Ascot gets under way with Lightning ready to strike
Royal Ascot begins with the 16-runner Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes over the straight mile and Ribchester is the 4/5 favourite at BetVictor. Having thought the four-year-old was a good thing for this valuable prize after he won the Lockinge at Newbury on his reappearance last month, I have to say confidence is waning, writes Charlie McCann.
The favourite is drawn in stall one with his pacemaker (Toscanini) in ten with Lightning Spear (2.30) drawn towards the stand’s side in fourteen.
David Simcock, who trains Lightning Spear, has always felt that on fast ground, Lightning Spear was a Group 1 animal and at 5/1 with BetVictor he can reward each way support. The selection, who finished runner up at Newbury, has now finished behind Ribchester no fewer than four times, but the suggestion is one of these days the cards are going to fall right for Lightning Spear and I would be bitterly disappointed if he didn’t run into at least a place.
The Coventry Stakes was won by the unbeaten Caravaggio twelve months ago but the noises out of Ballydoyle suggest Aidan O’Brien will do well to win the race for a record ninth time, although the stable are doubly represented with the maiden US Navy Flag and Murillo. I am more interested in another Irish challenger Brother Bear (3.05) who is unbeaten in two starts for Jessica Harrington.
Harrington trained the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup courtesy of Sizing John earlier in the year and it will be some performance to train a juvenile winner at Royal Ascot three months later. The colt is unbeaten in two starts on fast and soft ground and his three-length listed success at the Curragh last time was most impressive. At 9/2 with BetVictor he is another each way recommendation.
The British challenge for the Coventry is led by Richard Hannon whose father saddled the winner three times most recently with Strong Suit back in 2010. De Bruyne Horse looked good when scoring at Epsom on Derby Day and the runner up has subsequently franked the form at Beverley.
The Gp 1 King’s Stand Stakes is a cracker with the fillies Marsha and Lady Aurelia (3.40) at the head of the market. Of the two preference is for last year’s Queen Mary winner for American handler Wesley Ward. The selection looked a potential sprinting superstar when winning at this meeting (soft ground) last year and, drawn next to the stands rail, the hope is that Frankie Dettori can repeat last year’s feat and make all. Note today’s faster ground is considered a positive by connections.
The selection is 3/1 at BetVictor and that looks a fair price if she is in the same mood as last term. Her handler is bullish at the best of times but you do get the impression he would be very disappointed if his filly failed to give her running.
The final Gp 1 of the opening day is the St James’s Palace Stakes and is a rematch of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket back in May when Churchill beat Barney Roy (4.20) a length having had a smoother trip than the runner up. Barney Roy has been off the track since Newmarket but did have a spin around Kempton, which is a similar layout to Ascot’s round mile.
Churchill has since lagged up in the Irish Guineas but I don’t think there will be much between them with Barney Roy drawn inside the favourite and I just think the Hannon-trained colt can get his revenge. The selection is 5/2 at BetVictor and that looks a fair price given I believe it is a virtual match between the principles.
Willie Mullins has saddled the winner of the Ascot Stakes twice in the last five years and his Thomas Hobson heads the market at 7/2 with BetVictor. It is another trainer better known for his exploits over the jumps who I am interested in, however, with Who Dares Wins (5.00) taken to keep the prize in Britain for Alan King.
King saddles three and all have realistic chances but the vote goes to Who Dares Wins (6/1 at BetVictor) who has a decent draw in stall ten, looked to be crying out for this trip when fourth in the Chester Cup last time and is adaptable with regard to the ground. Magic Circle would have been the selection had he not been housed in stall twenty although he does have the considerable services of Silvestre De Souza.
The opening day concludes with the Windsor Castle Stakes and Wesley Ward has saddled the winner of this listed event twice in recent years. The Americans saddles both Nootka Sound and Elizabeth Darcy (5.35) and the latter gets the each way vote at 6/1. This filly showed plenty of dash when winning by seven lengths on her sole start last month and John Valazquez takes the ride.
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