EX-CHAMPION RETURNS AT ASCOT: The 2009 champion jockey Ryan Moore returns to action after injury at Ascot today, as Sir Michael Stoute keeps a weather eye on Workforce’s chance in Sunday’s Arc. Ascot is watered as the heat wave continues.

DAQMAN BID FOR 10 LAYS IN A ROW: Daqman wants 100 points profit from 10 consecutive 10-point lays. To do it, he needs to knock one more paper favourite on the head at Ascot today. Here’s his current nine consecutive:

* Cheveton (unplaced 5-1 favourite), Haydock Sept 24
* Cill Rialaig (3rd 3-1 jt favourite), Newmarket Sept 22
* Waltzing Cat (unplaced 15-8 favourite), Kempton Sept 21
* Half A Billion (3rd 7-4 favourite), Beverley Sept 20

* Deliberation (unplaced 9-4 favourite), Hamilton Sept 18

* Labarinto (unplaced 7-2 favourite), Newbury Sept 17

* York Glory (unplaced 11-2 favourite), Doncaster Sept 10

* Zero Money (unplaced 7-1), Doncaster Sept 10

* Catchanova (unplaced 4-1), Kempton Sept 7

Places but a shortage of aces. It wasn’t supposed to be like this as Kieren Fallon teamed up with Luca Cumani for the trainer’s usual late-season onslaught, an essential part of Fallon’s jockeys’-championship attack.

The results in the last fortnight are a disappointing sequence of 023120330340, which is not encouraging for backers expecting an early-day double from Fallon’s first three mounts at Ascot, two of them for Cumani.

Among those standing in the way is former champion Ryan Moore, returning from injury with two rides for Sir Michael Stoute , though he is now seemingly left in the wake of the Hanagan-Fallon-De Sousa three-way title tussle.

2.55 Ascot The opening handicap is tricky – Moore is on Tuscania and Fallon rides Dimension for James Fanshawe –  but Cumani’s Mundana should be a banker, as three-year-olds traditionally rip off autumn prizes, still getting 7lb here.

The snag is we don’t have any guarantee that Mundana will act on firm going, as ground staffs continue to do battle with the heat wave, watering daily.

Mundana should improve on her two successes under Fallon but the form is mediocre and we are entitled to ask why they were two months apart.

Vainglory is the firm-ground animal here but is seven now and hasn’t won for 18 months. Benandonner is eight and Invincible Soul seems to be a bridesmaid on a long losing run.

The remaining trio – Classic Colori, Primaeval and Truism – have all raced a grade higher lately in class 2 but all without success.

Truism wins only on the turning track at Goodwood, while Primaeval’s best form is on Polytrack and he gave away the place money when favourite last time, fading as if not really getting a mile.

But there is some excuse for Classic Colori, the ‘moral’ at Newmarket, giving 11lb to a three-year-old with better form than Mundana, and the going was firm. He was slowly away (Haydock) or didn’t stay 1m 2f on his two previous starts.

3.30 Ascot: Strictly, the Cumani-Fallon runner here, Midnight Oil, can’t beat Almagest on Sandown form in June but was unfancied at 33-1 that day when Almagest was hot favourite and the race was only 1m 2f.

Midnight Oil has gone on to win his maiden over today’s 1m 4f and run second in a class-2 handicap at Doncaster, while Junoob, who beat Almagest at Yarmouth, is slowly stepping up in trip and should appreciate today’s extra quarter-mile.

The Bells O Peover beat Dubawi Dancer at Beverley but has continued to campaign at a lower level until today, though his ability is disguised as his last two runs have been in boys’ races.

Watered Silk should set off in front – made all at Yarmouth – but is another with winning form only at a lower level.

Ivan Vasilevich is an Ascot winner who could do battle with Watered Silk for the lead but there is no guarantee he will last the trip, and the Tregoning grey is probably a better back-and-lay bet.

My choice is between the Moore mount, Kinyras, and Well Sharp, making a solo journey from Co Durham for Michael Dods.

Well Sharp was third to St Leger runner-up Brown Panther over today’s CD in June when an unfancied 40-1 on soft ground and was fifth in a big handicap at Newmarket at today’s class-2 level.

After a Group-3 try, he was rested until recently, when slowly away, again unfancied over today’s CD and should be fresher than most.

Kinyras is also lightly raced this season and was aimed at the Melrose at York after winning on firm ground at Goodwood but his Knavesmire bid was a disaster, with the blinds staying on as the field departed.

Even so, he finished in front of Bells Of Peover, who was stone last, beaten 56 lengths, yet is today’s morning favourite, with Kinyras 8.0 and Well Sharp 9.2, as I write. No way.

4.00 Ascot (Noel Murless Stakes): The last time Buthelezi and Barbican met in the Spring, Barbican was left behind as Buthelezi led for much of the race: he has continued to be a pace-setter, three times at Group level, including in the St Leger.

He’s a stronger horse now dropped back to a Listed, and I can’t see the Mark Johnston pace horse, Eternal Heart, able to live with him.

The Group-3 June form over today’s course at 2m (Queen’s Vase), when Solar Sky finished seven lengths in front of Eternal Heart, may not be conclusive as the ground was soft but Solar Sky also ran a decent race in the Bahrain Trophy behind the subsequent St Leger winner, Masked Marvel.

Solar Sky was only a neck off Namibian in that soft-ground Queen’s Vase before Highland Castle was well beaten by the same horse at Goodwood, and Solar Sky (5.2 this morning), who should improve for his rest since Royal Ascot, has clearly been aimed at the race by Henry Cecil, whose father-in-law Noel Murless was.

Granted Highland Castle has since won at today’s trip, eased down, at Salisbury but none of the placed horses that day were Listed level, and trainer David Elsworth considers there’s a ‘marginal’ difference between today’s runners, which doesn’t square with Highland Castle’s 2.86 favouritism, as I write.
BET (to win 20 points): 7pts win CLASSIC COLORI and 2.8pts win (stakes saver) MUNDANA (2.55 Ascot)
LAY to win 10pts THE BELLS O PEOVER, and BET 2.5pts win on each KINYRAS and WELL SHARP (3.30 Ascot)
BET: 5pts win SOLAR SKY (4.00 Ascot)