Royal Ascot tips: Simon Rowlands hoping David Loughnane juvenile can kick day three off in style in Norfolk Stakes

Top tipster Simon Rowlands has three selections plus analysis for the third day of Royal Ascot on Thursday, live on Sky Sports Racing from 1.30pm.

The Gold Cup at Royal Ascot on Thursday (4.20) will look a very different race depending on whether or not the best stayer around, Trueshan, shows up. He has been declared but seems an unlikely runner barring significant rain, and significant rain seems improbable at the time of writing.

While that uncertainty remains, however, it is difficult to commit to anything in the race with great conviction. Kyprios seems short for one who has won only in Group Three company, though that win, last time, came by a wide margin and at 1/10.

Stradivarius is, well, Stradivarius. He is an admirable individual, and one of the stars of British racing in recent years, but he does look beatable by anything really decent these days, such as Trueshan, and accounted for 109-rated Thunderous by just a length in the Yorkshire Cup on his latest start.

Princess Zoe enters the reckoning on the form of her second in this race last year – a performance that should have dispelled any notions she needs the mud – and on one or two other efforts, but could come up just short on balance.

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Trainer John Gosden says veteran staying star Stradivarius is still full of life as he prepares to bid for a record-equaling fourth Ascot Gold Cup victory

This year’s Gold Cup looks a race to watch and enjoy, but there are better opportunities for a punt elsewhere, or so I hope. Perhaps that will start with Walbank in the opening Norfolk Stakes (2.30).

The son of Kodiac cost over half a million at the Craven Breeze-Ups and looked pretty special when scooting up by seven lengths at York recently in a useful time. Before that, he had been beaten, but that was by Noble Style, who has claims to be the best juvenile seen this season, even after Tuesday’s Coventry and Wednesday’s Queen Mary.

Walbank is preferred to Aidan O’Brien’s The Antarctic, who has won both his starts against decent opposition but without really looking like the 105-plus rated individual he should need to be to win a race of this standing.

Bakeel and Brave Nation have won their only starts but have more on their plates here by some way. Walbank appeals as bet at 7/4 or bigger, and, despite having contracted a fair bit in price, that should be attainable here.

Trainer David Loughnane
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Trainer David Loughnane will aim to get on the board this week in the Norfolk Stakes

The King George V Handicap (3.05) is stacked with potential improvers, but one or two of them look to have achieved more than the others compared to their handicap marks, not least Post Impressionist.

He made his debut as recently as April, won well at Ayr on his second appearance (a 92-rated effort on sectionals) and then split Eldar Elbarov and Honiton, both decidedly useful three-year-olds, in a novice at Newcastle in which he looked and strode as if he will be very well suited by the step up to 12 furlongs that he encounters here.

The early 10/1 offered about Post Impressionist evaporated as quickly as the moisture in the Ascot turf, but he deserves to be a clear favourite in my book and is still a bet at 4/1 or bigger. A 19-runner handicap, with four places on offer and the possibility of enhancements to that, is a good vehicle for an each-way bet.

I had the Ribblesdale Stakes (3.40) priced up along very similar lines to the bookies. It looks, in the absence of Emily Upjohn, a rather substandard renewal, with Magical Lagoon boasting just about the best form, Sea Silk Road more likely than not to progress past her, and the choicely bred History a possible improver at this longer trip.

The Hampton Court Stakes (5.35) is sandwiched between two tough handicaps. The Queen’s Reach For The Moon is the likeliest winner, but I would not have the colt long odds on as was the initial offering.

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Royal Ascot Director of Racing Nick Smith says the event will be back to full crowds this week and it is ‘fingers crossed’ that Her Majesty the Queen can mark her jubilee with a winner

Claymore tempts me at the price following his second to Native Trail in the Craven at Newmarket and an abortive trip to France (where the front-running tactics were overdone on him). But, rightly or wrongly, not quite enough to suggest a bet.

I intend having a small play in the first of those two tough handicaps, however: the Britannia Stakes (5.00). Thesis is still a maiden, but a useful one who has kept having the misfortune of running into even better rivals.

He had to play second fiddle to My Prospero – third in Tuesday’s St James’s Palace Stakes and now rated 114 – at Newbury in April, by a short head to Awaal at Lingfield in May, and most recently to Red Rambler, who looks a Group performer in the making, at Doncaster 12 days ago. Each of those runs entitles Thesis to a few more pounds on his back here in my book.

His draw in stall 10 is a slight concern, with more of the pace mid-to-high than low, but selective watering and nature’s evapotranspiration (aka drying) seems to be keeping things pretty fair at Ascot on the whole. In a red-hot contest, I am at least hopeful that Thesis can run into a place.

Simon Rowlands’ selections…

2.30 Norfolk Stakes – WALBANK (2pts win)

3.05 King George V Handicap – POST IMPRESSIONIST (1pt each-way)

5.00 Britannia Stakes – THESIS (0.5pt each-way)

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