There are plenty of heavy, possibly thundery, showers forecast for Ascot for later in the week, but today’s opening day of the Royal meeting will be run on ground described as good – good to firm in places on Monday morning.
In the opening Group 1 contest it is hard to get away from the odds-on market leader Palace Pier although there is no guaranteed pace in the race – Pogo has made all previously – and it could turn into something of a sprint. I was hoping Lord Glitters would take in the Diomed Stakes over 9f at Epsom on Derby Day as I am convinced, he needs further than a mile these days.
Order Of Australia won the Breeders’ Cup Mile back in the autumn on his first start over the distance since his racecourse debut. It looks as if Aidan O’Brien has been running the horse over the wrong trip and Ryan Moore, whose decision making is hardly faultless, has chosen the son of Australia over stablemate Lope Y Fernandez. It will be interesting to see if the latter is asked to make the running if there is little pace in the opening furlong.
My each way alternative – 20s with MansionBet – to the favourite is the 6-y-old Regal Reality (2.30) who appeared to show improved form over a mile on fast ground with the application of a visor last season. Sir Michael Stoute has not saddled the winner of the race since 2002 and his gelding is another who would not want the race to turn into a sprint. On a line through Kameko he has a bit to find with Order Of Australia but I’m not convinced last year’s 2000 Guineas winner was at his best in the Breeders’ Cup.
Kaufymaker has been a short price for the Coventry Stakes since trainer Wesley Ward nominated the race as his Royal Ascot target. The market leader won at Keenland over a trip short of five furlongs on his sole start although he is out of a winner over six furlongs. My two against the field are National Stakes winner Ebro River and Gisburn (3.05) with the latter getting the each way vote – 11/2 with BetVictor 4 places – for Richard Hannon and Pat Dobbs.
The selection improved on a promising racecourse debut behind Berkshire Shadow over 5f when stepped up in trip last time and I hope to see him give it a good go from the front. I appreciate that the form of his Newbury win has not worked out well, but he put six lengths between himself and his rivals despite swerving right towards the stands’ rail. He will not be able to afford such a luxury in this company.
The 7-y-o Battash is a short price to follow up last year’s win in the King’s Stand Stakes but he must give 10lbs to the 3-y-old filly Winter Power (3.40) who was my first antepost bet of the meeting following her fluent York comeback success in listed company. This represents a big step up in grade, but she looked a class act on the Knavesmire. She made all at York, but the hope is that she does not get embroiled in a pace war with Battash and Ornate also likely to be ridden prominently. The ew recommendation is 9/2 with BetVictor 4 places. At a bigger price I feel Arecibo will have the race run to suit and has improved for the switch to Robert Cowell. The 50s freely available looks too big.
There is likely to be plenty of pace on in the St James’s Palace Stakes over the round mile and I always like a low draw although I appreciate you can be a hostage to fortune waiting for gaps to appear. Highland Avenue would have been the selection had it not been for his draw out on the wing in stall 12 and I am going to give Battleground (4.20) a chance to show his 2000 Guineas form was too bad to be true.
The ew selection – 11/2 with Boylesports – won the Chesham Stakes at this meeting 12 months ago and Ryan Moore, who rode Wembley at Newmarket, has jumped ship to Battleground who is fitted with a tongue tie for the first time by Aidan O’Brien.
I have backed a couple in the Ascot Stakes my old favourite Coeur De Lion and Trumpet Man (5.00) with marginal preference for the latter. Coeur De Lion is only 3lbs higher than when landing the corresponding race 12 months ago under today’s apprentice and his stamina is guaranteed. The ew vote, however, goes to Trumpet Man – 16s with 10Bet 5 places – who did not get the best of runs in the Chester Cup last time when he made his challenge to the inside when the action was unfolding down the middle. He finished half a length behind the Alan King trained runner at Chester, but I think he might reverse the form although his stamina for the additional quarter of a mile must be taken on trust.
Patrick Sarsfield heads the market for the Wolferton Stakes, and he does not carry a penalty which many of his market rivals do for this listed contest. He must go close, but they all finished in a bit of a heap at the Curragh last time, and I thought Blue Cup (5.35) looked ready for a step up in grade when running away with a handicap at Epsom on Oaks Day earlier in the month. William Buick takes over in the saddle with Oisin Murphy riding Felix for Marco Botti. The pair finished third in the Dubai Turf last time, and this represents a drop down in grade, but I just favour David Menuisier’s progressive 5-y-old. There was 10s available Sunday/Monday morning but the ew recommendation is 15/2 with Boylesports 4 places.
Saldier was an impressive winner returning to the flat for Willie Mullins last time and this Grade 1 winning hurdler is a worthy market leader in the finale, but it was not a strong race he won last time and a 4lbs penalty is no help.
Throne Hall looked ready for a step up in distance when third in a hot York handicap last month albeit beaten over 3L behind the promising Ilaraab. A son of Kingman he can be a bit keen, however, which is a concern over his first try over 14f although he is the half-brother to a winner at the distance.
The ew vote goes to Arthurian Fable (6.10) who made a pleasing reappearance at Newmarket on ground softer than ideal last month. Today’s underfoot conditions are his optimum, and Jim Crowley was in the plate when the pair finished second in the Melrose at York back in August. The 16s available on Monday morning was the wrong price and the ew recommendation is a best price of 9/1 with Boylesports at the time of posting.