1.15 BUCKINGHAM PALACE HANDICAP
We start Royal Ascot this year with a very competitive handicap and, as ever, the draw will play its part.
The horse that I like in this race is CLIFFS OF CAPRI, owned by the Melbourne Ten Syndicate and trained by Jamie Osborne.
This horse is a regular on big-field handicaps and I’m hoping the draw in 27 will prove to be the right side to be on. He has won twice over the course and distance and should have no issues with the ground either.
In terms of his handicap mark I think there is room to manoeuvre . He runs off a mark of 96 here and thus is only three pounds higher that his last winning mark over the course and distance.
He was campaigned at Meydan over the winter and picked up a lovely race back on the 20th of February off a mark of 91. He made his reappearance for this season at Newmarket on the 4th of June and was running on well to finished second to Jack’s Point. I would expect him to run really well here on a course he loves and he looks a solid each-way proposition.
His second run of the season seems to be the best time to catch him.
1.50 QUEEN ANNE STAKES (GROUP 1)
The first of the feature races on day one and I really like the look of the unexposed FOX CHAIRMAN for the in-form stable of Andrew Balding.
This horse really caught my eye on his last run at Newbury, when he won the Steventon Stakes in decisive fashion. He was second in the Hampton Court at Royal Ascot last season behind Sangarius and was very unlucky in running. He was squeezed for room leaving the stalls and from there to the winning line it was nothing but a troubled passage. He ran on well near the finish but was no threat to the winner.
This race for me looks to suit a horse that will come from off the pace with a turn of foot. Circus Maximus will likely try and use his stamina but the straight mile might make it harder to dominate.
The likes of Skardu and Fox Chairman will be trying to run him down late and I think this is were Fox Chairman will get his day and land the Group One for Silvestre De Sousa and King Power Racing.
2.25 RIBBLESDALE STAKES (GROUP 2)
Another exciting renewal of this race and John Gosden looks to hold the trump cards with Frankly Darling, Miss Yoda and Anastarsia all entered up. The selection for me has to be MISS YODA because I was mightily impressed with the nature of her victory at Lingfield in the Oaks Trial when it never looked like she was going to get there.
She eventually got there and was going away in the end for me and I think Ascot is the type of track that might bring her stamina into the equation even more.
If she can settle better in this race, she should be able to finish it strongly and she looks a major contender on what she has done in her career so far. The Lingfield race as messy, but it proved that she can get herself out of trouble and, with her stamina in abundance, she will be staying on when the others have done their running.
Strong chance here.
3.00 KING EDWARD VII STAKES (GROUP 2)
The market for this race looks to be all about the Aidan O’Brien-trained Mogul, but I think there might be one lurking further down at a bigger price that we should have a second look at.
PYLEDRIVER really caught my eye at Kempton on the all-weather on his last run when second to the Andrew Balding-trained Berlin Tango in the Classic Trial Stakes (Group Three). He travelled nicely throughout the race and stayed on really well when he got the gap up the inside. It was a very nice introduction to this season for the William Muir-trained colt.
He was a Listed winner last season at Haydock and went off 8/1 for the Royal Lodge where he ultimately finished last, but I think there was something amiss that day. When he won on his debut at Salisbury at 50/1 he looked like a horse that would benefit from a trip. The trip and track should be perfect here and he could give them all plenty to think about.
He looks overpriced at double figures and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that shorten closer to the off.
3.35 KING’S STAND STAKES (GROUP 1)
This race is all about Battaash and, if you’re in his camp – which many of ye will be – you’ll br justifiably thinking he will take all the beating.
From a betting point of view, this race is hard to get a handle on and it might be best to look at the betting without market. As ye all know I have followed SERGEI PROKOFIEV since he made his debut in Dundalk and he could be the value to run on out of the pack and chase Battaash home.
He looked to be a very promising horse at two and, this season, it hasn’t materialised, but there is no trainer better than the master of Ballydoyle to get a horse ready for the big day.
I was very sweet on him last time at Naas and he ran nothing short of appalling in a race where Sceptical blitzed the field in impressive fashion. He wasn’t far behind Equilateral in the Palace House at Newmarket last season, but their careers have gone in opposite directions since.
Does he deserve to be one of the outsiders in this race based on what he achieved as a two year-old? The answer is likely not, but he hasn’t shown any spark recently at all.
It would be a very small play in the betting without market and hope that Ryan Moore can get the best out of him.
4.10 DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE STAKES (GROUP 2)
I was hoping that we might see the French trained WASMYA make the trip to Royal Ascot and she turns up here with Frankie Dettori on board and looks to have a very strong chance.
Prior to the English and Irish racing resuming, I followed the French action keenly, scouring the form and trying to pick a winner or two. This filly finished a very good second to another improving filly, Spinning Memories, on her first run this season at ParisLongchamp. Spinning Memorie,s who was formerly trained in Ireland by Andrew Oliver, has gone and franked the form since by winning the Prix De Palais Royal (Group Three) on her next run.
Wasmya should be suited by the step up to a mile and the pace of this race could suit as she will likely be ridden patiently and try and use her turn of foot to her advantage. She has won three of her six races to date and could add to that here.
A little rain certainly wouldn’t harm her chances but I think she will definitely be in the shake up, at least. She will race in a first-time tongue-tie today.
4.40 ASCOT STAKES
This race will see many of the dual-purpose horses trying to land a big pot for connections and it looks a very competitive race.
Paul Nicholls and his daughter Megan have landed a couple of races since racing resumed and I am going to take a small punt on ASHUTOR in the very famous colours of the Stewart Family to provide somewhat of a shock in the last race of Day One.
This horse had some nice form when trained in France by Alain de Royer-Dupré and it just wouldn’t surprise me if he went well here off a light weight.
His Maiden Hurdle victory at Catterick was somewhat of a stroll in the park when he won by eleven lengths under Harry Cobden. His handicap mark of 87 could underestimate the ability he has on his return to the level and, with Megan claiming another three pounds off his back, he could feel that he is running loose compared to the weights he would carry over hurdles.
The double-figure price likely reflects his chance, but the extreme distance here might give him time to get into a rhythm and don’t be surprised if he runs on into a place.