More rain presents a right Royal riddle

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PUNTERS could be in for a tough time at Royal Ascot next week, with testing ground on the cards.

That will set all kinds of puzzles for punters as the form has had a tendency to go awry this year, and soft or heavy ground can produce upsets.

Ascot clerk of the course Chris Stickels expects the going to be on the easy side of good for the start of the five-day Royal meeting in just six days’ time.

He described the ground as soft, with the odd heavy patch after significant rain.

Drier weather is forecast until Friday, with more rain is expected over the weekend.

Stickels feels it is unlikely the going will be good for Tuesday’s opening card. He said: “We’ve had 55mm since 9pm on Sunday.

It’s been horrendously wet and we are soft ground now. There is the odd heavy patch around Swinley Bottom but not many.

“The indications are the next two or three days should be a bit better. I can’t say we are going to be have really drying conditions but there isn’t much rain forecast.

“It looks as if the weekend may bring more significant rain. We are going to see more rain before Royal meeting starts, in which case it wouldn’t surprise me if we start on the easy side. At the moment, we’ll be lucky to start the meeting on good ground.”

One of the attractions on day one of Royal Ascot is the King’s Stand Stakes, the target for Group One winner Margot Did, whose form this term has not managed to match that of last season when she scaled the heights for trainer Michael Bell and jockey Hayley Turner.

The four-year-old enjoyed a fruitful campaign last term, culminating in victory in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York.

However, she was subsequently well beaten in the Prix de l’Abbaye last autumn, finished out of the frame twice in Dubai and was last in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket on her British return.

Bell could find no explanation for her latest effort but reports Margot Did to be pleasing at home.

“She’s on course for the King’s Stand,” he said. “She’s not really shown her form since winning the Nunthorpe last year but she appears to be in good form at the moment,” he said.

Bell is also mulling the options for globe-trotting runner Wigmore Hall. Winner of over £1m in an international campaign, he was last seen finishing third in the Huxley Stakes at Chester.

The trainer added: “We’ll have a look at the entries for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and go from there. He’s also in the Hardwicke, so we will see how those races look.”

One horse who doesn’t mind the mud is Penitent, who will run over a mile in future after disappointing in France last time.

A combination of an extended nine furlongs and unsuitable conditions saw Penitent finish last of eight runners behind winner Golden Lilac in the Prix d’Ispahan at Longchamp.

Trainer David O’Meara said: “We’re going to target mile races more now. He seems to be much better at a mile than further.

“I’m not sure where he will go next but it’s essential we stick to where there’s cut in the ground.

“In France the ground dried out and was on the firm side. They were recording very fast times on the day he ran. It didn’t suit him. He’s been grand.”