15:05 Ascot

Cowardofthecounty, 1pt E/W, 5/1, 5 places

The Group 2 Coventry Stakes looks like a cracker, with potential littered everywhere you look, but I’m quite keen to side with Joseph O’Brien’s pair here, who both have great chances.

The first one is COWARDOFTHECOUNTY (best price 5/1), who was an impressive debutant winner at the Curragh when beating subsequent winner and current Norfolk Stakes favourite Whistlejacket. 

The latter is held in high regard by his handler, so the fact that Joseph’s charge was able to power through the line as strongly as he did and score by two and a half lengths suggested he could be top-class.

This stiffer finish and better ground should suit him, and he’s deliberately been saved for this race, so being the choice of Declan McMonagle, there’s a lot to like about his chances. 

Five places are widely available.

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Midnight Strike, 0.5 pts E/W, 25/1, 5 places

MIDNIGHT STRIKE (best price 25/1), also trained by Joseph O’Brien, has strangely been overlooked in the market for the Coventry Stakes and could be set to outrun his odds, with Oisin Murphy catching the eye in the saddle. 

He made a bright start to his career when he finished powerfully to score over five furlongs on his debut at the Curragh on testing ground before finishing a close-up third in the Group 3 Marble Hill Stakes over six at the same course when last seen. 

After travelling well into the race, he was briefly outpaced before knuckling down well and almost getting on terms with the front pair, gaining ground with every stride. That looked like a hot race for the class, and my suggestion is that this course will bring about improvement.

It seems like Cowardofthecounty is the stable’s main hope for the race, but he is by no means out of this, with arguably the strongest piece of form on offer. With various firms paying five places, it would come as no surprise to see him competitive. 

Five places are widely available.

15:45 Royal Ascot

Rogue Lightning, 0.5 pts E/W, 12/1, 4 places 

The King Charles III Stakes, known to most as the King’s Stand, is the first big-sprint race of the week. Mick Appleby’s Big Evs, who was impressive on his return at York, will be looking to bag a second Group 1 win of his career.

However, he will face stern opposition, including Tom Clover’s ROGUE LIGHTNING (best price 12/1). This four-year-old improved with every run last year, completing a hat-trick of wins between July and September prior to finishing an excellent fifth of 18 in the Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp. 

With a clear run, I’m convinced he would have won, as he was only beaten by just over a length after being denied a run twice. He will be all-the-better from his comeback sixth in the Temple Stakes at Haydock and could be set to give the favourite plenty to think about.

Four places are widely available. 

16:25 Royal Ascot

Unquestionable, 0.5 pts E/W, 33/1

Notable Speech was deeply impressive when winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on his turf debut and will be hard to beat, but, at a huge price, the outsider of the field, UNQUESTIONABLE (best price 33/1) could easily make the frame. 

Let’s not forget that Aidan O’Brien’s charge concluded last season with Group 1 success in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita and should come on plenty from his solid return fourth in the Irish 2000 Guineas. He travelled very well in that race before a lack of a run told. 

He was well adrift of Rosallion at the finish, but the winner had a fitness advantage, and as we saw last year when he was a one-length second to that same horse in the Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, he isn’t a million miles away on form.

Henry Longfellow is the stable’s main hopeful, being the choice of Ryan Moore, but he’s a Group 1 winner in his own right and has more to come. At a double-figure price, I can see him exceeding market expectations with no fitness issue this time. 

Rosallion, 1pt WIN, 4/1

ROSALLION (best price 4/1) got himself out of jail when getting up late to take the Irish 2000 Guineas last time out, and despite needing to turn Newmarket form around with Notable Speech, I think he can do that here, with course form in his locker. 

Richard Hannon’s dual Group 1 winner was conceding fitness to Charlie Appleby’s charge at Newmarket and did well to be beaten less than two lengths. I’m pretty optimistic that this course winner can reverse the form here, and he is a great price to do so. 

17:05 Ascot

Zanndabad, 1pt WIN, 4/1

ZANNDABAD (best price 4/1) encountered serious traffic difficulties in the Chester Cup but still came within a whisker of clinching victory as he finished third and must be considered a major player from only a 2Ib higher mark here. 

This extra yardage should be right up his street given how well he finished that race off last time out, and William Buick is a notable jockey booking too. This five-year-old has bundles more to come for this stable and appears to have been aimed at this race. 

He’s done little wrong in all three starts this year, and he comes out very well at the weights in this contest.

This Irish raider ticks plenty of boxes and has to be the bet in this race. 

Tritonic, 0.5 pts E/W, 14/1, 5 places 

Alan King’s TRITONIC (best price 14/1) has posted some excellent efforts in defeat in big-field handicaps, including in this race twelve months ago when third off a 5Ib higher mark, and must have a great chance of improving on that this year. 

His fitness should be bang-on now after a couple of spins on the all-weather, and his record around this venue is very solid. He is very versatile and is reunited with Rossa Ryan. With most bookmakers paying five places, he makes plenty of each-way appeal. 

17:40 Ascot

Israr, 2pts WIN, 7/2

My best bet of the day is ISRAR (best price 7/2) (NAP) in the Wolferton Stakes, who should be a clear favourite and can prove his rating is worthy by outclassing this field now dropped in grade under Jim Crowley. 

This five-year-old absolutely battered former Derby winner Adayar in a Group 2 race last year, and although he’s returned as a beaten favourite in both starts this season, he’s done very little wrong in each of those. 

He looked the most likely winner on his return in the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes, where he cruised to the lead and appeared as though he was going to bolt up but floundered in the final 100 yards and was headed near the line. 

Following that run, he contested the Group 2 Huxley Stakes at Chester and made a good fist of it with Passenger, where again he was only headed late on, beaten a length and a half, with the front two well clear of the third-place horse. 

This represents an ease in grade, and he will face no horse of that calibre here. There will be lots of pace on, which will suit, and he’s rated 3Ib higher and more than the field, so if he can perform to his best, he should be too good for these. 

18:15 Ascot

Beamish, 0.5 pts E/W, 25/1, 5 places 

The finale on the opening day has an extremely competitive look to it, but Archie Watson’s BEAMISH (best price 25/1) could offer some value at a huge price, having shaped with promise on stable debut last time out. 

He developed into a smart stayer when formerly trained in Ireland, winning his first three starts before running really well to finish third in a pair of Group 3 races. He underperformed on his final start, finishing sixth at the Curragh after being sent off as the favourite.

However, he performed well for a long way under a monster weight on his stable debut when last seen, and he makes his handicap bow here with cheekpieces fitted. They could bring out improvement, and if they do, he could go well with five places widely on offer.