The best five days of racing of the year gets underway in Berkshire on Tuesday when Day 1 of Royal Ascot takes place with seven sizzling races in heat that is expected to match throughout what should be a fantastic day.
All eyes will be on the superstar Baaeed in the opening race but he is one to watch rather than back at the odds. We have scoured the rest of the card though and there are five bets we’re happy to get stuck into.
2.30 Royal Ascot: Queen Anne Stakes
The first race of the 5 day meeting & it’s impossible to see past the unbeaten Baeed. Willie Haggas’ 4 year old is now 7 from 7, making him the world’s top rated turf horse, and he comes here after winning the key trial for this horse, the Lockinge. A field of 7 makes this a no bet, not even in any markets without the favourite, and to be fair, the Lockinge runner up & 2nd in the market here, Real World, appears to be the most obvious alternative. Sir Busker loves Ascot & as the outsider at 66/1, might be the one to stay on into 3rd but with bookies only paying 2 places, it’s a race to sit back & enjoy rather than one to part with your cash in.
3.05 Royal Ascot: Coventry Stakes
The first 2 year old race of the week is a Group 2 run over the straight 6 furlongs. This early in the week, it’s hard to know what to make of the draw although with the stalls being in the centre & a field of just 17, it’s likely they’ll race in one group. There’s pace across the track, although a high draw is often favoured on good or firmer ground. If you take out the Nando Parrado shock, market leaders typically do well here with 11 of the last 15 winners priced in single figures. Richard Hannon’s Persian Force is the favourite after winning both his starts, most recently a 3 runner conditions race at Newbury. This is a different ball game altogether but connections seem to be sweet on his chances. Aiden O’Brien saddles the next two in Blackbeard & Age Of Kings. Both have good form to their name with the former already being a Group winner so they are hard to dismiss.
Interestingly, 9 of the last 15 winners come here after just a single run & that’s the angle I’m taking here in siding with the Clive Cox trained Scholarship. Cox likes a Royal Ascot winner & has previous in this race as he trained the most notable winner of this race, the previously mentioned Nando Parrado at 150/1. The selection’s only run was just under 3 weeks ago at Haydock where he drifted in the betting before the off but won easy enough at odds of 10/1. He travelled sweetly throughout the race & only had to be given a shake of the reins to hit the front & win going away by a length and a half. He is sure to come on for that run & this massive colt should be well suited by the big wide Ascot track. A son of Profitable, he’s got that sprint pedigree but has plenty of stamina on the dam’s side so a stiff 6 furlongs shouldn’t worry him. He’s drawn on the outside but is drawn high so if they tack off to the stands rail which is possible, he’s a likely beneficiary. With plenty of places on offer with the various bookmakers, he looks a nice each way bet to start off the week.
Back Scholarship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 23.00 Paddy Power BOG (⅕ odds 1-5)
3.40 Royal Ascot: Kings Stand Stakes
This year’s renewal of the Kings Stand is a fascinating one as we see the front 2 in the market from opposite ends of the world. The favourite is the highest rated sprinter in the world, the Australian challenger Nature Strip with his closest market rival being Wesley Ward’s Golden Pal, Arguably they should be the two to fight out the finish given what they’ve achieved on the track. The former is a 20 time winner but slightly offputting is that he’s been a beaten favourite 3 times in his last 7 starts over the previous 12 months. Furthermore, he’s only won 1 of his last 5 over the minimum trip. This is his toughest race to date so at a shade under 2/1, he’s definitely one to avoid. Golden Pal probably has sounder claims but after defeat on debut, he’s 6 from 6 in the US but has been defeated both times in the UK. He was a neck 2nd in the Norfolk in 2020 but disappointingly could only manage 7th in the Nunthorpe last year.
If suited by the trip, Charlie Appleby’s Man Of Promise has a great shout here but I’m siding with recent Temple Stakes winner Kings Lynn. The Queen’s horse edged out Twilight Calls that day, a rival who’s much shorter in the betting today & arguably was the eyecatcher having been denied a clear run but I feel the selection will improve again at a track he likes &, importantly, knows how to win. He was 7th in this race last year when failing to get a clear run & was then turned out again quickly in the Wokingham where he was again the victim of an interrupted run yet finished close up in 3rd. His most recent run here was in a Group 3 when a close 2nd to Vadream on ground that may have been too soft for him but on the evidence of those 3 runs, he does like the track & deserves a change of luck here. The one negative could be the draw as he exits from stall 2 but given we don’t know whether that will have an effect yet, he’s well worth of an each way bet where despite the big field, doesn’t look overly competitive beyond the first half dozen in the market.
Back Kings Lynn (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 15.00 William Hill BOG (⅕ odds 1-4)
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4.20 Royal Ascot: St James Palace Stakes
On a high quality day, this is the third Group 1 of the meeting in just the 4th race to be run. We have a field of 13 runners but just 2 of those are priced in single figures. The 2000 Guineas winner Coroebus is the odds on favourite & it’s hard to knock his credentials here. The only possible chinks in his armour are that he’s yet to run over this far & he’s never raced anywhere but Newmarket but quite honestly, I have no concerns on either score. His nearest market rival is My Prospero who is 3 from 3, most recently winning a Listed race. He’s never run in a Group race but I suspect he’s going to be a Group 1 winner at some point, today might be that day. I think the front 2 have this race between them but, at a bigger price, Mighty Ulysses might be the one to split the pair. There are plenty of betting opportunities this week so I’ll be patient & sit this one out.
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5.00 Royal Ascot: Ascot Stakes Handicap
A maximum field of 20 for the first handicap, the Ascot Stakes over a marathon trip of two & a half miles. Of interest, trainers primarily known for their exploits over jumps have been responsible for the last 10 winners with Willie Mullins saddling 4 winners in that time. He’s also responsible for the favourite in Bring On The Night. He was 4th in the Supreme at Cheltenham but on what he’s achieved, he looks short in the betting & he may prefer a bit of rain. Pied Piper is another who ran at Cheltenham & he may be thrown in here but there are 2 concerns for me. Jamie Spencer’s exaggerated waiting tactics worry me, as does the trip for this smooth traveller. Proschema is very interesting off top weight whilst last year’s winner Reshoun isn’t without a chance of doubling up.
At a nice each way price, I really fancy the chances of Make My Day. He has to find some improvement but he has lots going for him. In 8 runs on the flat, he’s won 3 & finished 2nd 3 times including on his 2 most recent runs. Two starts ago here over 2 miles, he was 2nd behind Super Superjack off a 1lb lower mark, beaten just over a length despite being eased closed home after failing to get a run on the inside of the winner. He then went to Goodwood off the same mark as he runs off today & again got blocked when making a challenge but still was only narrowly denied by three-quarters of a length. The cheekpieces go on today & that’s a positive given he won the only other time he’s worn them. Also, he looks likely to be suited by a further step up in trip & the drying ground is definitely in his favour given his poorer runs have come with soft in the going description. Were he trained by a Mullins, an Elliott or a Henderson, I think he’d have been half his current odds so, for me, he’s the value in an open race.
Back Make My Day (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 15.00 Bet365 BOG (⅕ odds 1-6)
5.35 Royal Ascot: Wolferton Stakes
Another maximum field, this time 16 runners for the Listed Wolferton where the openness is indicated by the fact bookmakers are 6/1 the field. It’s worth noting that there’s a sharpish turn just after a furlong so a high draw is more of a disadvantage than you’d normally imagine. Sticking to those in single figure stalls often pays dividends here so that’s a negative for the likes of the well fancied Foxes Tales, Star Safari & Majestic Dawn. Cadillac is well drawn in 3 & is the favourite for Shane Foley & Jessica Harrington. He won a Listed race at Leopardstown in fine style last time out but will have to improve again here given he’s carrying a 3lb penalty. It’s worth noting that the last 3 winners of this haven’t had a Listed or Group race penalty against them. Juan Elcano won this last year & can go well again whilst Regal Reality has a squeak if ready to roll after 6 months off.
However, I like Harrovian for John Gosden who has an excellent record in the race, having landed the contest 4 times in the last 11 runnings. This 6 year old gelding has a lovely draw in stall 4 & his prominent racing style means he should get a good sit under Frankie Dettori. He has good form in the book, having finished a close 2nd to 119-rated Pyledriver in the Churchill Stakes on his most recent run on these shores. This year, he’s run twice; the first when a close 4th in a Group 3 in Saudi Arabia & then when outclassed in the Group 1 Dubai Turf at Meydan. This is much easier & without a penalty, he looks the one to be on if he handles Ascot, as it’s his first start at the track. The firmish ground will suit, noting that the horse’s form with firm in the description reads 213112314. Conditions are definitely in his favour & I just cannot see him out of the frame with so many question marks surrounding his key rivals.
Back Harrovian (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 11.00 Bet365 BOG (⅕ odds 1-5)
6.10 Royal Ascot: Copper Horse Handicap
The final race of day 1 is a handicap over a mile & three-quarters, where a maximum field of 16 has assembled. There’s been just 2 runnings of this race so it’s hard to pick out any obvious trends. The favourite is Aiden O’Brien’s Cleveland & it’s easy to see why after winning the Chester Cup last month. A 5lb penalty & a very different test here, but he’s definitely the one to beat. Juan De Montalban won a decent handicap here in fine style just over 5 weeks ago but has been hit with a 9lb rise. It’s hard to say he doesn’t deserve such a rise but it will be impressive should he follow up off his revised mark. Stowell is a likeable type who could trouble these back in a handicap but this is very different to running a Group & Listed races.
If you ignore a terrible run last time when favourite, Bandinelli would arguably have been challenging for favouritism so, at his current price, he rates the best value bet. At Haydock, he was sent off joint favourite for a Class 2 handicap but was eased after finding nothing for pressure. Blinkers go on today in a bid to sharpen him up. However, previous to that, his form was pretty impressive. He’d won 4 of his previous 5, finishing 2nd in his other race, seeing his mark rise from 85 to 98 during that time. He won the Queens Prize at Kempton off a mark 3lbs lower than what he carries today & that win, coupled with the victory immediately prior to that one, proved his stamina for staying trips as they were both over 2 miles. He likes to race prominently & if he can get a decent early position from a wide draw, he’ll surely try to stretch this field out & run the finish out of them. In his 10 race career, he’s only finished out of the first 3 on 3 occasions. On the first 2 of those, he’s come back to win on his next run so let’s hope he continues that trend & can put that run at Haydock behind him here. I don’t believe connections would run him if they didn’t think he could do himself justice so at a double figure in a race where 9 of the 16 strong field are priced at 33/1 or bigger, he looks a great each way bet.
Back Bandinelli (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 15.00 William Hill BOG (⅕ odds 1-5)
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