Royal Ascot Day 1
Queen Anne Stakes 14.30: 1 – #3 Lope Y Fernandez 2 – #7 Pogo 3 – #10 Sir Busker
A superb Group 1 to start off the week. This looks to be all about hot favourite Palace Pier who looks a cut above the rest. However, for these odds on shots, I am happy to go against and a couple of reasons that he may underperform – firstly, its the quickest ground he has encountered and secondly, he has run on this straight mile before in the QE2 last year where he ran well below expectations. There is a slight chance he may get boxed in and not get the run of the race.
The pace of the race is interesting and there are not too many that will want to make it. In this void, I can see Pogo taking it up and can possibly give us a great run for our money at a massive price. He will love the fast ground and really likes it when he can dictate on his own.
My top pick though is the mercurial Lope Y Fernandez who will absolutely relish the return to fast ground, the muddling pace should be no issue and on this ground he can use his turn of foot and possibly get first run on Palace Pier. Heffernan riding him is a plus here as he gets on very well with him.
Rounding off the top 3 is Ascot specialist Sir Busker who will enjoy the track and while he hasn’t set things alight this year, I believe he needed the first run and the second were against him from race dynamics.
If we can get the favourite beaten in the first it can set us up for a great week!
Coventry Stakes 15.05: 1 – #12 The Acropolis 2 – #2 Berkshire Shadow 3 – #16 Vintage Clarets
The best 2yo race as second up. It is full of promising unexposed colts (and Kaufymaker, the only filly) so have to do plenty of projections and see where we land. I am happy to leave Wesley off my ticket – he’s dominated these juvenile races but generally, he has bossed the 5f races rather than 6f and this is the one race all other trainers here want to win so they target their best stock here.
First up is The Acropolis, Coolmore’s only runner and an impressive winner in Listowel last time. He is drawn next to Kaufymaker so likely to get a good tow into the race and should finish it off strongly.
Second is Berkshire Shadow who was visually very impressive on debut, falling out of the gates but gradually got into the race and the further they went (only 5f), the better he was – he should be fine with trip / ground.
Finally, at a bigger price, Vintage Clarets has progressed with each run and he has beaten some useful yardsticks.
King’s Stand Stakes 15.40: 1 – #1 Arecibo 2 – #4 Harry’s Bar 3 – #12 Liberty Beach
Battaash is the horse to start with – the star sprinter but lots of reasons to be against him. He is drifting out to be a reasonable price but happy to look elsewhere as the race dynamics will likely not favour him and it has been well documented that he suffered an injury during the winter so he may need this race.
On paper, there appears to be a ton of pace so I am focusing on hold up horses who may just pick up the pieces. First up is Arecibo who will be a massive price but is a strong traveler and has just the man (Jamie Spencer) on board for this mission. He may not be good enough, but race dynamics may bring him into it.
Next up would have been Extravagant Kid for Brendan Walsh / Frankier Dettori – he’s shown that he likes a straight track when winning in Dubai (form a little questionable) but he should get plenty of pace to run into – the price has really corrected itself so happy to leave alone now.
Similar comments apply to Harry’s Bar – he’s won plenty of times over 5f but has been running over longer more recently but I think he will finish very well and could shock everyone!
Lastly, if there is a horse who can stay on the hot end, I think it will be Liberty Beach who I think will settle better with more pace and has shown herself to be very good filly.
St James’s Palace 16.20: 1 – #11 Poetic Flare 2 – #6 Lucky Vega 3 – #1 Battleground
The big race of the day for the 3yo colts and a big battle between the Guineas form / Irish horses / developing UK horses. I am happy to stick with a trio of Irish horses here.
Top pick is Poetic Flare who has the form in the book and a mile on any ground is fine. There might not be too much improvement left in him, but he sets a strong benchmark for others to achieve.
Second choice is Lucky Vega who should be more at home on this track than Newmarket or The Curragh – we know he stays the mile well and Shane Foley is in with a great shot of his first Royal Ascot winner.
Lastly, I will keep Battleground on side to redeem himself after the poor Guineas run. He was very well backed in favouritism that day but ran no race. Some horses just don’t like Newmarket. Back to a track that we know suits, he could easily bounce back.
Ascot Stakes 17.00: 1 – #18 Just Hubert 2 – #1 Cape Gentleman 3 – #8 M C Muldoon
This 2m4 races brings an eclectic mix of all kinds here. Starting point has to be Willie Mullins who has such a great record in the race. He was banned (due to Covid restrictions) from a runner last year but he is back with 3 shots this year. Most likely is Ryan Moore’s mount M C Muldoon who has looked decent over hurdles this year and looks to be the most fancied of his runners.
I am more intrigued by his nephew Emmet’s runner Cape Gentleman. He was one of the best hurdlers but wasn’t the most fluent jumpers so will appreciate a return to the flat. He has already won over in the UK this year (albeit over jumps) and the supremely gifted Rachael Blackmore takes the ride. It would be something for her to add a Royal Ascot winner to her Grand National and Cheltenham heroics.
However, my confident top choice is Just Hubert for recent Group 1 winners trainer combination William Muir and Chris Grassick. Trip and ground will be just right and when many are crying off, he will keep staying and staying with the very astute Danny Tudhope on board.
Wolferton Stakes 17.35: 1 – #13 Patrick Sarsfield 2 – #9 Felix 3 – #10 Fox Tal
This race has a history of unearthing a good Group 1 winner so it pays to focus on quality. Therefore, the natural starting point is Patrick Sarsfield for the inform Joseph O’Brien team. He found Group 1 performers Skalleti and Barney Roy just too good for him last year but that level should have in the mix. His reappearance was decent and I think he is sitting on a big run and showcase his true Group 1 capabilities.
Similar comments apply (but we get a slightly bigger price) to Felix who appears to have improved hand over first over the winter, culminating in a very respectable 3rd to Lord North in Dubai. Sometimes you have to treat Dubai form with a little caution but happy to be on him and see if he can make his mark.
Lastly, Fox Tal has the potential to run a big race if he can settle well. The ground and trip is fine and he may need to be delivered late but for a horse that got within 4 lengths of Magical over this course and distance and went off a well supported second favourite for this race last year, we are getting a bit of value.
Copper Horse Stakes 18.10: 1 – #15 Arthurian Fable 2 – #12 Global Storm 3 – #6 Sleeping Lion
Like the Ascot stakes, the starting point is Willie Mullins. He runs Saldier here, a very good hurdler and he comes here on the back of an impressive win over 1m5f in Listowel just 9 days ago. I think the quick turnaround and big increase in quality is enough for me to leave him alone.
Top pick is Brian Meehan’s Arthurian Fable who looks certain to relish the fast ground and will come on bundles from his reappearance. He ran well at Royal Ascot last year and this trip / ground / race set up looks perfect.
I will be keen to keep Charlie Appleby’s Global Storm on side as again he looks to tick many boxes.
I want to also include Sleeping Lion (Nick Luck’s Best of the Day) who won impressively on the all weather on his first start this year but also has good form on quick turf.