THE Queen, silly hats, daft suits, Gok Wan, fascinators, fashion… Yup, it’s here, Royal Ascot. Stripping away the pomp and finery, the fashion and the royal theme, it is five days of the very best racing that you’ll see anywhere in the world. Tuesday sees THREE Group One contests. And, more than ever, the international flavour is huge with 20 horses from outside Europe taking part. The foreign raiders add to the lustre of the meeting but actually make punting more tricky. Here’s some Royal Ascot tips…
QUEEN ANNE STAKES: This is a tantalising international conundrum. Able Friend and Solow both arrive in the midst of long unbeaten runs. Able Friend is the highest rated horse ever to come out of Hong Kong and has demolished quality rivals with contempt. However this is his biggest test and the straight mile will be something new for the horse. Solow is also a formidable rival but due to his impressive tactical speed and love of firm ground, I think ABLE FRIEND will do the business under the super-cool Joao Moreira. Lockinge winner Night of Thunder looks a shoo-in to finish in the first three.
Selection: ABLE FRIEND
COVENTRY STAKES: Despite the absence of Log Out Island, this remains a fiercely competitive affair. Round Two sets the standard but looks far too short in the market. Mark Johnston has a strong hand and Buratino was impressive at Epsom. Beaverbrook could also run a huge race at a price while Age of Empire also looks overpriced. Wesley Ward has won juvenile races in the last two years and runs Finnegan and the presence of these worldwide challengers will just make it a bigger puzzle for punters. I’m going to take an each-way punt on Beaverbrook who looks overpriced.
Selection: BEAVERBROOK (each-way)
KING’S STAND STAKES: Nineteen runners and Sole Power bids to make history as the first horse to win a hat-trick of King’s Stand Stakes. The Aussies have plundered this prize several times notably with Miss Andretti and Scenic Blast, and SHAMAL WIND could do the business here. She is lightning quick and has the not inconsiderable assistance of Ryan Moore.
Selection: SHAMAL WIND
ST JAMES’S PALACE STAKES: Quality not quantity with just six runners. Gleneagles, the winner of the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas, clashes with Make Believe, the French 2,000 Guineas victor. The latter beat New Bay under an inspired Olivier Peslier ride and New Bay has since won the French Derby. Gleneagles is high class and it would be lovely to see him go through the summer unbeaten and become the champion miler. But the big fly in the ointment is CONSORT, who did ever so well to win at Sandown and is held in the highest regard. For me, a race to savour rather than punt on but I do think Gleneagles is too short.
ASCOT STAKES: Devil of a handicap to solve. Nicky Henderson runs three; Willie Mullins two. One of them, Clondaw Warrior, has Ryan Moore up, which takes the eye. One of Henderson’s, Broxbourne, appeals each-way as he’ll love the marathon trip of 2m 4f. But RAY WARD was unlucky in this race last year and could make a decent fist of getting his head in front.
Selection: RAY WARD
WINSDOR CASTLE STAKES: This is amazingly difficult: there are 27 runners and it’s a needle in a haystack job. If Round Two wins the Coventry then Washington DC will be a warm order for this after coming second to Jim Bolger’s colt in Ireland last time. Bolger runs Ard San Aer who could run well and Wesley Ward saddles RUBY NOTION. In short, I think the winner will come from outside the UK although Areen and Opal Tiara could run very well.
Selection: RUBY NOTION
There will be more Royal Ascot tips for day two tomorrow.