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Paddy Power Column: Jelly Bean looking sweet for Ascot

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I’m in football heaven at the moment and by the time you digest these words of wisdom, Royal Ascot will also be making my afternoons a little bit more enjoyable.

England weren’t quite good enough to get a result against Italy late on Saturday evening, but I thought they performed extremely creditably, especially young Liverpool player Raheem Sterling.

If I had one criticism of him, he did lose the ball a few times, but I suppose that is going to happen when you’re trying to take full-backs on all the time, and he certainly made up for it by causing their defence huge problems throughout the match.

However, while England played better than I and many better footy judges than me expected, I did think the Italians’ killer goal was a bit soft by international standards. Mario Balotelli is a bit of a fruitloop, but to leave him unmarked at the far post has to be considered suicidal by any standards.

I must also mention Holland – what an absolutely incredible result against Spain and well done to them. They have an incredible forward line with Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben, who I always rated when he was with Chelsea, and I’m looking forward to watching them again.

Back to Ascot and despite having a short-priced Irish favourite in Leading Light for Thursday’s Gold Cup, I fancy Sir Michael Stoute to work his magic and win the race for the Jelly Bean for the second year running courtesy of Estimate at a current 7-1.

Sir Michael quite rightly spoke of how her win in 2013 was fantastic for the sport as it brought it to the evening news and newspaper front pages with beautiful pictures of The Queen in all her finery.

The Newmarket trainer hasn’t had an easy time of getting Estimate right this year as she’s been suffering from an ailment, but he did say that he was much happier with her recently and that he thinks he can get her to the Royal extravaganza at her best.

She was beaten at the same course in the Long Distance Cup in October, but that reversal came over two miles, and I think the extra half mile of the Gold Cup really suits this staying mare.

I also think that if you do fancy her, it might be worth getting on early as the money really came for her on the day last year, possibly as a result of patriotic punters backing Her Maj, and she went off half her current odds.

I’m also opting for my mammy Sabena’s Slade Power in Saturday’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes as he bids for his first victory at the highest level.

Regulars will know that we’ve always thought the world of this fellow and I really do think that he could be champion sprinter this year, especially as he is so versatile regarding ground conditions.

His last win at The Curragh was sensational and the whole family are hoping that he can now eat at the top table and there’s no better place to do that than at Ascot!

I’ve already written about England and I think they are quite a good bet at a current 10-11 to qualify from their group.

Thursday’s important clash against Uruguay in Sao Paulo shouldn’t have them quaking in their boots after watching that side lose 3-1 to what were tournament outsiders Costa Rica.

Sterling and Daniel Sturridge should have far too much pace for their defence, including captain Diego Lugano, who looked very slow in the second half, which should carve out enough chances for the Three Lions to do the business.

Then frankly if they can’t beat Costa Rica, they don’t deserve to advance.

Selections

Now England to qualify from Group D

Thursday 4.25pm Royal Ascot - Estimate

Saturday 4.25pm Royal Ascot - Slade Power

 

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