2.30 Ascot – Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1)

Royal Ascot kicks off with the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes and it features one of the strongest favourites of the week, so the opener will be important for many people who have had an accumulator this week.

The odds-on market leader is Ribchester, who trainer Richard Fahey has long-regarded as the best horse he has ever had. The colt has lived up to that reputation with a fine 2016 which saw him develop into one of the world’s top milers. He showed his potential as a juvenile with Group 2 success in the Mill Reef at Newbury and has since gone on to build on that form. After his first run as three year-old in in France where things did not go his way, he improved to finish a good third in the 2,000 Guineas behind Galileo Gold. He then went onto Royal Ascot success last year with an impressive victory in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes. He travelled powerfully that day before quickening clear to win by two and a quarter lengths. That showed he was ready for a step back up to a mile and to also to higher class. After Ascot, he was involved in one of the races of the 2016 season in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. He was involved in a battle with Aidan O’Brien’s The Ghurka and Galileo Gold and finished powerfully for a very good third on his first try on fast ground.

Ribchester then went on to Group 1 glory in the Jacques Le Marois at Deauville, again travelling strongly. He could not manage to add to that in the Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot on Champions Day, finishing a creditable third to Minding. On his 2017 reappearance he finished third in the Duabi Turf where the one mile one furlong trip could have stretched him. However, he gained another Group 1 success in the Lockinge at Newbury last time out, where he showed his versatility to make all with a stylish three and three quarter length success. That performance cemented his status as favourite for the Queen Anne and he will be hard to beat in the opening race.

Second behind Ribchester at Newbury was the David Simcock-trained Lightning Spear who has developed into a consistent top-level miler. His trainer has been waiting to get the six-year-old back on fast ground and he should have his ideal conditions on Tuesday. The last time that he had fast ground was in August last year when he landed the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Gooodwood, showing a nice turn of foot after being caught in traffic. In his two runs since then, he finished a place behind Ribchester and, although he will have the ground to suit, it will take a big effort to turn the tables.

At the prices, a chance is taken on American-raider MISS TEMPLE CITY, who has twice run well at the Royal Meeting previously for trainer Graham Motion. In the2015 Coronation Stakes, she was involved in one of the races of the week as she finished a close fourth behind the high-class Found and Ervedya. Last year, on ground softer than ideal, she finished a creditable fourth behind Andre Fabre’s Usherette when she would have been suited by a faster pace and did not get a clear run. Since then she has gone on to land the two Grade 1s at Keeneland in October and then at Del Mar on her last run in December. She has not run since so Royal Ascot has been the aim and with conditions to suit the five-year-old can get involved in the Royal Anne this year.


MISS TEMPLE CITY – 0.5pt e/w @ 28/1 (bet365) (1/4 odds)

3.05 Ascot – Coventry Stakes (Group 2)

The Coventry Stakes is considered the best early season 2yo race by many and a look at the roll of honour suggests that it is a Group 1 in all but name. Henrythenavigator, Power and Dawn Approach have all gone on to win Classics as three-year-olds and last year’s winner Caravaggio looks set to make his mark in the sprinting division this year.
Aidan O’Brien has a better record than many, having saddled four winners in the last decade and eight overall. This year he saddles two representatives, with the shortest in the betting being Murillo, who is a general 10/1 shot. He is by Scat Daddy who sired last year’s winner and despite attracting support on debut, he finished last of six at the Curragh just over a month ago. Clearly better was expected that day and he made up for it next time when dropped back to 5f at Tipperary. On pedigree he should have no trouble returning to 6f but he will need to step a good deal on what he has done so far.

O’Brien also saddles U S Navy Flag who may still be a maiden but has form that suggests he deserves his place in the lineup. His latest effort when third behind Brother Bear at the Curragh was a good one on ground which would have been softer than ideal and on a sounder surface, it would be no surprise to see him outrun his sizeable odds.
There is another Coolmore-owned colt in the lineup in the shape of Arawak who is from the Wesley Ward stable. He won his only start by seven lengths on the dirt at Belmont and was reported to work well along with stablemate McErin on the Ascot track last week. Wesley Ward has enjoyed success here in the past but it is normally the 5f races in which he does well and although he is likely to be towards the head of affairs with a furlong to run, he might just be outstayed by the European horses.

The Richard Hannon yard has also enjoyed plenty of success in this race and they look to have two live chances in this year’s renewal. The most experienced of the pair is De Bruyne horse who ran no sort of race of debut but has since made amends, winning impressively at Ripon before landing the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom last time. He showed a good attitude that day and I think he won despite not being in love with the track. He has a similar profile to Buratino who won this race two years ago and I find it hard to see him finishing out of the top four here, having said that I think he could be vulnerable to a real top-class performer.

Denaar also looks to have a leading chance and comes here having won his first two starts. A 300,000 guineas purchase at the breeze-up sales in April, although he won with plenty in hand on debut it was his latest success at Newbury that marked him out as a potentially smart colt. On ground which was softer than ideal, he showed a really good attitude to see off the challenges of his rivals before pulling away from them inside the final furlong. He had looked like a sitting duck inside the final furlong but the way he knuckled down was really impressive. He has drawn plenty of comparisons with Mehmas who was second in this race last year and of the Hannon pair, I slightly prefer his claims.

However, BROTHER BEAR is a colt that I have had an eye on since making a winning debut at Leopardstown last month. Jessica Harrington’s colt picked up well that day to get the better of two rivals who both won next time. Despite encountering very different conditions at the Curragh last time, he once again travelled well before stretching clear of his rivals inside the final furlong. That race was the same one that Caravaggio won on route to victory here twelve months ago and he had a couple of his rivals here (U S Navy Flag and Aqabah) in behind on that occasion. He seems pretty versatile in terms of ground and I think he probably has the best form in the race. His trainer has shown she is adept at getting one ready for the big day and in an open race, he gets the nod.

Of the remainder of the field, I think there are a couple who could run better than their odds suggest. Romanised won a race at Navan in April that has thrown up plenty of subsequent winners including leading Windsor Castle fancy Declarationofpeace. His trainer Ken Condon nominated this race as the target straight afterwards and I think he would be a good deal shorter if he were trained in a yard more associated with juvenile winners.

Another two to mention are the Charlie Hills runners Nebo and Red Roman. The former won at Newbury in May, getting the better of John Gosden’s Westerland, who has won since. The latter finished ahead of De Bruyne horse when fourth at Newmarket on his debut before winning with plenty in hand at the same venue next time. Both need to take a good step forward to figure here but both are lightly-raced and could be open to serious improvement.


BROTHER BEAR – 1pt win @ 5/1 (William Hill)

3.40 Ascot – King’s Stand Stakes (Group 1)

Two fillies head the market for this Group 1 sprint, which is guaranteed to be run at a furious pace with a number of confirmed front-runners and the fast ground conditions.
Heading the market is the American raider Lady Aurelia who was so impressive at the 2016 Royal meeting when demolishing the field in the Group 2 Queen Mary. Trainer Wesley Ward always targets the meeting and said before last year that he was expecting big things from the filly. She did not disappoint on only her second start as she broke quickly under Frankie Dettori and then had far too much speed for rivals. She was still travelling smoothly with a furlong to go and the rest of the field were in trouble. Once Frankie then pushed the button the two-year-old powered clear for a seven lengths success, one of the most visually-taking performance seen at Royal Ascot in recent years. That was also on the daughter of Scat Daddy’s less-favoured soft ground. Lady Aurelia then stepped up to Group 1 level with victory in the Prix Morny at Deauville, again employing the front-running tactics over the extra furlong in trip. She wasn’t as impressive that day but was always in command and the trip was probably far enough for her. Returned to England for the Cheveley Park at Newmarket, she could only finish third but was reported to have bled. In her three-year-old reappearance different tactics were employed in a five and half furlongs Listed race at Keeneland. She settled off the pace but then made smooth headway to win comfortably by two and a half lengths. This showed a different side to Lady Aurelia and that versatility will stand her in good stead for the King’s Stand. She will be hard to beat on Tuesday back to five furlongs and on quick ground.

Her biggest threat could come from Sir Mark Prescott’s progressive filly Marsha. She improved through 2016 and her comeback run this year confirmed that she has continued on as a four-year-old. Her three-year-old campaign included successive Listed wins at Ayr and at York in the summer before she improved after two further runs to land the Group 1 Abbaye at Chantilly. This was a career-best as she stayed on well inside the final furlong to get the better of Washington DC (who reopposes on Tuesday) and the top-class Mecca’s Angel. It was a bit of an upset that day but Marsha confirmed that to be no fluke on her first run of 2017 in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes, which had a strong line-up for the grade. She had a penalty so was conceding weight all round which made it a very good performance. The four-year-old was given a patient ride by Luke Morris and travelled smoothly before taking her jockey to the front earlier than he expected. She kept on well though to deny Washington DC by a neck. There are a number of runners from Newmarket taking her on again at Ascot, including the third-placed Goldream and fifth-placed Priceless. Marsha is likely to improve from her first run back, but she may still struggle to match the speed of Lady Aurelia.

At the prices, it may be worth taking a chance on the 2015 King’s Stand winner GOLDREAM returning to the high-class level of form that he has shown previously. He enjoyed a fine campaign two years ago, featuring his win at the Royal meeting and then another Group 1 success in the Abbaye. Following on from that he had quiet 2016 where things did not go right from him after a trip to Dubai early in the season. However, he showed that he still retained his ability with a close third in the Group 2 King George Stakes at Goodwood, behind Take Cover and Washington DC. Now as an eight-year-old, the son of Oasis Dream has showed that he’s coming back to form this year. On his reappearance he was not far behind Marsha and then followed that up with a runner-up finish to Priceless in the Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock. He was slow at the start that day and was only beaten half a length, so it looks like he is building up for a big run at Ascot. There are not many better than his trainer Robert Cowell with sprinters and he said that GOLDREAM is back in top form. With a strong pace guaranteed and his favoured fast ground, he can make a bold effort to regain the King’s Stand crown.


GOLDREAM – 1pt e/w @ 14/1 (SkyBet) (5 places)

4.20 Ascot – St James’s Palace Stakes (Group 1)

This race has been billed by many as the 2000 Guineas rematch as the first two home Churchill and Barney Roy reoppose. Aidan O’Brien’s winner has done nothing wrong since being beaten on his debut and he is now unbeaten in his last seven starts. He is the sort of horse who only does enough and that is why many observers believe that Richard Hannon’s colt can reverse the form.

For what it is worth I think that Barney Roy was a little unlucky in the 2000 Guineas having stumbled coming out of the dip but whether he would have won is another story entirely. The more conventional Ascot track should enable us to get a better idea of what he is capable of and on just his fourth start, he could still be improving. I think in all likelihood that Churchill will confirm the placings from the 2000 Guineas and give his trainer a fifth victory since 2007. However, at 4-6 he doesn’t strike me as a betting proposition.

With eight runners, it gives us an opportunity to look for an each-way angle in the race. With that in mind it seems hard to look past THUNDER SNOW who I feel is a little overpriced at 8/1. Saeed Bin Suroor’s colt won in Group 1 company as a two-year-old and won his first two starts this season on the dirt in Meydan. He suffered a likely tack malfunction in Kentucky but put that effort behind him when chasing home Churchill in the Irish 2000 Guineas. Although he has showed he handles soft ground well, he should be fine on this sounder surface. On official ratings, he is the same as Barney Roy and with the fitting of cheekpieces for the first time likely to bring about further improvement, he looks worth a small each-way play in the race.

Lancaster Bomber could also have a say in how things pan out and I imagine he will make the running here. He was only beaten one and a half lengths in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and wouldn’t have enjoyed the soft ground at the Curragh last time. He is likely to be a sitting duck in the closing stages but he sees the mile out well and could outrun his sizeable odds.

Of the remainder of the field, Rivet is worth a mention having enjoyed his day in the sun when winning the Racing Post Trophy last October. He finished second in the Craven before going to France for their Guineas, where he was beaten three lengths by the winner Brametot. I don’t think he stayed in the Prix Du Jockey Club last time so he should be suited by the drop back to a mile, but at this stage he looks to be a level below the likes of Churchill and Barney Roy.


THUNDER SNOW – 0.5pt e/w @ 10/1 (bet365)

5.00 Ascot – Ascot Stakes (A Handicap)

It might seem a world away from the Cheltenham Festival but this race has proved very successful with those from the jumping fraternity in recent years. Nine of the last ten winners came from predominantly national hunt yards so I think it is best to focus on those sorts of horses in this year’s race.

Willie Mullins saddles the market leader in Thomas Hobson who was formerly trained on the flat by John Gosden. He hasn’t run on the flat since winning at Doncaster off a mark of 97 in October 2013 and has since proved a useful hurdler, winning a Grade 2 in January 2016. His latest success over hurdles came in a handicap at Fairyhouse in April and considering he won that off a mark of 143, he could be well-handicapped on a mark of 100. Ryan Moore has been booked to ride and it isn’t hard to see why he has been so popular in the market.

Alan King has a trio of runners at his disposal including Who Dares Wins who was fourth in the Chester Cup the last time we saw him. The five-year-old enjoyed a fruitful campaign over hurdles this winter, winning at Newbury in November as well as finishing third in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. I’m not sure the Chester track played to his strengths last time and he has to be bang there off a 1lb higher mark.

King also saddles Oceane who was a staying on second over 2m at Ascot last month. The five-year-old won at York last summer off a mark of 87 and although he has been well-fancied for similar races since then, he has so far failed to deliver. He certainly seemed to appreciate being ridden more patiently last time but others appeal as better handicapped.

The King trio is completed by Rainbow Dreamer who relished the step up to 2m2f at Newbury last time. He took advantage of his lower flat handicap mark that day and has earned a 5lb rise for that success. Normally you add 40lb to a horse’s flat handicap mark to get an idea of its hurdles ability and now on a mark of 93, he could still have more to come. King’s assistant was quoted as saying Ryan Moore thought 2m2f was as far as he wanted to go last time which raises some question marks here though.

However, the one who appeals most is BEYOND CONCEIT who arguably is the best of these over hurdles. Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old has had his issues in the past but he has been sound this year and having won his first two starts over hurdles, he finished sixth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. 2m was probably on the sharp side for him over hurdles and he proved that to be the case when runner-up over 3m in Grade 1 company at Aintree. He hasn’t raced on the flat since 2013 but his mark of 92 certainly looks on the lenient side. My one slight concern is that the ground might be too quick for him but if he handles it, then he has a big chance.

Of those trained in ‘flat’ yards, Magic Circle has to be high on any shortlist having finished just behind Who Dares Wins in the Chester Cup last time. He was placed off this mark at Leopardstown in October and it is interesting that the in-form Silvestre De Sousa has been booked to ride.

Mark Johnston’s Yorkidding must also have a chance having finished second in the Chester Cup. She went one better at Haydock last time and has gone up just 1lb for that success. This will be the furthest she has run over but she is a consistent mare who has run well here in the past and it would be no surprise to see her go close.

A couple at much bigger prices who could run well include Cleonte who found Group 2 company too hot at Newmarket last time. That was his first start for the Andrew Balding stable but when trained in France, he was a Listed winner over two miles so should appreciate the return to a staying trip.

One final one to mention is Star Rider who ran behind Rainbow Dreamer on his return to action in April. He won over 2m in October and could still be competitive off his current mark of 95. His trainer has saddled placed horses in two of the last three renewals so clearly likes to target the race and he could outrun his odds.


BEYOND CONCEIT – 1pt e/w @ 8/1 (bet365, Paddy Power) (4 places, 1/4 odds)

5.35 Ascot – Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed Race)

The final race on day one sees 24 two-year-olds head to post and the only man to have tasted success more than once in the last decade is American trainer Wesley Ward. Strike The Tiger caused a 33/1 shock in 2009 before Hootenanny followed suit five years later. He saddles two runners this time around, both who come here on the back of wide margin maiden wins.

Nootka Sound is likely to be ridden prominently as is often the case with Ward’s juveniles and gets the assistance of Frankie Dettori in the saddle. She is yet to race on turf but impressed in her work on the course last week. Ward’s 2yos are normally more physically forward than their European-based rivals and it would be no surprise to see her go close.

The yard is also represented by Elizabeth Darcy who is likely to be ridden more patiently by John Velazquez. She has a European pedigree being by Camacho and cost 88,000 euros when she went through the ring as a yearling. There isn’t a great deal between the pair in the market but this filly has form on the turf already so warrants respect.
Aidan O’Brien’s record in this race isn’t as strong as it is in some of the other juvenile contests at this meeting but he looks to have a leading contender here in the shape of Declarationofpeace. The War Front colt was third to Ken Condon’s Romanised on debut but seemed to appreciate the drop back to five furlongs when winning at Dundalk next time. He was being considered for the Coventry but connections have decided to stick to 5f for now with him. His draw in 14 means that Ryan Moore can go wherever he feels is the best place and I think he is the one they all have to beat.

Charlie Appleby has enjoyed a fine time of things with his juveniles this term and he saddles two runners here, both of which got off the mark at the first attempt. Sound And Silence won at the Craven meeting and was beaten less than three lengths in the National Stakes at Sandown last time. He didn’t get much cover on that occasion so probably didn’t show his best but this big-field scenario could suit him better. He is also fitted with cheekpieces for the first time and has to come into consideration.
Roussel could also run well having got off the mark at the first attempt at Leicester a couple of weeks ago. The Kodiac colt cost £360,000 at the breeze-up sales in April and he was given a nice introduction by William Buick, pushing him out to win in the closing stages. Some of the yard’s first time out winners have not backed it up next time which is a slight concern as is his low draw but he could still go well.

One who I think could be overpriced is SIMMY’S COPSHOP who won at Nottingham on his debut and in doing so beat Karl Burke’s Havana Grey who has since gone on to Listed success. Richard Fahey’s colt went over to Ireland next time but having raced towards the head of affairs in a strongly run race, he was run down by more patiently ridden rivals on that occasion. To his credit, when the other leaders dropped away he stuck on well and when you also consider he lost a shoe, there is every reason to think he would have won that race in different circumstances. I think the strength of his form has been overlooked and with the Richard Fahey team in rude health of late, he has to have a leading chance. I expect he could be ridden more patiently than he was last time and I think he is worth an each-way bet at around the 16/1 mark.

Two more who I want to mention at bigger prices include Tom Dascombe’s Dragons Tail who was very impressive when winning at Chester last time. He may just have needed the experience on debut at Leicester and certainly knew his job last time. He showed a lot of toe the last day and could be one to lead the stands’ side group.
A final one to mention is Excellently Poised who I feel could outrun his sizeable odds of 66/1. Bryan Smart’s colt didn’t enjoy the soft ground at Beverley last time and had he come here on the back of his debut success, I think he would be half the price he is here. His trainer hasn’t enjoyed the ideal preparation with this colt but I think it is interesting that he is turning him out again so quickly. He probably doesn’t have the best of draws in stall 1 and although it will be a big ask, I think he will run considerably better than his odds suggest.


SIMMY’S COPSHOP – 0.5pt e/w @ 16/1 (bet365) (4 places, 1/4 odds)