Day one of Royal Ascot and there is now the distinct possibility of showers – some heavy – in the area for the opening couple of days of the five-day meeting. The ground was described as good with a couple of good to soft areas by Clerk of the Course Chris Stickells on Monday, but we are all in the dark as to how much rain the track will get on Tuesday and Wednesday and when – rather than if – the rain will arrive.
If there is significant rain I believe that brings last year’s runner up Lord Glitters and French raider Olmedo into the equation for the opening Queen Anne Stakes. Marginal preference, however, is for Aidan O’Brien’s recent French import Le Brivado (2.30) who is taken to improve on an eye-catching fifth in the Lockinge. The each way selection has 4L to find with winner Mustashry but met with interference when just beginning his run and was finishing best of all.
The five-year-old, drawn in stall two, is 5/1 at BetVictor who are paying 4 places on the Group 1 contest and I feel if Ryan Moore can track likely front-runner Laurens – who will race from stall six – then we might see the real Le Brivado. The selection won the 7f Jersey Stakes here a couple of years ago but has never won over a mile although he has hinted in recent starts that a truly run mile would be his optimum trip.
Richard Hannon’s juveniles invariably need the run and Thrive (3.05) went off 10/1 for his debut at Newmarket when he came home clear of a Godolphin runner who had run Charlie Appleby’s Well Of Wisdom close on debut. That Newmarket success was gained over the minimum trip, but today’s additional furlong in the Gp 2 Coventry Stakes should suit and he gets the vote at 7/2 with BetVictor.
Arizona was visually very impressive at the Curragh last time – won by a long looking 8L – and at 5/2 with BetVictor he is a worthy market leader for Aidan O’Brien, but the vote goes to the Hannon juvenile.
Battash (3.40) was no match for Blue Point in the King’s Stand Stakes 12 months ago and he has lost on both previous starts at Ascot, but I really do feel he can put the record straight today. The selection was well served by the conditions of the race when running away with the Temple Stakes at Haydock on his reappearance and I thought he looked better than ever on that occasion. He is 2/1 with BetVictor and I feel it is his race to lose.
Phoenix Of Spain did us a huge favour when winning the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh on his belated reappearance last month, but he had a plum draw in stall one and there is just a possibility that the ground was quicker next to the far rail in the straight.
It was hard not to disagree with John Gosden’s assessment that he has made a pig’s ear of the placing of Too Darn Hot (4.20) in the first half of the season. Last year’s leading juvenile had a hard race when runner up in the extended 10f Dante Stakes at Yok last month before he was asked to contest the Irish Guineas just nine days later.
In the circumstances he ran another good race to again finish second behind Phoenix Of Spain and the noises coming out of the Gosden camp suggest they have their colt in rude health for the St James’s Palace Stakes. The colt has a favourable draw in stall two – Phoenix Of Spain outside him this time in seven – in this round mile contest and at 5/2 with BetVictor I feel he may be able to reverse Curragh form.
There is only 10lbs between the runners in the only handicap on the card the 2m 4f Ascot Stakes and if the forecast rain has got into the ground then near top class chaser Snow Falcon must go close for Noel Meade. The vote, however, goes to Fun Mac (5.00) who finished second in this corresponding race four years ago and has been dropped 2lbs since finishing fifth in the Chester Cup on his reappearance. The each way selection is 16/1 at BetVictor who are paying five places on the race.
There is plenty of pace in the closing listed Wolfreton Stakes over 10f and I hope to see last year’s Irish Derby winner Latrobe (5.35) run a big race for Joseph O’Brien. The each way selection – 17/2 at BetVictor who are paying 4 places – obviously gets further but O’Brien has suggested that it is a long year and connections have decided to contest this intermediate trip at this stage of the season with long term targets such as the Irish St Leger and Melbourne Cup to come.
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