2:30 QUEEN ANNE STAKES
Ribchester is a deserving favourite for the opening race of Royal Ascot and he will have plenty of supporters looking to get their week off to a flyer. Richard Fahey’s four-year-old was really impressive in the Lockinge, where he beat Lightning Spear, his nearest market rival today, by three and a half lengths and for sure he is the one to beat today.
However he is a short price and that victory was achieved on soft ground, so perhaps his margin of superiority was exaggerated on the day. At the prices I’d suggest having a go with William Haggas’s Mutakayyef, who progressed into a Group 1 horse last season and who will have conditions to suit at a course he likes.
SELECTION: MUTAKAYYEF NEXT BEST: RIBCHESTER
3:05 COVENTRY STAKES
A wide-open Coventry Stakes, traditionally the strongest juvenile race of the meeting. Jessica Harrington houses the favourite Brother Bear who, on just two runs, has already proved his versatility by winning on fast ground on his debut at Leopardstown and then taking the Listed Marble Hill Stakes impressively on soft ground at the Curragh.
He should go close but a horse that he beat at the Curragh, Aqabah, is worth consideration in his bid to turn the tables. Charlie Appleby’s colt struggled on the soft ground at the Curragh and had previously impressed when winning his maiden at Ascot, in a really good time. Another to note is Ken Condon’s Romanised, who had subsequent impressive winner Declarationofpeace (favourite for the Windsor Castle Stakes later on this card) behind him in third.
SELECTION: AQABAH NEXT BEST: ROMANISED
3:40 KING’S STAND STAKES
No horse was more impressive than Lady Aurelia at Royal Ascot last season and Wesley Ward’s filly returns to Berkshire a year later as favourite for the King’s Stand Stakes. However there is no doubt that she has a lot more on her plate now, taking on the older horses as a three-year-old and, at the prices, I’d rather take a chance on French raider Signs Of Blessing, who impressed winning at Deauville where he clocked a very good time on his previous run.
Marsha is another who impressed on the clock on her most recent appearance, where she held off Washington DC in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes at Newmarket. Sir Mark Prescott’s filly won the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly last season and may well have improved from the age of three to four.
SELECTION: SIGNS OF BLESSING NEXT BEST: MARSHA
Churchill is out to add another Group 1 to his CV
4:20 ST JAMES’S PALACE STAKES
A lot of people will be happy to side with Barney Roy in his rematch with Churchill. There was a suggestion that the Godolphin horse, along with the third, Al Wukair, was unlucky in the 2000 Guineas and he has the scope to improve again now. To these eyes, Churchill looked well on top in Newmarket and has since enhanced his profile further with a more impressive display in the Irish 2000 Guineas, where he beat another of today’s rivals Thunder Snow very easily on soft ground. He’s a short price but he deserves to be and he is taken to go and win again.
Lancaster Bomber looks a decent each-way proposition in an eight-runner field. He finished a highly creditable fourth behind Churchill at Newmarket and then, in all likelihood, failed to handle the ground when reopposing his stablemate at the Curragh. He will probably set the pace and so could be in a decent position to nick second or third.
SELECTION: CHURCHILL NEXT BEST: LANCASTER BOMBER
5:00 ASCOT STAKES
Willie Mullins’s Thomas Hobson has been all the rage with punters for this race since Ryan Moore was booked to ride last week. Moore has combined with Mullins to win this race twice in the last five seasons and would appear to have a good chance of adding a third winner on the Susannah Ricci-owned gelding, who is rated 150 over hurdles and races here off a flat mark of 100.
However there are plenty of horses with similar profiles and at the prices I’d rather side with Beyond Conceit. Previously trained by Andrew Balding when last seen racing on the flat in 2013, the son of Galileo joined Nicky Henderson at the beginning of the jumps season last year and performed with real credit on each of his for runs. He comes into this off a career best, having finished second to The World’s End in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, and he can race here off a mark of 92.
SELECTION: BEYOND CONCEIT NEXT BEST: THOMAS HOBSON
Beyond Conceit (left) stayed on well to finish second to The World's End (right) at Aintree
5:35 WINDSOR CASTLE STAKES
This five-furlong contest is a bit of a minefield with a lot of horses having only their second or third runs. Aidan O’Brien has the favourite in Declarationofpeace, who won impressively at Dundalk, setting a good time in the process on his previous run. However this is the race in which Wesley Ward's love affair with Royal Ascot began when Strike The Tiger won in 2009. The US trainer was successful again in 2014 with Hootenanny and is double-handed in his bid to win it for a third time with Elizabeth Darcy and Nootka Sound.
Ward reported last week that there was very little between the pair and so a tentative vote is given to Elizabeth Darcy who will be ridden with more restraint which may well serve her well in a race of this nature.
SELECTION: ELIZABETH DARCY NEXT BEST: DECLARATIONOFPEACE
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