Victoria Cup Tips: Check out our big priced tip for the Ascot feature

A hugely competitive field will do battle in the Victoria Cup at Ascot
A hugely competitive field will do battle in the Victoria Cup at Ascot

One of the toughest betting heats on the punting calendar, the Victoria Cup will take centre stage at Ascot on Saturday afternoon, and our man Steve Chambers has been handed the unenviable task of trying to unearth the winner of the 7f showpiece, which could throw up some vital Royal Ascot clues...

With the bookmakers going 8/1 the field, at the time of writing, it just highlights what a devilishly difficult conundrum it is, but heading the betting at the moment is the Charlie Hills-trained Dark Shift, who ended last season with two notable handicap wins at Ascot, and now four years old he will bid for the hat-trick at the Berkshire venue. The second of those brace of wins was off a mark of 90 and the grey colt lines up off 91 on Saturday, so if he can continue to blossom then has to be a leading player.

Second to the classy Rohaan in the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot last season, James Fanshawe's Fresh will attempt to go one better here off a 2lb higher mark, and he warmed up for this with a creditable second placed finish at Kempton Park earlier in the campaign. However, with only two wins in 15 starts then he could be forced to settle for minor honours yet again.

Several prominent figures in the betting will fancy their chances and Vafortino was just touched off by Bless Him at Newcastle last time out and that is decent form, while the likes of the Charlie Appleby-trained duo of One Ruler, who was third in a Group race at Meydan last time out, and Path Of Thunder, who was second at Listed level last month, add depth to the head of the market.

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Today's Racing Tips

A former winner of the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot all the way back in 2018, Accidental Agent will look for another notable victory at the track and Eve Johnson Houghton's star eight-year-old will carry top weight here and lines up on the back of a fine victory at Newmarket last month. However, a 5lbs rise could halt his progression back into the big time, and he may just find this race full of improvers a little beyond him.

With extra places sure to be on offer with the bookmakers then it's worth looking for some big-priced value and the one that stands out is the Ed Walker-trained POPMASTER, who is around a 25/1 chance at the moment, and the four-year-old can build significantly on a ninth placed effort a few weeks ago and off a mark of 99 the grey gelding looks very interesting with Saffie Osborne claiming 3lbs.

An impressive winner of an Ascot handicap off a mark of 94 in September, he then headed north of the border to compete in the Ayr Gold Cup and was well fancied, but could only finish 17 off a mark of 100. Sent to York for the Coral Sprint Trophy he failed to fire yet again off 101, as he finished seventh, but a return to Ascot and his first try over seven furlongs could well see him blossom at he could run a huge race for connections.

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Clive Cox's River Nymph claimed victory in this race 12 months ago and will be back to try and retain the crown off a 2lb higher mark, but the five-year-old has failed to kick on from that notable success in 2021 and could struggle to land a coveted double on Saturday afternoon.

Of the others, David O'Meara's Darkness has been improving with every run this campaign and has shaped like the hustle and bustle of a red-hot handicap could bring out the best in him, and he could mark another each-way play, while the likes of Alrehb and Star Of Orion are worthy of a mention in what is set to be a thrilling contest.

Victoria Cup
Popmaster silk

Popmaster (EW)

lost
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