Royal Ascot 2017 – Day 1 Preview

It’s been a while since I last wrote on these pages, but if there is anything to return for it is Royal Ascot, the pinnacle of the summer. As there are plenty of other commitments for yours truly this week, the updates through the week will be progressively sparser – especially with today being the best day’s racing. Do enjoy, be lucky and don’t overextend yourself!

Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Class 1) (4yo+) (2.30): There are many bankers and not all of them will win but Ribchester has rock solid claims of starting the week in flying fashion and ought to take the beating here. A winner of the Jersey Stakes in really taking style at last year’s meeting, he was unlucky not to win the Sussex but took the Maoris in great style before his second in the QEII.
Having returned in good style when third at Meydan, he was far too good in the Lockinge for Lightning Spear and he can confirm that form here even on this much faster ground which ought to be no bother for him. A bigger worry might be getting drawn on the inside of what is a very large field especially by the standards of this race. Lightning Spear, who was making his return there, ought to go very well today and looks the chief threat. He looked a little unlucky when he was third in the QEII last year but he’s now 0-4 against the favourite. William Haggas’s Mutakayyef was impressive when taking the Summer Mile here last year (had Dutch Connection well beaten in second) before then finishing third in the International at York. A good third in the Woodbine Mile ended his year and he made a good return in the Dubai Turf behind Ribchester when he was fifth there, but the return to this trip on much faster ground should bring him on a good deal and he can be involved in the finish there.

It’s a surprise to see Deauville here, as for all that he doesn’t lack pace, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes might have suited better. He needs to improve on all his known form if he’s to take a hand. America took this with Tepin last year and has a double handed challenge with American Patriot possibly leading for Todd Pletcher. A winner of the Makers Mark mile, connections are hopeful he’ll improve for the straight mile and he has to be respected. Third in the Duke of Cambridge at last season’s meeting and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, Miss Temple City probably brings stronger form claims if she is turned up to go on her seasonal return.

Advice: 3 pts win Ribchester (4/5 general), 1 pt each/way Mutakayyef (8/1 general)

Coventry Stakes (Group 2) (Class 1) (2yo) (3.05): Fiercely contested and a number in with realistic chances. Brother Bear was deeply impressive in the Coventry and ought to go well but there’s a good chance Aqbah can get a lot closer than he did that day and he looks to be overpriced. The son of Exchange Rate was joint favourite for a novice stakes here on his debut and was at a major disadvantage early on against experienced rivals, but he flew in the final furlong to take an impressive win despite getting there by just a head, promising to improve for distance and time. That the Woodcote Stakes second Cardsharp was well involved in the finish (admittedly carrying a penalty) suggests the form is decent and third Haddaf was third in the National Stakes to boot. A deluge ruined his chances in the Marble Hill but back on this track with fast ground he has just as much promise as any of the contenders in the field and he deserves more respect than he’s been given by the market.

There are a host of horses at the head of the field who need serious respect and it might be wise to have two onside here. Aidan O’Brien has taken this three times since 2011 and his Murillo was deeply impressive when he took a Tiperrary maiden (incidentally on faster ground and over 5 furlongs compared to 6 furlongs at the Curragh). He ought to go well and Coolmore are double handed as well with Arawak, who represents Wesley Ward here. His maiden race was rained off the turf at Belmont but he won impressively by seven lengths and he has impressed onlookers since arriving. Jamie Spencer was taken aback by his work with Happy Like A Fool, favourite for the Queen Mary, and if he takes the step forward for going to turf that so many others have, he could take the beating and it is worth chancing that he’ll improve for the extra furlong like his trainer says he will.

De Bryune Horse ought to enjoy this course much better than Epsom, where he was impressive in the Woodcote having caught a useful rival whilst conceding first run. Cardsharp (the second that day) won impressively next time out and the two were an age clear to boot. He makes a little more appeal than Denaar, a winner of a valuable Newbury sales race on soft ground when he showed good attitude.

Nebo was unfancied when he surprised the market on his debut at Newbury, proving very agile when asked to make his move by Callum Shepard before then clearing through the field and beating the fancied favourite and next time out winner Westerland. He’s one of many threats.

The strongest form in this race might come from Romanised, who was short of room for a whole furlong at Navan before coming with a fine late charge to take victory. Third Declarationofpeace won by 6 furlongs at Dundalk next time, fourth Wolffobaggotstreet was second at Tipperary, and fifth another Batt has since finished second and won well at Ripon. He looks big, as does Prince of The Dark – who did well to win as he did on debut at Bath – and Zaman, who beat a next time out winner at York. Headway made a big move to win at Chester by three lengths and he’s clearly got considerable talent.

Advice: 1 pt each/way Aqbah (25/1 general), 1 pt each/way Arawak (8/1 general)

King’s Stand Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series And Global Sprint Challenge) (Class 1) (3yo+) (3.40); It is difficult to forget Lady Aurelia’s brazen show of speed and power in taking the Queen Mary and easy to forgive her defeat in the Chevley Park (bled), but this is an entirely different kettle of fish and things could be complicated for her without the physical advantage she’ll have over her contemporised here.

The market has now made Marsha favourite and that is more than justified on the basis of her remarkable last pair of wins. She beat Washington DC in a frantic Abbaye and then bettered that effort yet again when she beat Washington DC to take the Palace House at Newmarket on her return. This came with a 5lbs Group 1 penalty on her seasonal debut, making her better off with eight reopposing horses here, and she will take the beating.

This race is more than open to an upset though and backing one at a bigger price appears a wise strategy. Golddream took this when he was at the top of his game in 2014 and after a long time in the wildnerness, he has recovered his best form this year. Firstly he was a good third in the Palace House, and then he came back from a horror start to be a close second to Priceless in the Temple Stakes at Haydock. If he’d gotten off to a level break he might well have won that day (he can definitely be marked up) and this situation is identical to his previous win in the race.

Profitable took this race last year before finishing fourth in the July Cup and he will come on a fair bit for his return at Deauviille in the Prix de Saint-Georges. However, he was well beaten by Signs of Blessing, who gave him a staggering 11lbs and an easy beating. Admittedly that came on very soft ground, but Signs of Blessing has plenty of good ground form and ought to be tough to pass from the front.

It was hard to leave out Washington DC, who has so much fine form over this trip with fast ground, but he was stuck on the right hand side at Haydock away from the action thanks to a bad draw there and being stuck in 18, the same could happen if he’s on the wrong side which is a worry here especially as he’s unlikely to follow Lady Aurelia through earlier.

Advice: 2 pts win Marsha (10/3 general), 1 pt each/way Goldream (14/1 general)

St James’s Palace Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Entire Colts) (Class 1) (3yo) (4.20): A mouth-watering rematch between dual Guineas winner Churchill and Newmarket second Barney Roy. Churchill carried on where he’d left off as a Champion juvenile when he took the Guineas, before then dismissing Thunder Snow with ease on a much softer surface in the Irish equivalent. He ought to be very tough to beat once again, but Barney Roy appeals as a horse who can get much closer here. Whilst things went perfectly for Churchill, who followed his favourites in a moderate pace for a classic before then getting the perfect gap to the rail, Barney Roy was lit up and keen early before then taking a stumble badly when coming down into the dip (which he also did not handle) and then winning the race of those in the centre by a neck.

Now it should be understood at Churchill was not lucky to take the Guineas – he did so on his seasonal return and he perhaps a little more in hand – but everything that could go right for him did go right for him and vice versa for Barney Roy, who should relish Ascot, a track where the same kind of avantage will be much harder for Ballydoyle to get an advantage, and if there is a day for him to turn the form around it is today.

Thunder Snow was second in the Irish Guineas on his return from Globetrotting and has to be respected although that form won’t be turned around today. He will be tough to kick out of the places but it’s a well contested race outside the top two with Rivet perhaps sure to be happier at this trip than the 10 furlongs of the French Derby when he pulled his race away early.

Lancaster Bomber was fourth behind Thunder Snow in the UAE Derby and then fourth in the Guineas before his well beaten fifth in the Irish Guineas. You can forget the run last time at the Curragh when the ground ruined his chances and today he is likely to be asked to do far less donkey work with Peace Envoy in the field and his record on fast ground over a mile is a deeply impressive one, having beaten his price many a time. The each/way with the dead eight makes appeal.

Advice: 1 pt win Barney Roy (5/2 Ladbrokes), 1 pt each/way Lancaster Bomber (28/1 general).
*If less than 8, back Lancaster Bomber to finish in first three.

Ascot Stakes (A Handicap) (Class 2) (4yo+ 0-100) (5.00pm): Fiercely contested as ever and there’s two that make more appeal than the rest of the field. Beyond Conceit was a good stayer when last seen on the flat in 2013, finishing fourth in another Goodwood Marathon handicap, and has since become a Grade 1 novice hurdle over staying trip who also had the versatility to finish sixth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The equal at least of many of those who come from the jumps, this trip and track will be perfect for him and he can go very close.

So too can Who Dares Wins, who has had a phenomenal time over hurdles, taking a Listed handicap at Newbury and finishing third in the Coral Cup. He was backed into near favouritism in the Chester Cup and ran a fine race, although he was tuck on the outside the whole way having started slowly and then didn’t get a run when needed in the final furlong. A reproduction of that effort would give him a major chance on a track that will suit a lot more. Magic Circle was also unlucky there and can go well whilst Thomas Hobson is very short off 100 for all he will go well for Willie Mullins, who has won the race twice in the past five years.

Advice: 2 pts each/way Beyond Conceit (15/2 general), 1 pt win Who Dares Wins (11/2 general)

Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed Race) (Class 1) (2yo) (5.35): A race with plenty of big priced winners in recent years although certain stables have dominated. Declarationofpeace ought to go very close and we will find out the worth of his form a couple of hours earlier but he’s now very short in what can turn into a lottery at 7/2 and he can be taken on, if only on the basis of price.

Infact this is a race where many look to be overpriced and it’s worth nothing that winners here have atypical profiles; having been beaten is not a negative at all and neither is being a maiden to boot.

James Garfield should be neither – and he would be neither had he even had a half decent start at Leicester on his debut behind June Dog. He probably posted a winning effort to get so close, and it’s encouraging that the joint favourite that day, Leesha, has since won. With even basic improvement he looks above average and this stiffer finish ought to be right up his street. He’s overpriced.

Another Batt has had three starts but looks a shrewd buy for new connections. The form of his debut behind Romanised looks very strong (he was just behind Declrationofpeace) and he met a decent rival in the shape of Black Sails at the Curragh on his second start there. He was well ahead of US Navy Flag (third in the Marble Hill) whilst another Coventry contender in Murhillo was a well beaten sixth. A confidence booster at Ripon should be helpful for his chances and he can go very nicely.

It was hard to leave the two Wesley Ward raiders Nootka Sound and Elizabeth Darcy, and a win for either would not be a surprise. Nootka Sound, who is going to stride on, apparently is favoured of the two but it sounds like little separates the pair. Nootka Sounds trashed maidens on dirt at Keenland and is expected to improve greatly for turf, whilst Elizabeth Darcy took her maiden by nearly eight lengths so there might not be much between the two.

Advice: 1 pt each/way James Garfield (28/1 general), 1 pt each/way Another Batt (16/1 general)

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