YOU might be forgiven for thinking that it will be impossible for this year’s Royal Ascot to top 2012. Last year’s meeting was book-ended by the brilliance of Frankel and Black Caviar, but while those two no longer grace our sport, the anticipation is quietly building that this year’s royal meeting could match, and possibly exceed 2012. There will be an added poignancy with the absence of the late and lamented Sir Henry Cecil, and a winner for his wife Lady Jane Cecil would be hugely popular. The feature races seem wide open and the Royal Ascot betting market offers plenty of value. Dawn Approach vs Toronado and Camelot vs Al Khazeem are mouth-watering clashes while Animal Kingdom, Shea Shea and other international raiders give the meeting a global feel.
Here are five horses who could make their mark at Royal Ascot:
MINCE: Diamond Jubilee Stakes
Despite a below-par run last time, Roger Charlton has indicated that his flying filly could still take her chance at the royal meeting. She took a few runs to really find her form last season and she looks far too big a price at around 14/1.
FINE ‘N DANDY: Windsor Castle Stakes
I loved the way this speed machine sluiced up at Chester last time out and connections are very keen on his chances in this five-furlong speed fest.
FIRST MOHHICAN: Wolferton Handicap
The absence of Sir Henry Cecil will provide added poignancy and nothing would be more popular than a victory for Lady Cecil. First Mohican could be the one on Friday in the Wolferton although he would be aided by any rain that falls.
NO NAY NEVER: Norfolk Stakes
US trainer Wesley Ward landed a double in 2009 and is planning another raid on the Royal Ascot juvenile races. His best chance is with No Nay Never who is likely to go for the Norfolk. The trainer has barely been able to contain his excitement and confidence about this speedy two year old, who he says “moves like a cat”.
MOUNT ATHOS: Hardwicke Stakes
He may only have beaten Mad Moose at Chester last time but there was something about the manner of Mount Athos’s victory that suggested he has improved again from five to six. Luca Cumani has resisted the temptation to go for the Gold Cup and a strongly-run Hardwicke should be ideal for his globetrotting stable star.
Who is your big fancy for Royal Ascot? Please leave a comment below…