An amazing start to this year’s Royal Ascot action greets us on Tuesday with three Group 1 races being the highlight, though in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes we look certain to see one or two future champions too.
There is a mouth-watering clash between speedsters Battaash and Lady Aurelia in the King’s Stand, the reputation of well-touted Without Parole to live up to for John Gosden and John Gunther in the St James’s Palace Stakes and a chance to see improving four-year-olds go up against each other in the closing Wolferton Stakes.
We kick off though with the Queen Anne Stakes over a mile, potentially with a juicy value first bet of the festival:Embed from Getty Images
2.00 Ascot (Queen Anne Stakes – Group 1) - BENBATL
Saeed bin Suroor has done the right thing in freshening Benbatl up since romping home in the Dubai Turf back in late March at Meydan and it seems they truly know what is right for this classy Royal Ascot winner now.
He won the Hampton Court Stakes (Group 3) at this meeting last year over 1m2f having run fifth in Derby, but he has essentially been running over the wrong trip the entire time. Winning in the extreme heat over 1m1f in Dubai means a mile should be about right for him over here, especially the stiff mile presented at this track.
He can take this ahead of favourite Rhododendron of Aidan O’Brien’s yard, the filly’s 3lb allowance perhaps not quite enough to see her double-up having been well-backed to win the Lockinge at Newbury in May.
It would not surprise me to see Beat The Bank come back to form and take a hand in this, while fast ground may not be ideal for classy French raider Recoletos and the mile trip surely being too much yet again for Limato, whose owner may need a rethink.
3.05 Ascot (Coventry Stakes – Group 2) – CALYX
Aidan O’Brien once again saddles the favourite here going into the meeting in the form of the speedy and well regarded son of Scat Daddy, Sergei Prokofiev, and while there is no doubt during most other years he’d come into this almost unbeatable there may be one ever more special colt in the line-up.
John Gosden’s Kingman colt Calyx put in a startling debut performance at Newmarket ten days ago, on the figures even better than his sire’s first outing, a run which put him only a few pounds behind the favourite with only one run in the bag.
Although Aidan O’Brien gets improvement from these types, the step up to six furlong isn’t guaranteed to be right up Sergei Prokofiev’s street just yet and Mr. Gosden doesn’t sent his horses into races like this unless they have come back fit, fresh and ready to step forward. Calyx has a massive future over a mile as a three-year-old.
3.40 Ascot (King’s Stand Stakes – Group 1) – BATTAASH
Don’t get me wrong, even on my ratings I get this incredibly close between the runaway Prix de l’Abbaye winner Battaash and last year’s King’s Stand winner Lady Aurelia, however I feel Charlie Hills’ runner may just have the edge.
Lady Aurelia is an improving four-year-old filly with low mileage and her trainer Wesley Ward has been bullish about her chances this week, however given Battaash’s mental state we have not yet seen the best of him either and if he were to get to his Abbaye form, let alone improve on it, then he should do what was expected of him at York last year and lower the colours of the American filly.
4.20 Ascot (St James’s Palace Stakes – Group 1) – WITHOUT PAROLE
A quality renewal, albeit with a surprise market leader given that those who have not come through the English or Irish 2000 Guineas route do not usually command the kind of respect Without Parole has garnered.
His reputation is well deserved though and he’s a horse who would have gone on to win or place in the Guineas had it not been for a heel problem, something which also had a knock-on effect when it came to his next run. He arrived at the Heron Stakes having recovered but having only managed one piece of fast work at home, not ideal prep, before encountering ground far too soft for his liking.
He still showed a nice turn of foot to get up that day and we should be seeing a very different animal this time around, something trainer Roger Teal clearly didn’t want to consider when making his remarks that Tip Two Win would have been favourite had he belonged to a larger stable.
He retains a place chance alongside Irish Guineas winner Romanised and last year’s Dewhurst hero US Navy Flag, however I’ll be disappointed if the son of Frankel does not go on to win this before heading for the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.
5.00 Ascot (Wolferton Stakes – Listed Race) – LARAAIB
It’ll be interesting to witness what Mirage Dancer can do at this trip after a couple of impressive performances at this level this season over 1m4f, however with tons of improvement to come fellow four-year-old Laraaib could be the one to be on in the day one closer.
Starting off with three wins from three last season, including beating subsequent Royal Ascot scorer Atty Persse, Laraaib finished the season as favourite for the Group 3 Rose of Lancaster Stakes but a combination of factors went against him there and he was put away for the season.
Reappearing with a much-improved second in Group 3 company behind the classy Poet’s Word at Sandown this term, Laraaib confirmed his well being and should move forward sufficiently to take this en route to better things. Sharja Bridge and Monarchs Glen may be other dangers.