Ascot was hit with 10mls of rain on Monday evening and the ground changed to good to soft with the prospect of further showers – some heavy – during the course of the meeting.

My column below for the opening day was written with good/good to firm ground in mind as per the forecast and I feel the weather has scuppered the chances of Lavender’s Blue in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes. I will certainly be monitoring the times of the opening races and suggest you do the same. William Haggas must be kicking the cat this morning as the overnight rain would have been music to the ears of his Miss O’Connor but she has been scratched having had an abnormal blood count!.

Royal Ascot 2020 begins with the 7f Buckingham Palace Handicap a race that looked consigned to the scrap heap when it was dropped back in 2015 to make way for the Group 1 3-year-old sprint the Commonwealth Cup. 

There is the possibility of showers throughout the meeting, but clerk of the course Chris Stickels suggested on Sunday that conditions on the opening day were likely to be a mix of good and good to firm ground.

Daarik has never beaten a horse on turf having finished last of 10 on his sole juvenile race at Nottingham over two years ago. He is unbeaten, however, in two starts over today’s 7f trip and impressed when scoring at Newcastle in a good time on tapeta earlier in the month. After just five career starts, he is open to further improvement and King Of Ascot Frankie Dettori takes over in the saddle. He is the most likely winner but at 9/2 he makes little appeal.

The first Group 1 of the meeting is the Queen Anne Stakes over a Mile for 4-year-olds and upwards. Circus Maximus heads the market and he was a duel Group 1 winning miler last term including a win in this corresponding meeting 12 months ago when landing the St James’s Palace Stakes over the round mile.

I thought Plumatic travelled like the best horse before tiring on his reappearance at Chantilly having his first start for Francis-Henri Graffard. The trainer fits the five-year-old with a first-time tongue-tie today and the booking of Oisin Murphy catches the eye. Terebellum should not be inconvenienced by the drop back to a mile having won the 10f Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket earlier in the month in the manner of an exceptionally good filly.

The each way vote, however, goes to Duke Of Hazzard (1.50) who is unbeaten in three starts since the application of blinkers those wins coming in listed, Group 3 and Group 2 company. Paul and Oliver Cole’s 4-y-old certainly deserves a crack at the top table and 10/1 five places with William Hill is a fair price in what looks a moderate renewal of this great race.

John Gosden has saddled the winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes twice in the last three years and he saddles three of the 12-runner field including two of the market leaders courtesy of Miss Yoda and Frankly Darling (2.25) and the latter has been my fancy for this event since she ran away from her field in a 10f Maiden at Newcastle on the opening day of the season. Frankie Dettori takes over in the saddle today in what is, for the first time, a trial for the Oaks given the fillies’ classic will be run in July because of the covid-19 pandemic.

Born With Pride is obviously better than she showed at Kempton when she found things happening far too quickly on that tight track from a poor draw. This step up in trip will suit but I am quite Frankly in the Darling camp and will be disappointed if she does not run a big race despite her lack of experience.  At the time of writing the filly is a best-priced 7/4 with bet365.

Aidan O’Brien’s Mogul (3.00) was no match for Kameko in the Vertem Futurity at Newcastle when his finishing effort was tame for a colt whose pedigree suggests he should have been staying on stoutly at the end of that stiff mile. A brother to the stable’s top class Japan he is taken to get his career back on track in the King Edward VII Stakes – as with the Ribblesdale a trial for Epsom given the unique circumstances surrounding this flat season. The selection is 5/6 with Unibet and goes into the race just 8/1 for the Derby.

Battaash has never won in his three previous visits to Royal Ascot but the bottom line is that there is no Blue Point to contend with in this year’s King’s Stand Stakes and he is the best five-furlong sprinter in this field. Take Blue Point out of the equation and Battaash would be chasing a hat-trick in the race although this stiff track does not play to his strength which is blistering speed. At 8/11 with Boylesports he is the most likely winner, but it is not a race that appeals. I toyed with the idea of putting up Liberty Beach as an each way alternative at 10/1 but I would be surprised if the Quinn filly were up to this level at this stage of her racing career.

The Duke of Cambridge Stakes is a cracker and I am looking forward to the reappearance of Lavender’s Blue (4.10) who didn’t get the run of the race when fourth in the Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket when last seen in the autumn. She had previously beaten Jubiloso at Sandown although I think its fair to say the Sir Michael Stoute trained filly failed to give her running on that occasion. The progressive Nazeef is another to consider but 11/2 with Boylesports is a fair each way price for Lavender’s Blue although I wouldn’t want to see too much rain.

Land Of Oz (4.45) was no match for Collide at Chelmsford last week but he kept galloping over an inadequate trip – 1m 6f – and I think he can run a big race if over those exertions in the concluding Ascot Stakes over a trip just shy of two-and-a-half miles. The each way selection has previously won over 2m 2f and he has a good draw in stall one. At 10/1 with bet365 – 4 places – he is another each way recommendation.

The overnight rain is a big help to the prospects of Moon King – despite stall 16 – and I will be also having a little ew on Ralph Beckett’s progressive stayer. The further he went the better he looked on his reappearance at Haydock and 7/1 looks a fair ew price.

I remember when Frankly Darling raced at Newcastle thinking how well Rocket Rod (8.30) was travelling for much of the race although he faded inside the final furlong to finish third. He is taken to come on for that experience and I will be disappointed if he does not go close at Windsor this evening in the concluding 10f Maiden for which he is a general 9/4 shot.

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