2:30 Queen Anne Stakes:
The big news before we begin is that Frankie Dettori is out of the Festival this week with an arm injury.
The opening race of Royal Ascot the 2:30 is the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes to be run over 1 mile.
There is a big field for this race with 16 runners but in truth only about four horses have a chance of winning this.
A lot of these are not group 1 level and willbe outclassed and the trends confirm this. The main ones in this are Ribchester, Lightning Spear, Mutakayyef and the US raider American Patriot.
Lightning Spear was placed in this race last year and has shown a decent level of form this season. He is 0 from 4 against Ribchester though and no 6 year old has won this race in the past 10 years.
He’ll like the ground but will most likely be playing for a place.
Mutakayyef is another who will like the fast ground. He’s got decent course form and he improved an awful lot last season but ran no sort of race on his reappearance in Meydan but the ground was against him then.
Ribchester is the one who will take all the beating in this race.
This horse is a proven Group 1 winner and was very impressive when winning the Lockinge Stakes over Lightning Spear last month.
Slight doubt about Ribchester on this ground but I think his class will see him through.
Both Mutakayyef and Lightning Spear could get closer to him but I think RIBCHESTER will get the punters off to a great start at 5/6.
American Patriot is a proven Group 1 performer in his native country and he’ll really like the ground.
He could be the one to chase home Ribchester at a nice price of 22/1 with Bet365.
3:05 Coventry Stakes:
The second race on the card is the Coventry Stakes which is a Group 2 for 2 year olds due to be run over 6f. This is a very open race and there isn’t much form to go on.
The Wes Ward trained Arawak is sure to be the early pace in this race and could well steal a march on them. Nearly all of Wes Wards winning 2yo’s though were over 5f so the trip might just be too far for that one.
Rajasinghe was impressive on debut, this is a big jump up in class though. He’s sure to have a good future but he might just be out of his depth here.
Murillo is the best of the Aidan O’Brien runners and looked like one to follow when he won at Tipperary last month. O’Brien has a great record in this race and this one is sure to be in the mix up.
Romanised comes from the small yard of Ken Condon’s. He could well have a future star on his hands though with this horse.
He really took the eye when winning his only start at Navan in April. The form of that race has worked out well and he’s one of the outsiders with a decent place chance.
Brother Bear is 2 from 2 and comes from the Jessica Harrington yard. She had a great season over the jumps with her horses and now she looks for Royal Ascot glory.
Her horse Brother Bear just did enough to win on debut but created a greater impression on it’s 2nd start where he beat a good field at the Curragh in a Listed race.
He could well be the one they all have to beat. De Bruyne Horse is 2 from 3 and this won won well at Epsom last time out.
His trainer Richard Hannon has a solid record in this race and this one is another who will be bang there at the finish.
It’s tough to separate most of these but the one horse who could be different class is the Clive Cox trained Prince of the Dark.
This horse was easy in the market on debut at Bath but he was very impressive. He travelled strongly and won easily in the end.
The time of that race was very quick I know that this horse is the apple of his trainer’s eye. The yard has had a great record this season with their 2yo’s and I think this one looks like great value at 16/1.
De Bruyne Horse and Brother Bear won’t be easy to beat but the one I like is PRINCE OF THE DARK at 18/1.
3:40 King’s Stand Stakes:
This years Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes looks like a really good renewal.
Last years race was the weakest in some time but lots of top class sprinters in the field today such as Marsha, Goldream, Lady Aurelia and Signs of Blessing.
Marsha won the Prix De L’abbaye last season for her trainer Sir Mark Prescott and she was as good as ever when winning last time out at Newmarket.
She had a lot of today’s rivals in behind then and she gave the field 4lb.
Today she gets 3lb from the whole field bar Lady Aurelia who she has to give 6lb too. So she’s 7lb better off with most of these based on that recent run where she won fair and square.
She must have a Goldream who won this race in the past has looked better than ever this season without winning. He was placed in two trials for this race and wasn’t too far behind Marsha last time out.
I think he’s a much better horse around here and I think he’s great value each way at odds of 14/1.
Signs Of Blessing the French raider was very impressive last time out when giving Muthmir plenty of weight.
I think he’ll go well and will show up for much of the race but all of his best form is on soft ground.
The fly in the ointment is though is the US raider Lady Aurelia who is trained by Wes Ward.
This filly blitzed a big field in the Queen Mary here last year.
It was a taking performance and the soft ground then did not slow her down.
She disappointed when 3rd over 6f later in the season in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket.
I don’t think she handled the track too well then and the trip was just too far for her. Her trained said that she’s just an out and out 5f sprinter and that he won’t try her over further again.
She won the Queen Mary by 6l last year and the quicker ground today could see her put on a show.
This will be the toughest competition she’s faced yet but she has the potential to be a world beater. She gets a nice allowance and she has a nice draw in 18.
Frankie Dettori should be able to grab the rail and blaze away from them early.
Marsha and Goldream will be finishing fast but I think LADY AURELIA can steal this from the front today.
4:20 St James Palace Stakes:
This Group 1 race due to be run over 1 mile looks a straight match between the English and Irish 2000 Guineas winner Churchill and the English 2000 Guineas runner up Barney Roy.
Churchill had everything his own way in the guineas at Newmarket.
He was led into the race by his stablemates and Churchill got first run on the field. Barney Roy found some trouble in running and was a fast finishing 2nd.
He was only beaten 1l in the finish. Most pundits think that Barney Roy would have won if ridden closer to the pace. I’m not too sure about that.
Churchill isn’t a flashy horse, he always only does enough to win. I think if Barney Roy was ridden closer to the pace I think Churchill would still have fought him off.
Churchill won the Irish equivalent since then from today’s rivals Thunder Snow and Lancaster Bomber.
He was more impressive that day which suggest that he improved greatly from the Newmarket run. Barney Roy has not run since that race.
Churchill has continued his progression by winning and I think he’ll be too good for Barney Roy yet again today.
It will be close but I think Churchill will just do enough to win. His stablemate Lancaster Bomber should set a good pace and given the faster ground here he could well hold on for a place at big odds.
It’s CHURCHILL for me over Barney Roy and Lancaster Bomber.
5:00 Ascot Stakes Handicap:
This race is run over a marathon trip of 2 miles and 4 furlongs. Dual purpose horses have a great record in this race, particularly Irish or Nicky Henderson trained horses.
A lot of these are harshly treated and or won’t stay. I’ve narrowed the field down to six runners who I believe to have the best chances. Thomas Hobson is the favourite for this race and he is trained by Willie Mullins.
He has done really well with his horses in this race and the Queen Alexandra Stakes.
He’s won this race twice in the past 5 years. Thomas Hobson was a decent performer over middle distances for John Gosden when he last ran on the level. He has since been hurdling and has proven a capable performer.
Ryan Moore is sure to give this one a great ride but I have my doubts about this one seeing out the trip. He’s never won over this trip on the flat and barely won over this trip over hurdles.
He could well win this race but at the prices I couldn’t back a possible non stayer at 9/2.
Star Rider is one that will stay this trip, he won over the trip last season at Newmarket. He hasn’t shown much form since but at 28/1 he could sneak a place.
The same can be said for Sueigoo. He was a fast finishing 2nd last time out and that should put him spot on for this race.
He doesn’t have a great win strike rate but he could place. Magic Circle and Who Dares Wins both ran decent races in the Chester Cup over 2 miles 2f.
The course didn’t suit neither horse and they will be much more at home at this track. Both have won over 2 miles but look like they will get this trip.
Who Dares Wins was unlucky that day and I think he rates a live contender in this field. Beyond Conceit is another one who has a great chance in this.
His trainer Nicky Henderson is definitely one to follow in these staying races. This horse hasn’t run on the flat for some time but he was thought good enough to run in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham where he ran a great race.
Since then he was 2nd in a Grade 1 at Aintree over 3 miles. No stamina doubts over this horse and I think he’s on a really nice mark.
I think this race is between both Who Dares Wins and Beyond Conceit. There has been strong support for WHO DARES WINS in the betting over the past few days and he’ll love the ground.
He’s the one I like.
5:35 Windsor Castle Stakes:
This is a 5 furlong sprint for 2 year olds and it usually turns out to be a cavalry charge. Not much form to go on here but Wes Ward is the trainer to follow.
He won this race in 2009 and in 2014 and both were runaway winners. The soft ground blunted the chances of his runners in this in recent years but the fast ground today will really suit his two runners.
He runs Elizabeth Darcy and Nookta Sound. Both won impressively on debut in america. They both showed great early speed and won easily in the end.
Elizabeth Darcy won on the turf while Nootka Sound won on the dirt. Wes Ward believes that Nootka Sound will be a much better horse on grass given her breeding.
She put in a really nice piece of work at the track recently and she’s the mount of Frankie Dettori who had the pick of these two.
Nootka Sound has a great draw and I think she’ll take an awful lot of catching. The Aidan O’Brien trained Declarationofpeace is sure to put up a fight though.
This horse was very impressive last time out and this course and ground will suit. I doubt she’ll be able to go with Nootka Sound early on though.
Last Page at 150/1 and Areen Faisal at 100/1 are outsiders with place chances.
Areen Faisal is held in high regard by its trainer and Last Page was 2nd to Prince of the Dark last time out.
If that one runs well in the Coventry Stakes earlier in the day it will boost this one’s chances.
NOOTKA SOUND is my selection for this race though.