Day One started well for us, with Ribchester doing the business in fine style before Murillo (3rd) and Aqabah (5th) both looking promising for future races. Marsha was then also 3rd but never a match for the speedball that is Lady Aurelia; Goldream was 10th. Things then took a rapid turn for the worse as Churchill was a lacklustre 4th, and Thomas Hobson proved that Willie Mullins can cost me money at both Cheltenham and Royal Ascot, an impressive double. Endless Acres ran well for us in 2nd, whereas Oceane didn’t in 10th. But the day ended superbly with a Charlie Appleby 1-2 in Sound And Silence and Roussel, a neck separating them and going off at SPs of 16/1 and 12/1. Let’s hope for more of that rather than more of Churchill-type bets.
2:30 – Jersey Stakes, 7f, Group 3
Incredibly, it’s been 30 years since the last female jockey to ride a winner at Royal Ascot, but the brilliant Josephine Gordon can change that on board DREAM CASTLE for Saeed bin Suroor in the blue of Godolphin. This son of Frankel won his debut nicely at Doncaster before looking the winner all over when kicking clear in the Greenham before being overhauled by Barney Roy; he then came 5th in the Guineas and was far from disgraced when like many others he found trouble in running. Lancaster Bomber and Barney Roy (let’s ignore the elephant in the room in Churchill!) franked that form in the St James’s Palace and this drop back down in both grade and distance looks ideal. Le Brivido crosses the Channel for Andre Fabre and brings excellent form to the table, having finished second last time out to Brametot who has since won the French Derby and looks a live Arc contender. Le Brivido is a worthy favourite but I’m hopeful Dream Castle can overcome him. Daban was third in the 1000 Guineas and could go close again here, while Whitecliffsofdover needs to find more consistency but is an attractive price if he can put his last run behind him. Escobar looks to still be on the upgrade while Chessman has career form figures of 122 and is another one who is unexposed. Parfait absolutely hacked up at Newmarket last time in a handicap and that was a major step forward but this test may come too soon. I’d love it if Sutter County ran a big race but his odds of 40/1 look fair.
Selection: DREAM CASTLE (win)
3:05 – Queen Mary Stakes, 5f, Group 2
All aboard the Wesley Ward train as HAPPY LIKE A FOOL looks to emulate Lady Aurelia and Acapulco in taking this race and making it a Queen Mary hat-trick for Wesley Ward. She comes here like Lady Aurelia on the back of a maiden victory at Keeneland and is sure to bound out the stalls and try and make all. Given how Lady Aurelia ran on Tuesday, and how much Wesley Ward thinks of her, it’s easy to see why so much money has come for her already. Heartache won easily on debut for Clive Cox, and I like Neola as an alternative, but at a huge price of 80/1 in a place I’ll have a very small ew punt on WINGS OF THE ROCK for Scott Dixon. Punted on debut at Nottingham, this filly was well beaten into 6th by the runaway winner Neola, but put that behind her when making all at 16/1 three weeks ago. Tulip Fever, third that day, has since come out and won at York so I think the price is too big. She’s 80/1 for a reason but if she improves again she can outrun those odds.
Selection: HAPPY LIKE A FOOL (win)
Alternative: WINGS OF THE ROCK (each way)
3:40 – Duke of Cambridge Stakes, 1m, Group 2
Laugh Aloud was very much doing that when scooting clear at Epsom on Derby Day, winning by 5 lengths when a short-priced favourite. She needs to take another step forward to win here but is certainly capable of doing so – the only blot on her copybook since last September was on her seasonal reappearance at Kempton in April where she looked short of fitness which won’t be case now. However, QEMAH was undone at Lingfield last month by a smart ride from Ryan Moore on Mix And Mingle, but she beat the rest readily and is a fair second favourite. She clearly needed that run and she should strip much fitter here for Jean-Claude Rouget. Usherette returns to defend her crown from last year, and Mix And Mingle should run her race as she normally does. As an alternative to the favourite SMART CALL looks a good price; I can’t comment with any confidence on her South African form but she ran nicely on her British debut for Sir Michael Stoute at York last month, when heavy rain the day before left the ground rather sticky. I would hope she’ll be much better suited to the conditions at Ascot under Ryan Moore.
Alternative: SMART CALL (each way)
4:20 – Prince of Wales’s Stakes, 1m2f, Group 1
Highland Reel is an extraordinary horse who put in a quite extraordinary performance on Oaks Day, when he won the Coronation Cup a matter of hours after arriving late at the course – he was the only Aidan O’Brien horse to win that day. He is a globetrotting star who has raced in Ireland, England, France, America, Australia, Hong Kong and Dubai; he is an Arc runner-up and a Breeders Cup Turf winner. Interestingly, however, he has not won consecutive races since August 2015 – he is ultra-consistent but occasionally finds one too good. We have that to ponder as we look at the other contenders, starting with Jack Hobbs. Jack Hobbs is an immensely talented horse, runner up in the English Derby and taking the Irish version in his Classic season before a lengthy injury spell which sandwiched two third-placed finishes in the Champion Stakes here at Ascot. He should be fine on the ground, and couldn’t have been more impressive on his return at Meydan when he won the Sheema Classic by over 2 lengths (a race in which Highland Reel finished last). John Gosden loves to tell people he trained Jack Hobbs’ father and he’s clearly a much-loved member of the Gosden team. Expect a big run. Ulysses is a beautifully bred horse by Galileo out of Light Shift, and I think it’s fair to say the Derby came too soon for him last year. He beat Deauville by a length in the Gordon Richards in his first 4yo start which continues to look decent form, and he can still improve. It’s hard to split the three main protagonists which is why they’re so closely matched in the betting, and I would be delighted to see any of them win. If there are no further withdrawals (which would reduce the field to 7 and thus only 2 places being paid), we’ll take an each way chance on DECORATED KNIGHT for Roger Charlton, who won the Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh on his last start, continuing his slow but steady progress. He’s 5 now but could still be coming into his prime and he could be the play.
Selection: DECORATED KNIGHT (each way)
5:00 – Royal Hunt Cup, 1m, Class 2 Handicap
A 30-runner extravaganza and quite frankly I don’t really know where to begin. Much like other big handicaps, the more time one spends delving into the form the easier it becomes to make a case for almost every horse and the harder it becomes to nail your colours to the mast. It’s double figures the field so we’ll keep it simple and throw three each way darts at GEORGE WILLIAM, G K CHESTERTON and FASTNET TEMPEST. All are on official marks in double figures, which is helpful, but they will need luck in-running and you could easily throw another half a dozen horses into the betting mix and still not find the winner.
Selections: GEORGE WILLIAM, G K CHESTERTON, FASTNET TEMPEST (all each way)
5:35 – Sandringham Handicap, 1m, Listed
This looks a really competitive fillies race to end the day, and both Gymnaste (for John Gosden and Josephine Gordon) and On Her Toes (for William Haggas and Pat Cosgrave) should go close in the Cheveley Park Stud colours. On Her Toes ran well at York to finish second last time out, but behind her that day was SIBILANCE who is now 5lbs better off and that could prove crucial as she attempts to overturn that form for Ralph Beckett and Pat Dobbs. Queen Of Time looks well weighted and Rain Goddess ran well in the French Guineas (on very soft ground where the 11th that day, Senga, has since won the French Oaks on better ground) but has a lot of weight to carry. Instead it’s another by Bated Breath, the sire of Sibilance, with whom we’ll take to improve and that’s PRESENT TENSE who has just three starts to her name. Her only win came on good to firm ground and she could run into a place if she finds that improvement. Bean Feasa is another one who is interesting at a big price.
Selection: SIBILANCE (each way)
Alternative: PRESENT TENSE (each way)