It’s one of the biggest betting heats of the five-day Royal Ascot fixture. The cavalry charge that is Wednesday’s Royal Hunt Cup Handicap on the straight mile is a stunning spectacle and a race that punters love to try figure out and catch a winner, often at tasty double-figure odds.
The last five winners have stormed home at respective odds of 12/1, 16/1, 33/1, 20/1 and 8/1, and two of the last three winners – the 2013 winner, 33/1-shot Belgian Bill, and last year’s hero, 8/1 chance GM Hopkins, looks set to bid for a second success in the great race.
GM Hopkins, Top Rival for the Hunt Cup in Royal Ascot
GM Hopkins, trained by John Gosden, will have top weight of a massive 9st 12lbs, but he is a very talented horse who wouldn’t be out of place in one of the major pattern events at this prestigious fixture.
He landed the listed Paradise Stakes under Ryan Moore over course and distance in April, again showing his love affair with this track, and was far from disgraced in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury last time out when eighth to the high-class Belardo.
Belgian Bill (33/1), George Baker’s Horse
Belgian Bill (33/1), one of two possible runners for trainer George Baker – the other is the quirky Boomshackerlacker (40/1) – has been trained specifically for this race since last running at Meydan in Dubai in March where he finished a fine fifth to Godolphin’s Tryster in the Group 3 Dubai Millenium Stakes.
A strongly run mile is perfect for this veteran who still appears to retain all his ability, and if the gaps come at the right time he would certainly have each-way prospects.
In such an open race there are any number of possible winners but five horses take the eye as likely sorts on recent form, and from a point of view of current handicap ratings.
Spirit Raise (16/1), Value Bet
James Fanshawe has a good record at Royal Ascot and has won this race twice before, saddling Macadamia to victory in 2003 and Cesare in 2006.
He looks to have another improving performer in the shape of the five-year-old Spirit Raise, who very much caught the eye when winning with something in hand last time out at Nottingham.
The five-year-old has a good racing weight of 9st 3lbs, and appears to still be on the upgrade so the current 16/1 on offer looks a tempting bet.
Dick Whittington, from Aidan O’Brien
If Aidan O’Brien runs Group 1 winner Dick Whittington he would be a fascinating contender. The four-year-old has failed to live up to the promise of his Group 1 Phoenix Stakes win as a juvenile in 2014 but is still a talented horse.
He has never run beyond seven furlongs thus far and has never won beyond six, but he also has never run in a handicap and if he does take his chance off 9st 5lbs and he stays he would be something of a handicap ‘good thing’. He does have plenty of questions to answer though.
Portage, Godolphin Bred (14/1)
Another eye catcher is fellow Irish raider Portage, trained for Godolphin by Mick Halford. He won a good handicap over course and distance last July, finished a fine fifth of 34 in the Cambridgeshire at Newmarket, and began this campaign with a win in listed company at the Curragh earlier this month. Seemingly still improving, the 14/1 on offer looks a fair price.
Godolphin may also be represented by the former David Evans-trained Carry on Deryck (16/1), fourth in the seven furlong Brittania Handicap at last year’s royal meeting, and winner of his only subsequent start when scoring in style at Meydan in Dubai.
The ante-post favourite is the still unexposed Sir Michael Stoute-trained Convey (7/1), runner-up to the smart Home of the Brave in the Group 3 John of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock last month, a horse who could well develop into a smart miler before the season is out. At 7/1 however he doesn’t look the greatest value in what is a very tough race where luck-in-running is almost always essential and it could pay to look for better value in this 30-runner affair.
In the News
 standard.co.uk, Royal Ascot 2016 tips: Betting guide from the Racing Post’s Paul Kealy, 2016