The third day of Royal Ascot features one of the highlights of the meeting – the Ascot Gold Cup. For a preview of this year’s Gold Cup, plus the rest of the action from Day 3 of Royal Ascot 2011 and news of Paddy Power free bets, read on.

Royal Ascot 2011 – Day 3 Preview
(All odds correct at time of publication)

Race 1 – The Norfolk Stakes (Group 2)
The Norfolk Stakes is for two year old fillies and colts only and is run over five furlongs. The race was founded back in 1843 as the “New Stakes” and has been a Group 2 race since 2006.

Richard Hannon’s Crown Dependency and Brian Meehan’s Shumoos head the Norfolk Stakes betting (both a best price of 5.50 on Betfair), while the Kevin Ryan trained Bapak Chinta is also well fancied (7.00 on Betfair).

This is a tough race to call from a betting perspective, as there is so little form to go on, but Richard Hannon is known an expert trainer of two year old horses, so it could pay to side with his horse, Crown Dependency. verdict: Crown Dependency to win.

Race 2 – The Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2)
Founded in 1919, Royal Ascot’s Ribblesdale Stakes is for three year old fillies only and is run over a mile and a half.

In recent years, Saeed bin Suroor has been the trainer to follow, winning the race five times between 1998 and 2010, including the last two renewals of the Ribblesdale Stakes.

With that in mind, plus the recent Listed race win at Newbury, it is easy to see why his horse Rumh is as short as 4.10 to win the race (Betfair), but these middle distance horses can often struggle to turn out two high class performances in such a short space of time. That Newbury event was on June 9th and the Ribblesdale might come to soon for Rumh.

A better option might be bin Suroor’s other horse, Khawlah. This one hasn’t raced since winning a Group 2 in Dubai at the end of March and at 8.60 on Betfair, this horse looks much better value.

Six of the last ten Ribblesdale Stakes winners had never actually run in a Group race before, so it might be worth considering a few of the outsiders in this race. Creme Anglaise (14.00, Betfair) could be one such sort. Trained by Michael Bell, Creme Anglaise has a fine pedigree, having been sired by Derby winner Motivator. verdict: Khawlah each-way.

Race 3 – The Gold Cup (Group 1)
This is undoubtedly one of Royal Ascot’s most popular races and is Britain’s premier race for flat horses that prefer longer distances. Correctly titled “The Gold Cup”, but known to most as “The Ascot Gold Cup”, the race is run over two and a half miles and is open to horses aged four or older, of either gender.

In recent years, the race has been dominated by Aidan O’Brien, whose horse Yeats won four Gold Cup titles in a row (2006 – 2009) to become the most successful horse in the race’s history. This year, O’Brien looks to have another cracking chance at lifting the Gold Cup, with Fame And Glory.

Fame And Glory is a former Coronation Cup and Irish Derby winner, who is a worthy favourite for the race (best price 3.00, Paddy Power) after last year’s winner Rite Of Passage had to be withdrawn from this year’s Gold Cup due to injury.

Since the defection of Rite Of Passage, the bookmakers rate John Gosden’s Duncan as the best chance of beating Fame And Glory (best price 7.00, William Hill). This horse was particularly impressive in landing last month’s Yorkshire Cup and was second to the mighty Harbinger in last year’s Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The main point to consider when looking for a Gold Cup bet is the distance. There is nothing else in flat racing to compare this race to, but generally, Gold Cup winners tend to arrive at Royal Ascot having already won a Group race over 1 mile 6 furlongs or more, with at least one run under their belt for the season, ensuring peak fitness for what is a tough test of stamina.

Fame And Glory certainly has form and is in the hands of a trainer who knows how to win the Ascot Gold Cup, but makes little appeal at such a short price. Duncan looks a much better value bet.

Other potential Gold Cup candidates are Godolphin’s Holberg (best price 11.00, William Hill), former Ladbrokes World Hurdle second Kasbah Bliss (best price 15.00, Bet365) and the ever popular ten year old Geordieland, who looks certain to recover from injury in time for the 2011 Gold Cup (best price 21.00, SportingBet). verdict: Duncan each-way.

The remaining three races on the card at Royal Ascot’s third day are The Britannia Stakes (a Class 2 Heritage Handicap), The Tercentenary Stakes (a Group 3 race) and The King George V Stakes (a Class 2 handicap).

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