It’s the opening day of Royal Ascot 2018 and Will has a preview and tips.
2.30 – 1m (Str) Queen Anne Stakes (4yo+): A very open renewal, with Rhododendron favourite after having had several of these behind when winning the Lockinge. She ought to take the beating again, but she is more than half the price of Lightning Spear, who was beaten by a fast closing short head, and David Simcock’s charge makes strong each/way appeal. He ran badly in this last year but returned to form with his Newbury second and the form of that well-run race, with subsequent Group 1 winner Lancaster Bomber in third, looks more than trustworthy here.
Benbatl was a sensational winner of the Dubai Turf and must be considered the main threat if he runs to that level, with a three and a half-length defeat of Vivlos probably the outstanding performance in this field.
Recoletos has made a fine start to life as an older horse, with last year’s Prix du Jockey Club third winning the Prix du Muguet and the Prix d’Ispahan in fine style on his fist two starts this season. He ought to be seriously involved here and will be a popular each/way choice.
American raider Yoshida has been a notable improver in recent months and a confidence boosting success in the Hill Prince Stakes at the end of last season was backed up with a deeply impressive return in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs. He had Beach Patrol, an Arlington Million winner who was second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, in second there and there’s lots to like about his chances here.
A better run can be expected from Beat The Bank after his seasonal reappearance but he might now have something to prove and Suedois would be more interesting of those at bigger prices. Everything from Brexit to the Mayans has been blamed for Limato’s flops at a mile but he’s better at shorter and Zonderland will need to step up a huge amount physically from his reappearance, which is possible. Century Dream won the Diomed Stakes impressive and has previously beaten Lockinge sixth Accidental Agent so there’s lots to like about his progressive profile for all that it still has him behind the first two there.
One to note at bigger prices too is Suedois, fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. He will strip fitter from his comeback in the Lockinge.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Lightning Spear (8/1 general)
3.05 – 6f Coventry Stakes (Group 2) (Class 1) (2yo): The market has this as a two-horse race between Ballydoyle’s Sergei Prokofiev and John Gosden’s Calyx, both of whom have been deeply impressive this season in their three combined wins; but this looks a deep renewal at face value and The Irish Rover makes each/way appeal.
He was just a length and a quarter behind Sergei Prokofiev on their debut at Dundalk and then lost maiden stakes here at the start when he jumped in the stalls. However, connections sent him to Newbury for his first start over this trip and he was deeply impressive at Newbury in the Olympic Glory Conditions Stakes. He quickened up well but was especially impressive when he hit the rising ground, so Ascot ought to suit and he’s probably less exposed than his three runs suggest.
Cosmic Law, a wide margin winner of the Woodcote Stakes, also appeared to be in love with 6 furlongs on his first try and has to rate a huge form player here – it is a surprise that he’s so big actually given that level of form – but these four are by no means the only contenders.
Jessica Harrington has mastered both codes for a long time and she has a fascinating contender in the shape of Indigo Balance. Harrington has a strong crop of juveniles this season and his son of Invincible Spirit was a very taking winner at the Curragh on 1,000 Guineas day, moving from the back to seal the race with one turn of foot, and it wasn’t hard to be impressed with the manner in which he won. Second Decrypt has since won again, whilst the fifth Don Carlos scored too. The same maiden has a rather illustrious history – Gustav Kilmt, Churchill, Air Force Blue, and Sir John Hawkins have made debuts in that race – and that he’s being sent here is a big endorsement.
Godolphin pairing Dubai Legacy and Burj both need respect here, although the latter was behind Advertise on debut and the way that Advertise hit the line suggests he ought to improve for that experience and take a hand here.
Aidan might have won this race eight times, but Joseph has a very interesting contender in the shape of No Needs Never. He was not expected to take a big hand in proceedings at Cork at 25/1 but he ended up being unlucky to lose, he was drawn wide and trapped wide at the rear of the field. Had he been given a kinder draw he might well have won and this stiff track ought to help him should he get caught behind early. He can go well at a big price but the two Irish charges we have will do.
Advice: 1 pt each/way The Irish Rover (14/1 Bet365, Paddy Power, Hills, Betway), 1 pt each/way Indigo Balance (16/1 Hills, 14/1 general)
3.40 – 5f King’s Stand Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Class 1) (3yo+): One of the occasions of the week as Lady Aurelia, an incredible winner of this last year, faces the fellow rocket Battash, who was arguably even more impressive in the L’Abbaye last season. It is more a race to watch and savour than to bet on, although the opinion of yours truly is that a settled Battash can prove himself to be the quickest on this day.
Charlie Hills’ lightning charge must remain calm during the preliminaries, but as a more mature horse he hopefully will be able to keep his composure more than he did at York, when he was still fourth, beaten only four and a half lengths behind Marsha and Lady Aurelia. He put four lengths – and it could have been more – behind Marsha herself in what was a startlingly impressive romp at Chantilly and that he got the better of Kachy giving a penalty in the Temple Stakes despite his poor start shows his power.
Kachy is now 5lbs worse off and he might have been caught by Washington DC with another stride there. Washington DC loved nothing more than s tiff and well run five furlongs, so it’s interesting that Aidan O’Brien puts Donncha on him and Ryan Moore rides Different League, with Battle Of Jericho also taking his place. All three must find a new level although a pace burnout would suit.
Mabs Cross has improved hand over fist this season and was fourth in the Temple; She will run well, whilst Bucchero and Finsbury Square can give value seekers a good run for their money.
Advice: Watch and enjoy.
4.20 – St James’s Palace Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Class 1) (3YO only): A fascinating contest which brings together leading contenders from England, Ireland and France. Without Parole didn’t run in any of the Guineas, but the manner of his novice win at Yarmouth and then a gutsy success in the Heron Stakes have seen him cut to favourite. However, on the bare form of both those success he appears to be very short and the urge is to take him on.
Indeed, Racing Post Trophy winner Gabr might make a bold bid to reverse the form, having come from well back in the Heron.
Tip To Win, however, ran the best race of any horse here when a good second in the 2,000 Guineas, a renewal which looks stronger than it’s Irish counterpart, and he deserves to be shorter than the 5/1 on offer. He ended his juvenile season with a fine second to Elarqam in the Sommervile Stakes and since then a winter in the Middle Easy has seen connections in plenty of profit.
It also clearly helped his preparation for the European season, as he was a fantastic second in the 2,000 when he split Saxon Warrior and the subsequent Derby winner Masar at 50/1. He had Gustav Kilmt, since third in the Irish Guineas, back in sixth and a reproduction of that form would give him an excellent chance.
Romanised relished the all out gallop to take the Irish Guineas, a return to the form that he’d shown as a juvenile. The shape of this race promises to suit just as much here and he’s got to be a major player with the ground having come right too, and he can once again get the better of US Navy Flag, who went too fast at the Curragh and might be better at shorter for all that this will be the quickest ground he’s had so far this season. Threeandfourpence was held in fourth there.
Wootoon’s fourth in the Pouliches was a fine effort on just his fourth run, and improvement from that is very possible if he is able to settle today, something that should be more likely with a stronger pace in the offing. His hanging down the home straight of a right handed track (something he did in the Fontainebleau as well as the Pouliches) is a worry but he possesses a fine turn of foot and could improve for a quicker surface. He is a serious each/way player if staying straight.
Kings Shields as sixth at Longchamp and didn’t handle the soft ground when backing up quickly at Epsom. He is a very useful horse and can do better in time but it’s possible that he’s making a rather quick backup.
Chilean was a very game winner of the Prix La Force before finishing fourth in the Bet365 Classic trial and he might need further than this on soft ground.
Advice: 2 pts win Tip To Win (5/1 general), 1 pt each/way Wootoon (7/1 Bet365)
Ante-Post tips on 17 May: 2 pts each/way Elarqam (8/1) – NON-RUNNER
5.00 – 2m4f (2m3f210y) Ascot Stakes (A Handicap) (Class 2) (4yo+ 0-100): Is it the Cheltenham Festival or Royal Ascot? Willie Mullins has five runners, all at the top of the market, and it is significant that Ryan Moore has partnered Chelkar, who returns from 8 months off the track since winning at Chantilly. It would be no surprise if any of them won, but Whiskey Sour has by far the best flat form out of the quintet, and improved record over jumps since, and the formidable services of Christophe Soumillion to boot.
He won the Connacht Hotel (Q.R.) Handicap and then the valuable Guinness Premier Handicap in the space of a week at the Galway Festival last year, and he has since finished third in the County Hurdle whilst he ran respectably in Grade 1 novice hurdles twice during the winter, having the good fortune to inherit a prize that looked destined for re illustrious stablemates. He’s had a rise of 10lbs since his last flat win but his jumps exploits provide hope that he can be at least as good once again. This trip might improve him on the flat, too.
Tony Bloom’s Stratum, a maiden winner for John Gosden in 2016 and landed a Galway maiden hurdle, has already been well backed and needs serious respect in the market but the second best of the Mullins charges might well be Meri Devie. She was listed placed in 2013 before moving to Closutton and looked as if she’d take the highest rank over hurdles. Whilst not quite turning out to be Grade 1 level, she’s run many solid races and on only once occasion has she managed to get onto some decent ground since her maiden hurdle win and she was third in the AES Champion Hurdle. A very taking winner of a competitive handicap at Punchestown when last seen, she could relish the fast ground and Mikael Barzalona is a very eyecatching booking.
With a few more inches Coeur De Lion could well have won two decent handicaps this season including the Chester Plate (consolation race for the Chester Cup) and it would be no surprise to see him reverse Chester form with Look My Way (Mirsaale third) with a longer track and stiffer course here.
Dannyday came from nearly last to first to take an impressive win in the Northumberland Vase last season at Newcastle. A slowly run race over 1m6f at Goodwood was never really going to suit him on his comeback and it made for a good warmup here – he’s now only 4lbs higher than for his Vase success and ought to take a great deal of beating. Dubawi Fifty had three good horses ahead of him in the Chester Cup and should be respected.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Whiskey Sour (11/1 Paddy Power, 10/1 general), 1 pt each/way Meri Devie (10/1 Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power)
5.25 – 1m2f Wolferton Stakes (Listed Race) (Class 1) (4yo+): The removal of the handicap has made this into a very good race for the grade and Mirage Dancer can go close, even if carrying a penalty. He’s been very promising for a long time and his thirds here last year (behind Benbatl) and at York (in the Great Voltigeur) read very well now and after a tight defeat to Barsanti he was a wide margin and he impressed when putting three and a bit lengths between him and the useful m yardstick Eugenio off a slow pace.
Laraaib, quickly made up into a pattern horse last season and returned with an eye-catching run in the Brigader Gerard Stakes when second to Poet’s Word. He ought to improve for that return and take a high tank.
Monarchs Glen, a winner of the Darley Club Stakes last season, has a penalty but is still progressing and ought to find this much more suitable than the Dubai Turf when he may well have been undercooked. Yucatan didn’t take to the Coronation Cup last time but if he’s over it then this track and trip will suit him right down to the ground and he can take a hand following his good effort in the Mooresbridge Stakes when behind Cliffs Of Moher, who has since finished second in the Sharja Bridge, an excellent 2nd in a competitive Newmarket handicap on return, can also make his presence felt although improvement is needed if he’s to take a serious hand here.
Advice: 2 pts each/way Mirage Dancer (6/1 general)
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