The International Stakes at Ascot on Saturday has a field of 20 runners, including three horses to take on the favourite, Blue Mist. There are only four runners in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, where 2019 Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck could challenge the odds-on fancy, Enable.
Blue Mist is +450 with BetOnline to win the heritage handicap but looks vulnerable to bigger-priced runners. Our three alternatives to the favourite are Vale Of Kent, Cardsharp and Blackheath.
On a collateral form line through Ghaiyyath in the Eclipse Stakes and Coronation Cup, Enable looks the wrong price compared to Anthony Van Dyck. The latter offers the value at +1100 for the King George, which is a win-only race given the small field.
However, each-way bettors have plenty of options in the International Stakes and some online bookmakers may offer extra places. When you are backing big-priced runners in major handicaps, it’s better to have more chances to win rather than bigger odds and only four places.
Blue Mist could be a blot on the handicap. The horse carries 13lbs less than the top weight, Vale Of Kent. Blue Mist is dropping down the weights having been found out in better races. The handicapper may have overreacted and the market suggests some shrewd punters believe Blue Mist is on a winnable mark.
The horse was third in the race last year, carrying 3lbs more than his weight this time. Blue Mist was just a head adrift of second-placed Kaeso, giving that horse a pound. However, the run at Royal Ascot this June when unplaced in the Silver Wokingham Handicap suggests a horse in decline and not one with anything in hand at the weights.
That assessment brings our three against the favourite into the equation and the best starting point is Vale Of Kent. As mentioned above, the Mark Johnston-trained runner has to give Blue Mist almost a stone. Frankie Dettori is an eye-catching booking for a horse that has won at this level. However, the weight could make a place the best outcome.
Cardsharp carries 7lbs less than Vale Of Kent and hence 6lbs more than Blue Mist. This is another Johnston entry that has won off the weight in the past. However, there has been a run of seven unplaced efforts since winning a York handicap last May carrying 9st 13lbs. Cardsharp ran 25 pounds below his career-high rating on his last start at Newmarket this month.
By a process of elimination, Blackheath is the one that could beat Blue Mist and the rest of the field at +2500. He carries less weight than Blue Mist, while a win in a handicap at Leicester last July off 9st 4lbs is a hint he could upset the favourite’s apple cart. Anthony Van Dyck could have the same role against Enable in the King George and the double pays +28500.