Well it’s fair to say the deluge of rain over the past week has altered the narrative of many of the big races this week, with connections of horses primed at quick summer ground likely to be disappointed. It could also mean a number of non-runners so watch out for Rule 4’s and altered place terms aplenty. But it’s still going to be a cracking week of top quality racing, so without further ado we’ll get started.
2:30, Queen Anne Stakes, 1m, 4yo+.
This mile race for the older horses sees the first American raider of the week in Tepin, the brilliant mare who has won her last six races, including on turf at the Breeders Cup last October. However, there are several reasons why I don’t think this long-time favourite will win. Firstly, she isn’t racing with her usual nasal strip. Secondly, she won’t be racing on Lasix. For a 5yo who has never raced outside the States, she will be reliant on it, far more so than the US 2yo raiders. Thirdly, whilst she has won on soft in a Grade 1, her best form comes on good or firm ground. Finally, she won’t have faced anything like the stiff, straight Ascot mile. So whilst it will be great for international racing if she does the business, I’m happy to look elsewhere.
The rejuvenated Belardo is an obvious threat after his fine Lockinge win, but it is one of his vanquished rivals that day in ENDLESS DRAMA that I’m keen on. The Lockinge was his first race in almost a year following this colt’s fine second to Gleneagles in the Irish Guineas last May. The key thing to note is that this is a massive horse – apparently he weighs more than Denman – and so he is bound to have needed that run. The ground should hold no fears for him and I’m hopeful he can run a big race.
The French raiders in Ervedya and Esoterique are consistently good and should be taken seriously with the weight allowance, whilst Kodi Bear will have to run a career best if he’s to overturn the Lockinge form.
Selection: ENDLESS DRAMA each way
3:05, Coventry Stakes, 6f, 2yo.
The first race for the juveniles and it sees several unbeaten horses taking each other on. There are 9 of them in the race who have never been beaten, albeit none have raced more than twice. Of those, the favourite is Caravaggio, and Aidan O’Brien’s 2yos should always be taken seriously in this race. His record of 7 wins in the last 19 years is second to none, and Caravaggio has done nothing wrong in his two starts to date. He looks like he’ll enjoy the extra furlong but – and this is an important but – AOB ran his “best ever” 2yo in this race last year, Air Force Blue, who was beaten by Buratino. Therefore I think we can take him on, but the question is which of his rivals to side with.
YALTA is trained by Buratino’s trainer, Mark Johnston, and his 2yos are always primed for Royal Ascot. He has won both his starts with seemingly plenty in hand, and his defeated rivals in both races included horses who had previously won.
BROKEN STONES looked very smart at York on his debut in May, and I also like the look of Silvertoni for Wesley Ward. It is likely she will break quickly and blaze a trail down the track, and if the colts don’t like the soft ground this filly could take some catching. A quick word of warning though; Wesley Ward says the rain “would definitely be detrimental to my horses; they’re fast and like a firm footing. They are not used to ground with give in it so if the forecast calls for more rain like it is now then I might be in trouble.” For that reason, we’ll side with the Kevin Ryan colt as our alternative. This race sees Joseph O’Brien’s first Royal Ascot runner – he saddles Lundy.
Alternative: BROKEN STONES each way
3:40, King’s Stand Stakes, 5f, 3yo+.
Acapulco won at Royal Ascot last year when she turned up looking more like a 4yo than a 2yo, and she appears to have trained on when winning both her starts this year. However, she was beaten by MECCA’S ANGEL at York in the Nunthorpe in August and will need every pound of her sex and age allowance to triumph here. Indeed, just as I type this connections have swerved a rematch with Mecca’s Angel and instead go for the 3yo-only Commonwealth Cup. Mecca’s Angel will love the ground, and her Haydock conqueror Profitable had the run of the race to suit him last time, when he carried Mecca’s Angel halfway across the track when prevailing by a neck. I am confident Mecca’s Angel can overturn that form here.
At a bigger price I also like WAADY, who was a good third behind Mecca’s Angel and Profitable at Haydock. Whilst he will have to be at his best to even have a chance of overturning that form, he has never finished outside the first 3 when racing over the minimum distance (compared to 5th, 4th and 13th when racing over 6 furlongs) and a little each way bet might pay off.
Selection: MECCA’S ANGEL
Alternative: WAADY each way
4:20, St James’s Palace Stakes, 1m, 3yo.
This is a fascinating renewal which sees the winners of the English, Irish and French Guineas clash. It is 12/1 the field bar those three and I would be surprised if they all do get beaten. Therefore we’ll concentrate on the 3 main protagonists.
Galileo Gold won the English 2000 Guineas in fine style, and once connections decided he would remain at a mile instead of going further, he was a well-backed favourite at the Curragh for the Irish equivalent next time out. He found no room in-running that day, but I’m not convinced he would have beaten AWTAAD even with the run of the race and given the rain, I can see that colt confirming the form for Kevin Prendergast and Chris Hayes.
Awtaad will not have it his own way, however; Galileo Gold is still a very good colt and The Gurkha is fast improving. The Gurkha couldn’t have been more impressive when winning the French Guineas on only his third racecourse appearance, winning by almost six lengths. However, whilst that form has been somewhat franked by the French Derby, the second home that day was First Selection, who was 7th in the English version and is a 33/1 shot for this race. Whilst The Gurkha could well improve again, I think Awtaad’s form stands up to closer scrutiny and he should be the one to beat.
5:00, Ascot Stakes, 2m4f, 4yo+.
The combination of soft ground and marathon distance means this handicap is likely to be dominated by National Hunt horses, and some familiar names in the training ranks like Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson and Gordon Elliott. John Ferguson’s decision to relinquish his jumps licence to concentrate on Godolphin sees the return of many of his smart hurdlers to the Flat scene under the care of Charlie Appleby, and Wolfcatcher in particular looks interesting off bottom weight.
Jennies Jewel has been in great form, and she is absolutely guaranteed to stay given she has won over 3 miles over hurdles, and it’s foolish to write off Pique Sous and Sempre Medici for Willie Mullins, but my preference is for SILVER CONCORDE. His third in the Chester Cup was his first run since trailing in last in the Supreme Novices at Cheltenham, but this Champion Bumper winner is much better than that and for the Derby-winning combination of Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen I’m confident he can improve from Chester.
Selection: SILVER CONCORDE each way
5:35, Windsor Castle Stakes, 5f, 2yo.
This Listed race is not the best in terms of quality, but should be competitive. Big City Dreamin for Wesley Ward and Frankie Dettori showed great speed over 4.5 furlongs on her debut at Keeneland, but again there must be question marks over her ability to handle the surface. Pedestal, who will be ridden for the first time by Ryan Moore, improved hugely from his debut and may do so again, so has to make the shortlist, as does Drafted, another US raider who like Big City Dreamin has won at Keeneland.William Buick takes that ride.
However, preference is for MISTER TRADER, who won his maiden at the Curragh before a fine second to Caravaggio next time out. Both of those races have been on yielding / soft ground and so the ground should pose no problems. Pat Smullen should get him positioned handily from stall 4. At a bigger price, if the blinkers work their magic for COPPER KNIGHT he could bounce back to form for Hugo Palmer and Jim Crowley.
I’ll be back tomorrow morning,