Royal Ascot. Synonymous with pageantry, pomp, circumstance but most important of all, top drawer racing across all five days. The ceremonies combine a mixture of the old – with the royal horse-drawn carriage – with the new, and Qipco’s vast partnership deal that extends to many more facets of British racing. And the racing matches that mixture, with the exciting two year old horses being primed for this week above all, matched by the brilliant older horses from across the globe. Here we’ll have a look at some of the highlights of day one – it’s impossible to cover every horse but fear not, our team of tipsters will let you know which ones to back throughout the week!
Tuesday, Day One. 2:30 – The meeting gets off to an absolute cracker with the Queen Anne Stakes (although surely nothing can top the spectacle of Frankel’s glorious destruction of the field in 2012), as the best of British take on some proper global challengers. Solow is the favourite – he has been victorious in his last six races since being dropped back in distance, and was particularly impressive in his demolition of The Grey Gatsby at Meydan in March, although the much-anticipated clash between Solow and Cirrus des Aigles at Longchamp was somewhat ruined by the problems Cirrus met in-running. Able Friend is the star of Hong Kong, and has also won his last six races – if he has taken the long journey well, then the ground conditions should certainly suit him. He is also ranked higher than Solow in the current world rankings, only behind American Pharoah. Night Of Thunder appears to have an unfair reputation as being a lucky winner of last year’s 2000 Guineas, but has never been out of the first three home when racing at a mile or less. As the only horse to beat the brilliant Kingman, he remains the best British hope for the race, although his stable companion Toormore has started to show his old 2yo spark in recent efforts. It is 16/1 bar those…
3:05 – The first 2yo race, the Coventry Stakes, sees Round Two at the head of the market. Just watching Jim Bolger’s face when talking about this horse tells you everything you need to know. Buratino is the most experienced horse in the field for Mark Johnston, and this will be his sixth start of his fledgling career; that experience could prove vital in the heady atmosphere of the Ascot enclosures. Buratino has also been bought by Godolphin this week, becoming MJ’s first runner for the boys in blue. Finnegan is the first of Wesley Ward’s strong American contingent, and anybody who recalls Hootenanny’s coruscating performance at last year’s meeting would do well to watch this juvenile in the market. Log Out Island, Air Force Blue and War Department represent Richard Hannon, Aidan O’Brien and William Haggas respectively, and each have won their sole start to date. Hannon has a strong 2yo team for Royal Ascot, as ever, and he also saddles Eltezam (Frankie Dettori takes the ride) and Age of Empire (with Richard Hughes).
3:40 – Following that it’s the turn of the speed freaks, with Sole Power looking to take this race for what would be a quite incredible third year in a row. He has been less consistent since his win at York last August, but on his day and given luck in-running he still remains hard to beat. Muthmir won well at Chantilly two weeks ago and is sure to be in peak condition, whilst Mecca’s Angel looks to have fantastic speed and is an interesting filly for this race. Ryan Moore has been booked to take the ride on the Australian challenger Shamal Wind, which is certainly a bonus for connections, whilst Tiggy Wiggy will probably go for the 3yo sprint race instead. Brazen Beau is the other wonder from down under, but will race on Saturday instead. One of the best things about sprinters is that they tend to have the longevity the milers and above don’t get, and other familiar names to take the field include Pearl Secret, Hot Streak, G Force and Steps.
4:20 – Perhaps disappointingly, the St James’s Palace Stakes has been made less interesting by the absence of Territories, who came closest of all to Gleneagles in the 2000 Guineas. Ignoring the disqualification in France on Arc day in his final 2yo race, Gleneagles has won his last 7 career starts. The fact that even though Coolmore evidently didn’t have a really strong Derby horse this year, yet still resisted the temptation to run this colt, must mean he is a brilliant miler and will be ready for this engagement. Make Believe runs for Andre Fabre in lieu of Territories, and he looks a genuine threat to Gleneagles, particularly following his defeat of New Bay in the French Guineas when New Bay subsequently won the French Derby. Also looking a threat is Consort for Michael Stoute. By some distance the least exposed horse in the field, his progressive profile makes him a potential big player as he steps up to the big stage. Ivawood has been redirected to the Jersey Stakes, and Belardo at 20/1 doesn’t make much appeal; only two other runners mean ew value is scarce.
5:00 – The penultimate race on the card is always an interesting one, because this marathon over 2m 4f pits the big guns from the National Hunt game against the high flyers from the Flat. There are not many occasions when you see Ryan Moore booked to ride for Willie Mullins, but that is exactly what will happen here as Clondaw Warrior, a recent third over hurdles at the Punchestown Festival, comes back to the flat turf where he has previously won three races. Lycidas was a decent recent winner at York, although the Champagne that flowed after that 8/1 success means it is hard to recall the exact details of his performance, but he certainly looked like the step up in trip wouldn’t inconvenience him. Ray Ward, at the top of the market, completed this distance in last year’s race (and then went a furlong further at Goodwood for good measure), but the same cannot be said for Fun Mac, the mount of Richard Hughes who has not yet ventured beyond 1m6f. Nicky Henderson has several entries, with Broxbourne leading the way, whilst those who were impressed with Warren Greatrex’s training performance at Cheltenham might take notice of Boite.
5:35 – The close of day one sees the Windsor Castle Stakes, a listed race over the minimum 5 furlong distance, again for 2yo who perhaps aren’t quite the class of their compatriots in the Coventry Stakes. Areen was extremely impressive first time out York when winning convincingly, but not so good next time out at Sandown – the market may be indicative here. Ravenhoe, much like Buratino, has run 5 times for Mark Johnston already and again that extra experience could prove telling, but he are also unlikely to surprise us like some of the less experienced horses. Washington DC for Ballydoyle has posted an improved RPR in each of his three starts, and has been redirected to here from the Coventry Stakes, whilst Soapy Aitken for Clive Cox and Adam Kirby should not go unnoticed.