2.30 Ascot

The key race to outcome of traditional curtain-raiser at the Royal meeting is usually the Lockinge Stakes run at Newbury, so the logical approach has to be to play BELARDO (best price 9-2) and ENDLESS DRAMA (best price 7-1) against the field, who were first and third at the Berkshire venue. The former, who had a difficult season as a three-year-old, seems to be right on top of his game at present and he certainly had to be in order to overcome such a tardy start in that Group 1 on his latest outing 31 days ago. Off the back of very strong fractions set by the pace-setting Barcham, the son of Lope De Vega did remarkably well to make up the lost ground he forfeited in the early stages and in the end, he ran out a comfortable and well-deserved winner. Having proven solid C&D form in the bag when runner-up to Solow in the QE2 Stakes towards the backend of last season, the recent rainfall at the track couldn’t have come at a better time for his chances and with another strong race almost certain courtesy of Barcham being used as the sacrificial lamb, Roger Varian’s charge clearly has plenty in his favour.

Endless Drama is easily one of the most talented horses in the line-up and as he proved at Newbury and the Irish 2000 Guineas last season, he can mix it with the very best when on-song. Whether he truly sees out a strongly-run mile is still open to debate, but there’s little doubt nothing will be going better with two furlongs to run and for those that like to play on the in-running markets, you should be able to lock in a profit on Ger Lyon’s charge before stamina becomes an issue.
Belardo - 1pt e/w @ 9/2Placed 0.1pt
ENDLESS DRAMA - 0.5pt @ 7/1Lost -0.5pt

5.00 Ascot

National Hunt trainers have had their fair share of success in this staying contest over the years and there’s every chance jump’s boys may well plundered this prize again, with the likes of JENNIES JEWEL (best price 8-1) and SEMPRE MEDICI best price 8-1) making most appeal. The former has been a grand servant for her small Irish outfit over many seasons and she still seems to be thriving on her racing on the evidence of her last two starts. A gallant runner-up to One Track Mind in the Grade 1 3m contest at the Punchestown Festival, Jarlath Fahey’s inmate took advantage of a very lenient handicap mark on returning to the flat at the Curragh last time out and with the ground very much coming in her favour in the last few days, this consistent and likeable mare looks destined to provide her connections with another great thrill. The latter hails from a yard that have the taste for this race in recent times and they appear to have another strong hand with the son of Medicean. A dual Grade 2 winner over hurdles in recent times, Willie Mullins’ inmate was by no means disgraced behind stable mate Vroum Vroum Mag in a Grade 1 at Punchestown last time out and off a mark 2lb lower than his last performance on the Flat this twelve months ago, he has every chance of providing his colourful owner with another reason to splash out on an expensive suit.
JENNIES JEWEL - 1pt e/w @ 8/1Won 10pt
SEMPRE MEDICI - 1pt e/w @ 8/1Lost -2pt

5.35 Ascot

As ever, Wesley Ward’s runners have to be feared in all two-year-old races at this fixture, so Big City Dreamin has to be respected, but MISTER TRADER (NAP) (best price 8-1) is one of the few juveniles in the line-up who has run a big speed figure on soft ground, and that is why the Irish raider makes the most appeal on the early quotes. Winner of the first juvenile contest on the opening day of the Irish Flat season at the Curragh back in March, Darren Bunyan’s charge was the only horse to offer any kind of resistance to the very smart Carravaggio in the listed Marble Hill Stakes back over the same C&D on his latest outing. A proper pacy sort on the evidence of his first two outings, the son of Hellvelyn has the kind of all-round speed to make use of his potentially favoured far-side draw and if Aidan O’Brien’s market leader were to land the Coventry earlier on the card, odds of 8-1 would be a distant memory.
MISTER TRADER - 1pt e/w @ 8/1Lost -2pt

6.00 Roscommon

DERULO (best price 7-2) clocked a decent speed figure when landing a maiden hurdle at Down Royal on his first start over hurdles 43 days ago and he’s strongly fancied to justify the confidence of him going in again. A useful 82-rated performer when trained by Andrew Balding’s during his days on the Flat, the son of Arakan impressed by the way he took to the winter game at the Ulster venue – jumping well in the main – and with the third home that day, Delegate, going on to advertise the form next time, Liz Doyle’s charge can hopefully follow suit.
DERULO - 1pt @ 7/2Lost -1pt