Royal Ascot 2018 – Day 1

2.30pm Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1) 1m

One of the best races of the week kicks us off and it seemed far easier to solve last year with Ribchester landing the spoils, it looks a lot tougher this time around though. Lockinge winner Rhododendron heads the market and rightly so after her narrow victory in that race, as good as she is and the fact that the third, Lancaster Bomber, has franked that form in the Tattersalls Gold Cup since are all positives, I’m not convinced a short-head win over Lightning Spear is quite good enough to win this. Rhododendron obviously has very strong back form in the Guineas and Oaks from last year and in winning the Prix de l’Opera, the stiff nature of this track should suit her but I think she’s at her best at 1m2f, for that reason I’m taking her on. Yoshida is an interesting raider from across the pond given he beat multiple Group 1 winner Beach Patrol last time out, but this is another step up for him. Benbatl has had a break since his successful time in Dubai and he’ll be primed for this and he shouldn’t have any problems coming back to a mile. But the one that interests me most is Recoletos. I can’t help but think they may have been running him over the wrong trip last season and I think he can stamp his mark on the mile division, he’s 2 from 2 this season with the first of those wins coming over this trip where he readily put away Group 2 winners in pretty comfortable style showing good pace. Latterly he gained his first Group 1 by winning the Prix d’Ispahan, he beat Almodovar that day so the bare form would need improving upon, but I like how he gets down and lengthens his stride and tries hard. His run in the Champion Stakes behind Cracksman in October really caught my eye on desperate ground, he travelled arguably like the best horse and hit the front of the chasing pack when Cracksman was long gone but I don’t think he saw the trip out and lost two places to Poet’s Word and Highland Reel late on, but there is no disgrace in that. So dropping back in trip could play right into his hands over this stiff mile, the quick ground is a slight unknown but I think his price is more than fair and I’m willing to take a chance that he’ll handle the ground.

Advice – Recoletos 1pt Win (11/2)

3.05pm Coventry Stakes (Group 2) 6f

24 go to post for the Coventry this year and it’s often the best two year old race of the week, this year looks no different given the calibre of some of the entrants. The betting would suggest it’s a straight fight between Sergei Prokofiev and Calyx, the former has been seriously impressive in winning his last two starts and there is no telling just how good he might be. That comment can also be said for Calyx who destroyed a field on his debut at Newmarket with previous winner Octave 5 lengths adrift in second and the rest of their rivals a further 6 lengths back. To be honest I’m finding if very difficult to split them, so I’m not going to try. But I do think Blown By Wind can outrun his odds at a massive price. Mark Johnston is never afraid to keep his two year olds going and Blown By Wind has already had 4 runs, all over 5f and he’s won 2 of them, including at this track. Cardsharp had a similar profile before running a big race in the Norfolk last year and I think this colt could be similar. Blown By Wind was drawn very wide in the National Stakes at Sandown when last seen and that is far from ideal on that track, but he still ran well to be fourth. His trainer feels he’ll take a step forward for the extra furlong here and I agree, he’s a half-brother to a pair of mile winners but as he’s by Invincible Spirit, sprinting will be his game. The yards horses are always so tough and given his experience and decent level of form he’s shown so far, I think he’s far too big of a price and is definitely worth a stab at getting in the places.

Advice – Blown By Wind 0.5pts Each Way (40/1, 5 Places SkyBet)

3.40pm King’s Stand Stakes (Group 1) 5f

Possibly the clash of the festival, Battaash and Lady Aurelia lock horns in what will be a ferocious speed battle. The likes of Kachy and Gifted Master will likely set off at a scorching pace and it’ll be one of the races of the meeting. I am in the Lady Aurelia camp, I wouldn’t worry so much about her underwhelming reappearance at Keeneland as everything for her will be geared towards this race. She just loves Ascot and her two performances here have been nothing short of mind blowing. I’d have a big worry about Battaash getting worked up before the start, the atmosphere will be electric and he got worked up before the Nunthorpe last year and with an even bigger fanfare at Ascot, that would be a huge red flag for me. If you’re backing him then I’d be waiting until he’s got down to the start and is going in the stalls. Lady Aurelia has been there and done it, we know how good she is and I’m hoping for another electrifying display from Wesley Wards filly.

Advice – Lady Aurelia 2pts Win (2/1)

4.20pm St James’s Palace Stakes (Group 1) 1m

The last of the Group 1s on Tuesday and Irish 2000 Guineas winner Romanised will be aiming to follow up that win for Ken Condon and Shane Foley. US Navy Flag and Gustav Klimt will be looking to get their seasons back on track with another win for Aidan O’Brien and also Wootton was slightly disappointing in the French 2000 Guineas but he has to be feared. But the one I’m with is John Gosdens unbeaten colt Without Parole. A 6 length winner in both of his first two starts, with the latter a brilliant time figure and the second from that race having scored a handicap easily since, he looks destined for the top. His trainer said that he missed a piece of work prior to his win in the Heron Stakes on ground that wouldn’t have been ideal for him, so the fact he still won that race is testament to his ability. With a smooth preparation and back on quick ground I think he’ll prove himself to be right out of the top drawer.

Advice – Without Parole 2pts Win (11/4)

5.00pm Ascot Stakes (Class 2) 2m4f

Not one of the best races of the week, but nevertheless I think there is a good bet in it. Willie Mullins has a strong hand and a case can be made for all his runners, however I think Coeur De Lion can run a big race for Alan King following his close effort in the Chester Plate. He came from quite a long way back that day and only lost out by a neck while closing all the way to the line, that was over 2m2½f and I think this slightly longer trip will suit him down to the ground. Harley and King have a 23% strike rate when teaming up together this year and I’d be surprised if they don’t go close in this.

Advice – Coeur De Lion 1pt Each Way (15/2, 1/4 odds, 4 Places, Ladbrokes)

5.35pm Wolferton Stakes (Listed) 1m2f

This is a Listed race by name but certainly not by nature, with plenty of highly talented horses in the line up with 9 of them rated 110 or higher. I’m taking two against the field in the hope that I’ll get a couple of good runs for my money and hopefully a winner in the process. The first is Mirage Dancer, a typical slow burner for Sir Michael Stoute I think he’ll come into his own as a four year old and he’s started his campaign very well. A close second to Barsanti on seasonal return is working out very well with the third Salouen pushing Cracksman right to the post in the Coronation Cup and the fourth, God Given, winning a Group 3 since. Mirage Dancer then won at fine style in Goodwood, that was over 1m4f so he drops in trip for this, but he ran well over course and distance in the Hampton Court Stakes last season and given that he’s an improved animal, I believe he can go well in this before contesting Group races again. The second one I like is Yucatan, I’m convinced we haven’t seen the best of him yet. He has form tying in closely with Irish Derby and St Leger winner Capri and his run in the Coronation Cup was too bad to be true. He drops to this level for the first time since his maiden win and first-time cheekpieces are an interesting addition.

Advice – Mirage Dancer 1pt Win (13/2), Yucatan 1pt Win (12/1)

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