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There is the slight risk of a shower at Ascot this afternoon for the opening day of the Royal Meeting which begins with the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes over the straight mile.
I have been a big fan of Benbatl (2.30) since he won the Hampton Court Stakes at this corresponding meeting twelve months ago. That Gp 3 contest was over ten furlongs and the son of Dubawi has never won over a mile having won three of his four starts at the Meydan Carnival - all over 9f – earlier in the year.
Oisin Murphy has been in the saddle in seven of the colts’ last eight starts, but he is retained to ride Lockinge runner up Lightning Spear today and Christophe Soumillon takes over for the first time this afternoon.
Trainer Saeed bin Suroor has largely been in the shadow of Derby-winning trainer Charlie Appleby this season with regard to high-profile Godolphin winners and this is a big race for the Newmarket handler.
Benbatl is 5/1 with BetVictor - who are betting ew 1/5th odds four places - behind Locking winner Rhododendrum (11/4) but I think a bigger danger is the French raider Recoletos – unbeaten in two starts this season - although his ability to handle fast ground would have to be taken on trust.
I was hoping that John Gosden’s Calyx (3.05) would wait for the July Meeting having made such an exciting winning debut at Newmarket just ten days ago. That facile 5L success on the July course was not gained in a spectacular time and the son of Kingman carried his head a shade too high than is ideal, but he was visually very impressive and the clock-watchers suggested the last three furlongs were run in a very fast time.
This is the first crop of Kingman juveniles but this son suggested he could be right out of the top drawer at Newmarket and Frankie Dettori takes over in the saddle this afternoon. The selection is 11/4 at BetVictor behind Ballydoyle’s Sergei Prokofiev who easily landed the odds in a Naas listed race last time.
The clash between American wonder mare and dual Royal Ascot winner Lady Aurelia (2/1 with BetVictor) and Battash (3.40) in the 5f King’s Stand Stakes is the highlight of the meeting for many and I favour the British runner who gave weight and a beating to his rivals at Haydock on his reappearance.
The selection (9/4 at BetVictor) has his quirks and lost his race in the stalls when well beaten in the Windsor Castle Stakes over C&D a couple of years ago, but he has speed to burn and won the Prix de l’Abbeye by no less than four lengths at Chantilly last autumn.
Ryan Moore faces a difficult task trying to get US Navy Flag over from stall ten in the St James’s Palace Stakes (round mile) the final Gp 1 contest of the day and Irish Guineas winner Romanised should confirm the Curragh form.
Gabr and Newmarket Guineas runner up Tip Two Win are respected, but this doesn’t look a vintage renewal and the Gosden/Dettori combination are represented by Without Parole (4.20) who gets a narrow vote from stall two. The son of Frankel looked inconvenienced by the rain-softened ground – softer than the official description of good – at Sandown last time and this represents a big step up in class, but one I think he is up to. The selection is 11/4 with BetVictor and is taken to maintain his unbeaten record.
Willie Mullins saddles five in the two-and-a-half mile handicap the Ascot Stakes and all hold realistic chances. Stratum who runs in the colours of Brighton FC owner Tony Bloom heads the market at 5/1 with BetVictor but I prefer Lagostovegas of the Mullins runners.
My two against the field, however, are Dannyday (10/1 with BetVictor) and Hassle (5.00) and it is the latter who gets the each way vote at 33/1 with BetVIctor who are paying each way five places.
The selection looked on good terms with himself when scoring at Market Rasen (2m 2f) over timber last time and the ground was far too soft for him when he was tailed off in this race two years ago. He has run some very good races at Ascot previously and today’s better ground should help him get home over this marathon trip.
The listed Wolferton Stakes is a cracking finale and confidence in Laraaib (11/2 with BetVictor) has waned considerably since he was drawn in stall fifteen (of 16). The Owen Burrows-trained 4-y-old has been my fancy for the race since finishing second on soft ground (not good as the official description suggests) at Sandown on his reappearance.
At 11/2 with BetVictor he is reluctantly overlooked in favour of Mirage Dancer (5.35) despite the fact that the latter is dropping back in trip to 10f for the first time this season. James McDonald takes the ride for Sir Michael Stoute and I hope he makes full use of his draw in stall one to get into a prominent position.
The recommendation is another son of Frankel and the colt finished third behind Benbatl in the Gp 3 Hampton Court Stakes at this meeting last year on just his third start - he could be the each way value at 7/1 with BetVictor.
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