In terms of competition, the Victoria Cup falls into the same category as the Royal Hunt Cup, Stewards’ Cup and Wokingham as one of the most competitive handicaps of the Flat season (3.45pm Saturday, Ascot).
The one that immediately jumps off the page is Buckstay (20/1), who was repeatedly denied a clear run in the closing stages of the Spring Cup over 1m at Newbury three weeks ago and deserves another chance.
Peter Chapple-Hyam’s (pictured) five-year-old had previously finished a promising second, beaten three lengths, behind Chatez in the Spring Mile at Doncaster on his reappearance and races off the same handicap mark. The Lawman gelding has never won over a distance shorter than a mile, or on turf, but should be effective over a testing 7f on the prevailing good going. He is reunited with up-and-coming apprentice Tom Marquand, who takes off a useful 7lb, and should go well at a decent price.
One outright favourite and one joint favourite has won the Victoria Cup in the last ten years and this year Speculative Bid, Outback Traveller, Dream Spirit, Zarwaan and Russian Realm are all disputing favouritism at 14/1.
Speculative Bid is 1lb worse off for the head he beat Outback Traveller in a similar race at Kempton five weeks ago, but it is worth noting that Outback Traveller was having his first race since October, whereas Speculative Bid had already won over the same course and distance in March. Granted normal improvement, Outback Traveller looks the pick of that pair and may hold a fitness advantage over Dream Spirit and Russian Realm, who have both been absent since October.
Zarwaan may prove to be a different kettle of fish, having finished a promising sixth, beaten 5¼ lengths, in the Lincoln on his reappearance at Doncaster six weeks ago. The son of Dutch Art has been tried over 7f just once when runner-up in a similar race at Newbury on his reappearance last season. The uphill straight at Ascot should play to his strengths and he could still be open to significant improvement after just seven starts. As it stands, a line through Chatez gives him the beating of Buckstay and he looks one to take very seriously indeed.
Although stepping up in class, Shared Equity (16/1) is 1-1 over 7f and returns to what is quite possibly his optimum trip after going down by just half a length and a head in a competitive 6f handicap at Doncaster last month. He has gone up 2lb in the weights for that performance, but apprentice Joe Doyle can claim all of his 5lb allowance and he looks well worth a crack at this level.
Of those at longer prices, it is worth noting that Renfrewshire trainer Jim Goldie sends Hawkeyethenoo (40/1) on the long journey south off his lowest handicap mark since winning this race four years ago. In fact, his stable stalwart is 3lb lower in the weights than when beating Manassas by 2½ lengths on that occasion and 10lb lower than when beating Imperial Guest by a nose in the Stewards’ Cup the following season, so shouldn’t be written off just yet. He needs to improve on his recent form, but his latest run over 7f at Newcastle wasn’t without promise and the likely strong pace should help him.
- Nevertheless, our Victoria Cup betting tips advice is to back ZARWAAN each-way at current best price of 14/1 with BetVictor.