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The declarations were made yesterday for the opening day of Royal Ascot tomorrow and what a great day’s racing it promises to be.
Fifteen have been entered for the opening Queen Anne Stakes and the best backed horse in recent days has been French raider Recoletos (5/1 from 6s with BetVictor) who is the subject of upbeat noises from jockey Olivier Peslier.
It might be worth noting that the French have saddled two of the last three winners of the Festival curtain-raiser and Peslier knows what it takes to win the race, having ridden Goldikova to win this corresponding race back in 2010. Rhododendron heads the BetVictor market at 11/4.
We begin today’s preview at Carlisle who stage a seven-race afternoon card. I am sweet on the chances of Theatre Of War (2.15) who looked a sure-fire future winner when third of nine at Hamilton on debut for Keith Dalgleish who, at the time of writing, has yet to have a juvenile winner this season.
The selection was slowly away but very well supported on his first start, giving the impression that losses were only leant. As a son of War Command, the colt is likely to want a fast surface to be seen at his best, but there is no significant rain forecast for the area on Sunday or Monday.
Dalgleish has Jacob Black (3.50) in the Mile handicap and I am optimistic that his seven-year-old can follow up his recent Musselburgh success from a 7lbs higher mark. That win was over 7f but he does get this mile although his draw in draw 11 of 13 is less than ideal. The selection is still well treated on the best of his old form.
Note Dalgleish also saddles Zoravan - a beaten favourite last time over slightly shorter - in the race. He looks sure to go close and it will be fascinating to see what the market says in respect of the Dalgleish runners.
Poetic Steps (5.00) looks sure to appreciate the return to 12f having led to this trip when beaten 10 lengths at Sandown last time. He would not be the first Mark Johnston-trained horse to bounce back after a modest run and he is only 3lbs higher than when scoring at Musselburgh last month.
Recent Ripon winner Wotabreeze (5.30) has little in hand of third home Regal Mirage (2lbs better off) at the revised weights but I feel John Quinn’s gelding won with a bit up his sleeve and, if the ground remains fast, I think he can follow up in the finale.
It is perhaps significant that Perfect Quest (7.20) won first time out last season for Clive Cox and his mare makes a belated reappearance at Nottingham this evening. The selection only beat one home in her last two starts, but first time out might be the chance to catch her and connections obviously feel it is worth persevering with her as a five-year-old.
Dual winning Bumper horse Scottsdale (8.50) makes his handicap debut trip having cut little ice in three maidens on the level. He should appreciate stepping up in trip tonight and looked potentially smart when a defying a penalty at score at Perth back in July.
Ralph Beckett, at the time of writing, has had four seconds from his last five runners but I hope he can strike gold in the finale at Windsor courtesy of Rock Eagle (9.00) who won over C&D on debut before going down by a head to a John Gosden horse who made all in receipt of 7lbs.
A high draw over sprint distances has not been that much of a disadvantage at Windsor so far this summer, and Australian jockey James McDonald – back from a recent 18-month ban – takes the ride on Implicit (6.30) a filly who has shown real pace in her two starts to date – including when third over C&D on debut – and can make it third time lucky. The suggestion would be something to bet on if you felt she would be more amenable to restraint than has been the case on her first two starts.
The selection carries a 7lbs penalty again tonight, but this doesn’t look the strongest of novice events. One horse who I feel is open to significant improvement is Imperial Court – too green to do himself justice on debut - and he should appreciate stepping up in trip. It is possible that he is more of a horse to consider once handicapping, but a check of the market is recommended.
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