The Shergar Cup is not everyone’s cup of tea, but there are some fascinating and ultra competitive handicaps on offer at Ascot this afternoon with many of the big yards once again getting behind the competition.

Frankie Dettori, Kerrin McEvoy and Christophe-Patrice Lemaire are just three of the big names competing for the “Golden Saddle” although the draw looks to have been kind to the Ladies side who should make a bold bid to defend their team crown.

2.45 Ascot

Super Superjack – much to my chagrin – was an unfortunate loser in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap at Goodwood last week and he is the one to beat back over a C&D where he was a facile winner from an 11lbs lower mark back in the spring. He has been raised 4lbs since Goodwood, he did have a hard race over that extreme distance, however, and is reluctantly overlooked at a best price of 9/4 with 888Sport.

Team Europe have two 51-year-olds in their ranks. Frankie Dettori needs no introduction, but Jose-Luis Martinez is a nine-time champion jockey in Spain, is closing in on 1200 career wins but is making his debut in the Shergar Cup and I cannot remember him riding in Britain previously.

Martinez rides ISLAND BRAVE in the Stayers’ Handicap and the 8-y-old entire finished fourth in this corresponding race 12 months ago from a 4lbs higher mark on ground that would have been softer than ideal. He has a C&D win to his name from a 2lbs lower mark and I thought he ran a much better race than the finishing position would suggest in the Northumberland Plate last time. He gets the each way vote.

Recommendation: Island Brave EW 9/1 with William Hill 4 places

3.20 Ascot

Pride Of Priory has been raised 10lbs for winning two seven-runner handicaps on the all-weather having disappointed in his first couple of starts on turf. It was a slowly run race he won at Newcastle last time from a 5lbs lower mark, but he battled on tremendously well and he is a worthy market leader.

State Of Bliss won on the corresponding card 12 months ago and he wouldn’t be the first Mark Johnston horse to bounce back to form under Dettori. He could be The each way vote, however, goes to THE WHIPMASTER who lost little in defeat when runner up over C&D last time in his quest for a five-timer. He has never won over today’s mile-and-a-half, but he had the third 14L away last time and is only 1lb higher this afternoon.

Recommendation: The Whipmaster EW 9/2 at William Hill 4 places

2.25 Haydock

Mr McCann is owned by a gaggle of Premier League and former top-class footballers from the northwest and the Liverpool contingent should be in the Craven Cottage ice baths by the time their 3-year-old runs in this cracking mile handicap.

The classic generation have won the last couple of renewals of the race, and I like the booking of Tom Marquand for Hugo Palmer’s colt who has been off the course since beating just one home in the Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot. His fourth in the German 2000 Guineas is, arguably, the best form on offer and today’s better ground is more suitable to the rattling fast ground of Ascot.

ELECTRICAL STORM is a half-brother to Group 1 winner Ribchesterand ran agood race at Sandown last time over 10f when he gave the impression, he would appreciate a drop back in trip having won over nine furlongs on his first start of the season returning from a 550-day lay-off.

Saeed bin Suroor won this corresponding race two years ago and his inmate may be forced to dictate his own fractions with no guaranteed pace in the race. Andrea Atzeni takes over in the saddle for the first time and he will certainly not want the race to become tactical.

Recommendation: Electrical Storm at 2/1 with Boylesports

4.51 Newmarket

The concluding 25k mile handicap for three-year-olds is one of the most interesting races of the day and I am looking forward to seeing the belated reappearance of CROUPIER who steps up to a mile for the first time under leading apprentice Harry Davies.

I remember thinking the gelded son of Invincible Spirit had a bright future when easily landing a Newbury nursery last August and he ran well enough on his sole subsequent start when runner up back on the Berkshire track. That form has taken a few knocks given the winner has only beaten one horse home in three subsequent outings. There are mixed messages on breeding as to whether he needs a mile, but connections must obviously feel it is within his compass.

The selection’s improved form last backend coincided with being partnered with James Doyle, but he is claimed for Charlie Appleby’s Bay Of Honour who finished fifth over C&D last time in a very deep race. He is taken to again finish in front of Spinaround although a bigger danger may come from Galiac who has been knocking on the door of late and ran well when runner up in the Racing League on Thursday evening.

Recommendation: Croupier EW at 5/1 with William Hill

6.05 Lingfield

Two last time out winners in the four-runner field in the 6f nursery and I will be disappointed if ROYAL MARINER does not follow up last month’s C&D success from a 5lbs lower mark especially as he should have the race run to suit with Girlswannahavefun making all at Leicester last time over the minimum trip.

The filly has yet to race on polytrack while James Tate’s colt improved for the switch to the all-weather on his handicap debut in a first-time visor. The headgear is applied again this evening.

Recommendation: Royal Mariner at 5/4 with 10Bet

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