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Royal Ascot: Day 1

Just a few quick thoughts on each race on the first day of the royal meeting where pageantry and punting go hand in hand.

14:30 Queen Anne Stakes

Ribchester is the warm favourite after his comfortable win in the Lockinge last month and he was able to dictate in that one from the front despite Toscanini running to offer the pace, which didn’t happen. The plan with the latter to blaze a trail for the favourite looks to be the plan if breaking on terms but they are drawn on opposite sides of the track.

I’m happy to take him on at his price with Lightning Spear. David Simcock’s charge followed Ribchester home in the Lockinge on his return to the track after his winter break of 217-days. That was a decent effort for his return on ground, which wasn’t playing to his strengths and the return to quicker ground here will suit much better. He was third in this race last year on his return to the track, so this time around he’s got a run under his belt to prime him, so he should be in A1 order therefore I’ll be backing this son of Pivotal.

Mutakayyef was much better last year after being gelded and completed his season in the UK here when winning the Group 2 Summer Mile. He then went jetsetting to Woodbine and Meydan, since his return he’s been kept off the track and if he’s recovered from the travelling he could play a hand in this. US charge American Patriot is interesting with the ground very much ideal for him given his wins at Gulfstream and Keeneland have been on firm. Frankie Dettori is booked and he could be the one at a big price.

Lightning Spear (6/1) 

15:05 Coventry Stakes

The first race for the juveniles at the meeting and many of these are still open to improvement. Brother Bear is two from two and has won those two races by five lengths in total. His latest win at the Curragh was very impressive with a couple of today’s rivals struggling to cope with him. He’s a big player as is Nebo who made a taking debut when winning a Newbury maiden at 25/1. He’s a son of Kodiac and that form has been franked a few times by the second, sixth and seventh. There could be more to come from him and Charlie Hills doesn’t have a bad record with juveniles.

Aidan O’Brien has a wonderful record in this race having saddled the winner three times in the last six years and Murillo could add to that record. Out of Scat Daddy, so he’ll relish these fast conditions and that proved when he bolted up at Tipperary last time out. The winning margin that day was three lengths but could have been further. In the early part of that race he still looked a bit green but in the closing stages he quickened up very nicely, so in a race where they tend to go a ferocious gallop that should settle him before he shows that turn of foot. He contested a warm maiden on debut and the winner of that, Black Sails, isn’t without a chance in the Albany.

De Bruyne Horse was very impressive in the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom and the form of his races is working out. Richard Hannon is doing well with juveniles, so he made the shortlist, as did Prince Of Dark who is highly regarded by his trainer Clive Cox. The grey wears the cheekpieces for the first time and he made a good impression when winning on debut at Bath.

Murillo (7/1)

15:40 King’s Stand Stakes

This should be fast and furious with plenty you can give chances to. Last year’s winner Profitable will find it tougher as it looks a stronger renewal this time around and the majority of his best form comes on slower ground.

Marsha is the obvious one after her wins at in the Prix de l’Abbaye and the Palace House Stakes with the latter showing her qualities when finding trouble and battling. She ticks plenty of boxes with her turn of foot and she receives weight from all but two of her rivals. Lady Aurelia showed plenty of speed when landing the spoils in last year’s Queen Mary when making all. She’ll find that difficult this time around but with her in the receipt of weight she could make that count. On her return to the track at Keeneland she proved she was as good as ever.

Goldream is definitely worth an each-way bet. Robert Cowell is also a man associated with his sprinters and he trained this son of Oasis Dream to victory back in 2015 when coming with a late rattle to get up on the nod. Wins have been few and far between since then but his two efforts this season have been very good. Despite being an eight year old he still has the legs to match plenty of these after his third behind Marsha at Newmarket and second to Priceless in the Temple Stakes at Haydock. He’s two from three at this track and with plenty of pace to aim at he’ll be playing his hand late.

I’ve followed Cotai Glory off a cliff at times but he’s not repaid too much of it. He hasn’t shown too much in his efforts this year but if he can recapture that spark under Silvestre de Sousa then he would have a chance at a big price while the last one I’ll mention is Alpha Delphini for Bryan Smart. He’s a previous course and distance winner who caught the eye at Haydock last time when third in the Temple Stakes. The visor is on rather than the cheekpieces and that could eke out more, so this six year old isn’t discounted lightly.

Goldream (12/1) 

16:20 St James’s Palace Stakes

English and Irish 2000 Guineas winner Churchill is the one to beat on all known form and it is the winner of that/those races that have gone on to win this race in eight of the last nine renewals. He was good at Newmarket then exceptional at the Curragh when an easy victor over Thunder Snow. Just sit back and watch his quality.

Barney Roy is touted by many to reverse the form of the 2000 Guineas after a slightly troubled passage. He comes here as a fresh horse having skipped the race at the Curragh and remains a high-class prospect to take the favourite on with, so it could prove to be a good battle in the final furlong.

The question is who finishes third? A case can be made for Lancaster Bomber who could be here for pacesetting duties but he might prove difficult to pass as he’ll be better suited by the quick going compared to that of the Curragh on the last day. He was second in last year’s Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf, so has the quality in him to outrun his odds.

No Bet

17:00 Ascot Stakes

The first handicap of the meeting is over 2m4f and it’s Who Dares Wins for me in this race after his fine effort in the Chester Cup. Alan King’s five year old didn’t have the clearest of runs in the closing stages of the contest and was staying on strongly to suggest that he’d cope with this extra distance. He was very much on the improve on the flat last season and then carried that form over hurdles when winning a Listed race at Newbury before finishing third in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. There is a lot to like about his claims in this race and if getting a better passage in the closing stages looks the one to be with.

Thomas Hobson represents top connections and he was previously a useful sort on the flat for John Gosden before his move to Willie Mullins and a career over hurdles. The question here is if he’ll handle the really quick ground. Beyond Conceit was second in a Grade 1 Novices’ Hurdle at the Aintree meeting over 3m, so his stamina should be assured plus he also had useful flat form before a long lay-off.

I thought Cleonte was interesting on his second start for Andrew Balding. The trainer is in fine form this season and he won a Listed race at Deauville for his previous connections over just short of 2m. The son of Sir Percy looked to win with plenty in hand and a race of this nature over a bit further could suit, so he isn’t totally ruled out and neither is Yorkidding who was a narrow second in the Chester Cup. Richard Kingscote gets the leg up once again and the pair get on quite well having won twice, including last time at Haydock when showing his battling qualities. He’ll relish the ground plus he already has a win at Ascot to his name, so he is another to take at the prices.

Who Dares Win (11/2)
Yorkidding (16/1)

17:35 Windsor Castle Stakes

American trainer Wesley Ward has won this race twice in the past and he sends two out. Nootka Sound was an easy winner on debut at Keeneland beating her rivals by over five lengths and with her being a filly she receives weight from the field here. Elizabeth Darcy is his other filly and she won at Indiana by over seven lengths but the form was hardly strong in a three-runner contest. Both of these have had time to settle in this country and have been schooled at the course for their familiarity. They have to be considered given what we’ve seen the trainer send out in the past.

Declarationofpeace has a beautiful pedigree being a son of War Front and he scored at the second attempt in easy fashion around Dundalk. The second has since come out and won giving that form some substance, so with more to potentially to come he isn’t easily ruled out. Neither is Godolphin’s Roussel who got the job done on his debut but did look green when hitting the front but his speedy pedigree makes him a player here. He was an expensive purchase as a breeze-up and generally Charlie Appleby’s are better for their debut efforts, so I’d be expecting more from him but he’ll need to be better than that ordinary Leicester race.

Another Batt ran twice in Ireland for John Nicholson and they weren’t bad efforts behind Romanised (Coventry) and Black Sails (Albany). Both of those runs came over 6f with him finishing quite strongly. On his first start for George Scott he was dropped to 5f and he did it easily when making all at Ripon winning by five lengths under Silvestre de Sousa, who remains in the saddle here and has been the go to jockey in the last week. I like his Irish form and he looked a straightforward sort, so given his three runs he should have experience to cope with the big field.

One at a big price that cannot be lightly dismissed is George Scott’s James Garfield. He ran a stormer on good to soft ground at Leicester on his debut after completely blowing the start. In the end he came home third beaten by just a length in a race he was green when he caught up with the pack then showed decent speed. The turn of foot towards the latter of his race could make him a player here and if getting away on terms is the one to take a chance on at a price.

Another Batt (16/1)
James Garfield (28/1)


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