Day one of Royal Ascot features three Group 1’s and two more races likely to be won by future Group 1 types, so the quality is absolutely sky high. There is value to be had too which is relatively unusual for events at this level allowing us to get stuck into five races on the opening day.
2.30 (Queen Anne Stakes – Group 1) – BARNEY ROY
Whether or not this is a vintage renewal will become apparent only after the race, but on paper it has the potential to be the best Queen Anne for many a year with the competitive nature proving difficult for handicappers, while at the same time offering great value.
Aidan O’Brien’s Le Brivido is hard to assess, knowing as we do that his yard will expect a fair amount of improvement from a horse who has won at Royal Ascot before and was unlucky in the Lockinge. His basic form doesn’t entitle him to win this though and so as favourite he is avoidable.
Mustashry was a good winner of that Lockinge but had the run of the race and was primed for the event by Sir Michael Stoute, meaning his form may level out or even move back a slight step.
That leaves us with the formerly top class Barney Roy, a 5yo having been unsuccessful at stud who made a nice reappearance here before scoring cosily in France in a race not run to suit. He’ll be at his best now, whatever that is, and in a strongly-run race will show us what he can achieve for Charlie Appleby and I think it’ll be enough.
Beat The Bank is overpriced while Hazapour and Sharja Bridge have definite ability and can run well at more than fair odds.
3.05 (Coventry Stakes – Group 2) – GUILDSMAN
Naturally these two-year-olds are hard to judge, but based on past renewals and breeding we can get some sort of handle on what is expected of the main contenders.
Threat was impressive at Newmarket but that was over five furlongs and he is perhaps drawn in the wrong place today, while Well Of Wisdom is bang in with a chance but I would have liked to have seen him win last time out.
Arizona is on paper the most solid of the lot and is a worthy favourite after his demolition job for O’Brien at the Curragh, but if the ground retains just enough juice then Guildsman is at least as good as the Coolmore runner and so at a much bigger price is the one we can take a chance on.
His soft ground win at Goodwood on debut was really impressive and he is bound to improve from that, so while the conditions here are dryer, he looks terrific value for a trainer who for now is still underestimated in the shape of Archie Watson.
3.40 (King’s Stand Stakes – Group 1) – BATTAASH
Battaash always comes with risks attached but he was far too free when being turned over in this race by Blue Point last year and looked much more relaxed and mature when running as well as ever in the Temple Stakes last month.
He’s more likely to run to his best this time and, if he does, he wins so it’s a rather simple equation. Blue Point is still the main danger, especially from a potentially better draw, while Mabs Cross has close form with these and is a solid each-way shout.
Soldier’s Call, Sergei Prokofiev and Equilateral all have further improvement in them but as things stand they are in the next division down from the selection who can win what amazingly would be just his second Group 1 race.
4.20 (St James’s Palace Stakes – Group 1) – TOO DARN HOT
Circus Maximus is an interesting addition at this trip though he has to improve a fair bit to win, while Phoenix Of Spain had the run of the race in the Irish 2000 Guineas from the best draw and may not go on quite as expected.
King Of Comedy takes the same route as last year’s winner Without Parole for John Gosden and he has a ton of improvement in him. He was way too good for Roseman in the Heron Stakes and that horse may come out later in the week and be a real contender at a good level, a Group 1 win coming along soon enough no doubt.
He is the one to be on if the selection fails, but Gosden was rather candid last week in saying that Too Darn Hot was 80% fit for a Dante Stakes in which he didn’t stay and had the race run unsuitably, while he should never have gone to Ireland but was still second. He can show something like his champion juvenile form now and if he does he can win this ahead of his stablemate.
5.35 (Wolferton Stakes – Listed Race) – ELARQAM
Aidan O’Brien’s Magic Wand has a fair level of form and can go well, while Godolphin’s First Nation can also take a hand at a big price if going on from his return race in the UK at Newmarket.
Had the ground stayed softer then Addeybb would have been the rightful favourite for this race and he retains a solid chance, the conditions not being suitable on three of his last 4 runs while before that he was a high class Group 2 winner.
We all thought Elarqam was going to be a superstar though and his time at the top level may still come. He was fourth in a very hot race at the start of the season, one that has produced two Group 1 winners, and he came away from his field strikingly last time and can improve again from that outing.
He’s penalised but could be simply too good for this field, the assignment being a more sensible one considering he was pencilled in for the Group 1 Prince of Wale’s Stakes originally.