m 1f at Newmarket off a mark of 100.
He went on to round off the campaign with an excellent two-length fifth of 20 in the Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day here off 99.
Kynren then looked as good as ever on seasonal reappearance when a keeping on 2 1/4 lengths second of 19 to handicap blot Auxerre in the Lincoln at Doncaster.
The son of Clodovil then found only Cape Byron a neck too good in the aforementioned Victoria Cup, where he finished two places in front of Raising Sand.
Kynren has been raised 3lb for that fine effort, so now has to race off a career-high mark of 101. However, that may not be beyond him and proven form in big field handicaps is a plus – as is his versatility as regards ground.
At 16/1 with Paddy Power, who are paying a fifth of outright odds for five places, Kynren looks a solid each-way betting proposition.
Afaak weighted to go well
Afaak is another with leading claims in a typically fierce and wide-open renewal in which a maximum field of 33 are set to go to post.
This Charlie Hills trained five year-old ran a stormer in this race 12 months ago when a 2 3/4 lengths second to Settle For Bay off a mark of 103
Afaak backed that up with a good 3 3/4 lengths fourth of 15 to Alfarris over 1m 2f at Goodwood off 1lb higher, and also ran well off 104 when a three-length sixth of 18 to Poet’s Society At York.
The son of Oasis Dream is now able to race off 103 again, so holds every chance from a handicapping perspective on the pick of his form. Afaak also has form on all types of going, but does have a 287-day absence to overcome.
That has to be a slight worry in a such a competitive contest, but it may well be that Hills has decided to keep him fresh and get him primed to go at the first time of asking.
If that is the case, then Afaak looks capable of making his presence felt and he’s a best-price 25/1 with William Hill to go one better than last year and land the spoils.
Mitchum Swagger capable of outrunning odds
Off those at bigger odds, Mitchum Swagger looks a lively outsider and weighted to go well on the pick of his form.
This seven-year-old is not the easiest to win with, but does have some really solid placed efforts to his name – including when a 1 1/2 lengths third in the 2016 running of this off a mark of 108 when trained by David Lanigan.
He also ran well to finish a head runner-up in the Group 3 Superior Mile at Haydock that year off an official rating of 110, and was far from disgraced in a similar grade affair at the Merseyside venue last season off 108 before landing a Thirsk conditions contest off 106.
Mitchum Swagger then joined Ralph Beckett at the start of last season and ran very well when a three-length third to Addeybb in the Lincoln off a rating of 105.
He went on to easily land a Listed contest at Newmarket by five lengths and comes into this having shaped nicely in a similar grade affair at Haydock when fifth to the progressive Safe Voyage off his current mark of 107.
Soft ground also hold no fears for the son of Paco Boy should the forecast rain arrive and he is best when getting a strong pace to aim at in big fields – so this test will suit.
Given his run style, Mitchum Swagger will need the cards to drop right but – if they do – he has every chance of making the frame at least and can be backed at a tempting 33/1 with Ladbrokes, who are paying a fifth of outright odds for six places.