It seems that fast ground remains for day two of Royal Ascot and that is exactly what we want to see.
We’re going right through the card again, beginning with the two-year-old speedball fillies in the Queen Mary.
2.30 Ascot (Queen Mary Stakes – Group 2) – LOVE REIGNS
American sprint specialist Wesley Ward has done it all before with the likes of Lady Aurelia, and he may have another special one on his hands in the shape of Love Reigns.
The better horses seem to be spread across the track here, so I’m not overly concerned about the draw.
Love Reigns will break from stall 5 and if she’s in the same mood as when simply monstering her debut field over 5½ furlongs at Keeneland in late April then she’ll be very hard to catch under Irad Ortiz. While the jockey is inexperienced on these shores, he’ll be able to keep things simple and go for gold up front.
Dramatised is the main danger for a team that had more than one filly to choose form for this race, her win at Newmarket looking pretty special.
The others I liked for place money were all at bigger prices, including Miami Girl, Yahsat and All The Time.
3.05 Ascot (Queen’s Vase – Group 2) – ELDAR ELDAROV
We’ve mentioned it before, but don’t allow official ratings and time to let you undervalue results achieved on Tapeta surfaces. One who won nicely in decent company on such a floor last time was Eldar Eldarov and he is fancied to prove his Group quality now.
Roger Varian’s colt put up a debut performance last autumn that would live with the best of those achieved in 2021.
On only his second start, he showed class and guts to beat a nice field at Newcastle three weeks ago which included third-placed Honiton. He was around a stone better than that horse, who has since come out and won a maiden by nine lengths and is rated 94.
Allowing for natural improvement, Eldar Eldarov can get to and surpass the level achieved by last year’s winner Kemari and that should be good enough.
Big-priced filly Emotion should not be ignored, while the Derby form is quickly being tested as Nahanni backs up quite quickly and can also go well ahead of team mate Hafit.
3.40 Ascot (Prince of Wales’s Stakes – Group 1) – LORD NORTH
John and Thady Gosden’s globetrotter Lord North won this race back in 2020 and while he’s not quite the same animal now, he could just win it again to cause a mini shock.
The very strong favourite is Bay Bridge, Sir Michael Stoute’s runner having now won five races in a row. He looked the real deal last time and if indeed he is still improving, he’ll be hard to beat. However, that’s not guaranteed and it could be that he’s better with juice in the ground.
Lord North, even at six, showed he still has it when winning the Group 1 Dubai Turf in March for the second time and this race could play to his strengths.
It’s a close one, with State Of Rest, Shahryar and Grand Glory all capable too, but a fully fit and ready Lord North has everything needed and hopefully he’ll put it all together.
4.20 Ascot (Duke of Cambridge Stakes – Group 2) – BASHKIROVA
We won this race last year with a very big priced Cheveley Park filly, and we’re looking for those owners to do it again.
Cheveley Park had Sacred, Potapova and Lights On in the race as well as Bashkirova, but for various reasons this filly is the best of the bunch.
It’s tight on paper, but Saffron Beach is heavily penalised, Sibila Spain is penalised and has ground worries, the going is the doubt for Novemba too while Mother Earth remains solid if not absolutely top class these days.
Bashkirova is underrated after her Epsom win, will stay every yard of the trip, handles the ground and has the speed for this too.
5.00 Ascot (Royal Hunt Cup – Heritage Handicap) – LEGEND OF DUBAI
The Royal Hunt Cup is naturally a very hard race to win, not just for punters but for trainers and jockeys as well.
A full field of 30 go to post, led by last year’s runner-up Astro King for the Stoute team. He was also favourite twelve months ago and won the race on the near side, only subsequent Group 1 performer Real World proving to be better on the day.
He’s in very similar form this time around but is 4lbs higher in the handicap, is drawn differently, and now has improving four-year-olds up against him.
One of those four-year-olds is Legend Of Dubai who looks to be the best of the bunch. Roger Varian’s runner was second to Lone Eagle as a juvenile and won his only race last year.
He came back this season to win a Newmarket handicap very easily indeed and we don’t know where his ceiling is.
Another cause for optimism is how well Greatgadian showed up when I handicapped this race and he is second choice for the Varian yard, with Rebel Territory and Godolphin’s unknown quantity Desert Peace also interesting.
5.35 Ascot (Windsor Castle Stakes – Listed Race) – LITTLE BIG BEAR
I will point out that this is a tentative selection and stakes should be kept to a minimum, but Little Big Bear would appear to have the speed and class necessary to win a typical Windsor Castle Stakes.
Aidan O’Brien’s runner was beaten narrowly on debut in a very high-quality maiden. He didn’t want the six furlongs there, and when brought back to five he was way, way too good at Naas and will love the quicker ground this time.
The Gosden runner Far Shot went off at only 1/2 on debut and won nicely. He too will prefer the faster ground, but that run was only seven days ago and the extra experience of Little Big Bear may be too much for him to cope with.
6.10 Ascot (Kensington Palace Stakes – Handicap) – FARHH TO SHY
This is another busy handicap, one in which Improvised is officially well in, but there is a lot to like about the profile of Farhh To Shy and she gets the nod.
It’s a long time since Tom Queally was burning up this track aboard Frankel and this would be a very welcome win for the jockey.