Our horse racing expert Andy Holding has seven tips for Day 1 of Royal Ascot.
14:30 Royal Ascot
Palace Pier lines up here one of the bankers of the meeting – certainly the shortest-priced favourite – and while fully expecting him to win, he makes little appeal as a betting medium unless buying money at 2-5 is your thing. The market without the favourite, however, is a little more vibrant and the one who makes the most appeal based on his suitability to racing over today’s stiff mile is SIR BUSKER (best price 9-1).
William Knight’s gelding first proved his real true worth over the Berkshire track when landing the hugely competitive Silver Hunt Cup at last year’s meeting, and following that breakthrough success, he became a regular feature in pretty much most of the season’s big mile handicaps. Working his way through the ranks to the heady heights of 111, the son of Sir Prancealot rounded off the campaign with a career-high performance when finishing a creditable fourth in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes of Quipco Champions Day and considering today’s favourite, Palace Pier, was only half-a-length ahead of him that day, it puts into context the level of improvement he showed in a such a short space of time. Although not quite at that level just yet based on his two starts so far this season, there has been mitigating circumstances attached to both efforts and with the very strong prospect of him ridden with a view to picking up the pieces late on, he rates the one most likely to outrun his rating/morning odds.
15:05 Royal Ascot
As ever, a fascinating opening juvenile contest of the week, made even more so with the inclusion of American filly Kaufymaker added to the list of possible winners, but despite her compelling claims, there’s more than a fair chance the prize will remain on home soil in the shape of DHABAB (best price 5-1).
Well touted prior to his debut at Leicester two weeks ago, John and Thady Gosden’s colt took a while to fully engage to the task at hand, but once he’d overcome his early greenness he really started to crank through the gears and by the time he’d hit the line, he’d completed the six-furlong journey in a sparkling time figure. Very strong in the concluding part of that race at the Midland venue, the son of No Nay Never left the impression there could be considerably more to come as he gains further experience and with a run style that strongly suggests he’s unlikely to have anything to do with the early gallop here this afternoon, his irresistible finishing effort on his opening bow, if repeated, will hopefully prove to be the telling factor in this stiffer examination.
16:20 Royal Ascot
The big question here is can 2000 Guineas winner Poetic Flare maintain the levels of form he showed since hitting the ground running back in April. Clearly made of stern stuff, if any horse can pull it off, Jim Bolger’s gallant colt can, but that’s not to suggest he’s any sort of good thing either, and in any case, there appears to be a couple of dangerous floaters hidden in the midst in the shape of recent Heron Stakes first and third, MOSTAHDAF (best price 17-2) and HIGHLAND AVENUE (best price 8-1).
That Sandown race proved the ideal stepping stone for John Gosden’s Without Parole three years ago and based on the date produced 26 days ago, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility the son of Frankel will follow suit. Held up in the rear at the Esher track, the imposing colt made his move down the outside in the home straight and with a sustained and determined effort, he managed to battle on gamely for the guts of two furlongs to notch his biggest and most notable success to date. Considering his two previous performances suggested he might prefer a sound surface, his display deserved extra credence, and with a profile and physique to suggest there could be plenty more to come, a chance is taken on him really coming of age.
The latter was a little more established going into the Sandown heat, but he still came out of the race with an equal amount of credit and back on his favoured fast ground, he too can shine in this deeper environment. Good visually and on the clock in the listed Fielden Stakes at Newmarket back in April, Charlie Appleby’s grey was well-backed to complete the four-timer despite reservations about the ground and although those slight question marks ended up being justified, he still only went under by half-a-length and was going on strong at the finish. Drawn out towards the outside here today, life won’t be easy for him during the early exchanges, but providing he can be slotted in amongst the pack, there’s a fair chance on ability alone, he will prove to be a big player at the business end.
17:35 Royal Ascot
Quite a few possibilities in this wide-open listed contest, but both SOLID STONE (best price 11-2) and BLUE CUP (best price 15-2) have enough solid credentials to warrant small interests against the field.
The former has made a bright start to the campaign, mainly highlighted by his dominant display at Windsor last time out, and although he may have benefitted slightly from racing up the favoured nearside fence, the time figure he produced still suggests he ran to a massively high level regardless. Prior to that career-high performance. Sir Michael Stoute’s gelding had shaped with promise over today’s straight mile and with that effort going alongside his fine second to Njord in the big handicap run on Champions Day back here in October, it’s also clear he handles vagaries of the Berkshire course.
The latter is a far more complex character, but nonetheless just as talented, as he proved last time out at Epsom. Coming off the back of a modest effort at York when he pre-race antics got the better of him, a hood was issued for the first time in order to kerb his enthusiasm and as it turned out, the choice of headgear proved an inspired decision. Settling nicely towards the rear, David Menuisier’s gelding came through to challenge going best of all just over a furlong out and without too much pressure exerted, he pulled readily clear. Clocking not only a fast overall time figure at the Surrey venue, the son of Kendargent ran the back end of the race quicker than the likes of Pyledriver and Snowfall, and those findings strongly suggest he throughout deserves his place in today’s field. Likely to be given a similar patient ride – which are usually the favoured tactics on the round track at this venue – he should turn out to be a big player at the business end if he settles well.
18:10 Royal Ascot
ARTHURIAN FABLE (best price 17-2) was given a nice introduction to his campaign with a encouraging effort at Newmarket last time out and with today’s 1m6f journey his optimum conditions based on all previous data, Brian Meehan’s gelding is fancied to better his finishing position at this meeting last year.
Sent off a well-backed 17-2 chance in the hugely-competitive King George V Handicap twelve months ago, the four-year-old chestnut acquitted himself with great credit by finishing a close-up fifth behind Hukum and after that solid performance, he went on to run well in practically every other race he contested. Although he has a little to find with Global Storm on their recent encounter at HQ, the feeling is that today’s faster ground will bring them closer together and, providing Jim Crowley can carve himself a nice passage around the inside and get out at the suitable moment, the son of Sea The Stars has every chance of being bang there at the finish.