‘VALIANT’ DAQMAN THE ‘TALK’ OF ROYAL ASCOT: With three winners yesterday for a profit of 48 points, Daqman has hit top gear in time for Royal Ascot. The winners were Valiant (nap, WON 7-4), Talk Of Saafend (WON 4-1) and Birdman (WON 11-8).

Here’s a tip from the good old days. It’s from one of those few professional punters of the past we like to call legendary. It is this: when you are looking for soft-ground winners at York, back only soft-ground winners at York.

It was a wet, wet day on the Knavesmire but Alex Bird still invited me to call at his Silver Cloud for a tailgate glass of champagne. In those days, I was no Bird, but an eager fledgling hungry for any scraps I could pick up.

‘York is a special case,’ he explained as a little light rain diluted my glass of ‘shampoo’. He went on: ‘When the ground is soft, you can only rely on those horses that have already won here at York on the soft. When it’s heavy, the rest have little or no chance over York-heavy winners.’

Today, then, Alex will be looking down for a few bob on Antigua Sunrise and Veiled Applause (2.05), and on European Dream (4.15) in a later race.

They’re all big prices but, as Mark Johnston tells the Racing Post, discussing Van Ellis (3.10 intended), ‘when the ground gets soft the form goes right out of the window.’ Mark has withdrawn Van Ellis.

2.05 York (Queen Mother’s Cup): In that 2.05, only one outright favourite has scored in the last decade, as you’d expect of a lady-amateurs’ race.

Last year’s winner, Crackentorp, is up 10lb on that success but carried only a pound less than today when third in the race the year before. Against him is his age; nothing over six has won it, which also Bismarcks two other CD winners, Hanoverian Baron and Odin’s Raven.

Antiguan Surprise, one of those York-soft winners, is therefore the attraction among the CD winners: if only Phillipa Tutty had done better with her 21 rides of last season (one second, one fourth) and if only the horse hadn’t failed twice in this race before.

The other soft-ground York winner, Veiled Applause, has already won twice this year and is up a total of 13lb for his trouble. Since he’s nine, I think that mutes Applause.

Sarah Brotherton (Troopingthecolour) was way ahead of these ladies in 2011, with as many winners as the others put together, although Alyson Deniel (Scrapper Smith) is no slouch when she has the right mount; she’s won this race before. But neither has won over 1m 4f.

Troopingthecolour was fourth to Crackentorp over course and distance last August and cannot overturn the form at the revised weights.

Scrapper Smith got this trip well enough in the November Handicap at Doncaster at the backend of the season after winning Ayr’s Kilkerran Cup with a mighty finishing kick, responding to a lady rider that day. The 16.0 on BETDAQ this morning looked ‘wrong’ for his real chance.

2.20 Sandown: Ryan Moore has been riding his socks off this week and this race will decide whether Opinion goes for a tilt at a £150,000 race at the July Meeting.

The unexposed Dark Stranger has drifted like a dog on a raft this morning; no one wants to know on this ground, whereas Opinion won his maiden on soft and is from stock that improves with racing.

2.35 York: This race usually goes to the quality at the top of the handicap, with weights of 9-11, 9-13 and 10-0 winning three of the last four, rated from 97 to 104.

Those three races were all run on good ground but the 99-rated Navajo Chief, a front-runner who is 4lb lower than winning at York on good to soft, is ideally drawn in stall 3 today.

If Kieren Fallon can get a soft lead (choice of words intended), Navajo Chief may be hard to catch on the ground: one of the favourites at 7.2 and I would have liked more but I can’t argue with 106% ‘book’ of offers. I won’t get such punter-friendly fixed odds from a bookie.

I said ‘if’ Fallon can get away from the field because he has another front-runner, Halfsin, in the way: Halfsin should be ready now, after two runs back: 8.8 on the Daq.

Classic Colori is very hard to win with and has scored only on AW in the last three years or so, while the Pricewise horse, Hillview Boy, is eight years old now and he, too, has won only once since the summer of 2009. Ditto Extraterrestrial.

Hillview Boy’s stall 2 may see him swallowed up, since he’s ‘dwelt’ in his races before now. Last time he was too keen, which wouldn’t be very helpful either, with two front-runners to make him fight for his head, though the ground should suit a son of Bishop Of Cashel.

2.50 Sandown: As a Pivotal, Karaka Jack could revel in the mud and he’s been racing over 7f as though he needs this mile. The clincher is 10.5 on BETDAQ this morning.

3.10 York: It’s a punter’s-suicide race. We don’t know the effect of the draw and we don’t know how these unexposed three-year-olds will cope with the ground.

The ceiling for winning weights carried is 9st 1lb, though 90-97 is the ratings parameter from the last five results and that takes out the two top-weights, unless you allow Laura Barry full credit for her 7lb claim. That might be reasonable since Laura is Lily’s Angel’s daily work-rider.

I shall take a horse that’s won on the soft, won at York and is massively progressive for a York-specialist trainer. Can’t do better than Mick Easterby’s Nameitywhatyoulike.

He’s shot through the ranks from winning a seller to scoring over a mile in class 3, which also means that – as a front or van runner – he should be in at the finish, staying on when others have cried enough on this ground: 12.0 on BETDAQ this morning was sweet (name it what you like!)

BET 1.3pts win SCRAPPER SMITH (2.05 York)
BET 5.2pts win (nap) OPINION (2.20 Sandown)
BET 3.2pts win NAVAJO CHIEF and 2.5pts win HALFSIN (2.35 York)
BET 2.1pts win KARAKA JACK (2.50 Sandown)
BET 1.8pts win NAMEITWHATYOULIKE (3.10 York)

* Daqman’s selections are backed to win 20 points so, if you divide 20 by his stake, you know the Betdaq offer taken at the time of writing.

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