And so the pomp and ceremony of Royal Ascot kicks off today with the opening day of the Royal meeting, and a fascinating day it is.
The opening Queen Anne Stakes (1430) looks booked for Godolphin, the boys in blue running their star mile Ribchester and he will be hard to beat, albeit at short odds.
The Coventry Stakes (1505) starts the 2yo conundrum of this year’s meeting, with not only lightly raced English and Irish horses, but a strong squad from the US yard of Wesley Ward. Arawak’s US pedigree is hard to decipher, and with due respect to Richard Hannon, this one looks booked for the Irish.
Normally Aidan O’Brien and Jim Bolger are the first places to look, but this has been some season for Gold Cup winning trainer Jessica Harrington, and she can show that ageing steeplechasers or lightning 2yos are all the same to her. Brother Bear is her representative, and he can put her on the Ascot scoreboard.
A lot of familiar faces contest the Kings Stand stakes (1540), and Goldream, a previous winner, looks best of the veterans. But this looks like a match for the girls between the UK’s Marsha, and the US’s Lady Aurelia. Marsha at her best is proven to be a length or so better than the veterans, but Lady Aurelia is the one with the X-factor having blitzed her way to a jaw-dropping win here last year as a 2yo. She looks to have been brought to the boil for a repeat.
The St James’s Palace Stakes (1620) sees a Guineas rematch between Churchill and Barney Roy. At the prices we might just favour Barney Roy, but no-bet is probably the answer.
A huge field goes to post for the Ascot Stakes (1700). This is usually plundered by jumps trainers, and Willie Mullins looks well set with Thomas Hobson and he must have a big chance albeit the odds are cramped.
We will take a much more speculative route and they don’t get much more speculative than Suegioo. This horse was good enough to run 8th of 17 in last year’s Ascot Gold Cup. He looks to us to be refinding top form, weaving through to midfield after a calamitous start at Chester, then a close second last time in a race that was run too slowly. Conditions here look ideal and he can weave his way to the frame or closer. He’s worth a full point each way.
The closing Windsor Castle Stakes (1735) sees another Wesley Ward v Aidan O’Brien v UK battle. This is always a somewhat unusual affair, and often something can sneak into the frame at a big price. That might be Dragons Tail who comes from a good yard and improved on his debut to storm home as Chester last time. He’s drawn where he can track the US pacesetters. Worth a small dabble.
Brother Bear, (1505 Ascot), 1pt win, 11/2 Stan James
Lady Aurelia (1540 Ascot), 2pts win, 4/1 Stan James
Suegioo (1700 Ascot), 1 pt each way, 25/1 generally available
Dragons Tail (1735 Ascot), 0.5pts EW, 16/1 generally available
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