Racing: Winter Romance is one for the chancers

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The Independent Online
The first four races at Royal Ascot today contain more Classic winners and animals of outstanding talent than it is possible to shake a whip at, but for the true punters, the incurable chancers who never know when to take a step backwards, it is the two closing events which command the attention. Contests like the St James's Palace Stakes are designed to make rich people even richer. The Britannia and Ascot Stakes handicaps offer the rest of us a chance, a tiny one, to join them.

But no-one ever said it would be easy, and with 32 runners in the Britannia and just five fewer in the Ascot Stakes, there will inevitably be many more losers than winners. Recent history, though, demonstrates that both events are usually won by well-fancied runners. The biggest winning starting price of either in the last five years is 14-1, while seven of the 10 winners in that time were at single-figure odds.

The favourite for the three-year-old event is Missile, a winner at York last month who is prepared at the Derby-winning yard of Willie Haggas. He stands every chance, but a more rewarding option may be the horse he beat last time, Winter Romance (4.55), who showed considerable improvement to win his subsequent race and is twice the price at around 14-1.

The Ascot Stakes too has a solid favourite in Merit, the easy Chester Cup winner. He has the knack of winning, and success today would be his fifth in a row, but at 4-1 he is worth opposing.

The one who sets the antennae twitching is Golden Arrow (5.30). Martin Pipe won this in 1993 and 1994, and would collect rather more than his trainer's percentage if Golden Arrow makes it three out of four, as he runs in Pipe's colours. The 28-1 offered by William Hill is impossible to resist.