Royal Ascot in the highlight of the flat racing season and sees the best horses from all over the world compete in five days of top class action. There are eight Group 1 contests that takes place this year between June 18-22,, plus a whole host of Group 2 and 3 races and some ultra-competitive handicaps – including the historic Royal Hunt Cup. Betting markets a lively and strong and there is often value to be had with many bookmakers offering enhanced place terms. Here I take a look at the meeting day by day in a bid to unearth some lively outsiders and which favourites are worthy market leaders likely to be tough to beat.
Day 1 (Tuesday): Three Terrific Group 1s to Get Stuck Into
The Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes gets proceedings underway (2.30) and Le Brevido is favourite at 4/1 at Betway betting land the spoils for top Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien. This ex-French trained five-year-old has only had seven career starts, winning three times and making the frame on two other occasions. She ran a stormer when beaten just a short-head by Branmetot in the 2017 French 1000 Guineas at Deauville, before going on to enjoy her finest hour when landing the Group 1 Jersey Stakes over 7f at this meeting in 2017 when powering home to win going away She ran well to finish a fast finish fifth of 14 to Mustashry in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes over 1m at Newbury when encountering trouble in-running and should now be spot on to do herself justice so is going to be tough to beat.
|14:30||Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1)|
|15:05||Coventry Stakes (Group 2)|
|15:40||King’s Stand Stakes (Group 1)|
|16:20||St James’s Palace Stakes (Group 1)|
|17:00||Ascot Stakes (Handicap)|
|17:35||Wolferton Stakes (Listed Race)|
Of those at bigger odds, Accidental Agent appeals each-way at 12/1 with William Hill given that he won the race last year and has an excellent record at the venue. This Eve Johnson Houghton trained five-year-old ran a blinder on seasonal reappearance when a three length third in the aforementioned Lockinge Stakes and looks overpriced in relation to Le Brivido who finished behind him that day.
Mabs Cross the King’s Stand Value
The second Group 1 on a sensational opening day’s action is the King’s Stand Stakes run over the flying 5f (3.40). It sees old adversaries Battash and Mabs Cross look horns once again, and the former is the 2/1 favourite with Betfred to come out on top. This Charlie Hills five-year-old has won eight of his 16 starts, and enjoyed his finest hour when putting an awesome display to make making all and easily beating Marsha by four lengths in the 2017 running of the Group 1 Prix De L’Abbaye at Chantilly. The son of Dark Angel also ran well when runner-up to Blue Point in this 12 months ago and looked as good as ever on seasonal reappearance when winning the Group 2 Temple Stakes in impressive fashion. However, Battaash can boil over and be restless in the stalls, so at the odds on offer I am keen to take him on.
The one I really like is Mabs Cross, who looks cracking each-way value at 9/1 when placing a bet at bet365. This Michael Dods trained five-year-old mare has won seven of her 15 starts and doesn’t know how to run a bad race.She was only beaten two lengths when a running on third to Blue Point in this last year – finishing just a neck behind runner-up Battaash. Mabs Cross then turned the tables on her old rival when producing a career-best performance to land the Group 1 Prix De L’ Abbaye at Longchamp on her final start of the campaign and although beaten over three lengths when third to Battaash last time out in the Temple Stakes now meets that rival on 7lb better terms and that may well be enough to see her turn the tables.
Keen to Oppose Phoenix of Spain in St James’s Palace Stakes
Irish 2000 Guineas winner Phoenix Of Spain is a standout 7/4 favourite on Black Type sport betting to follow up in the 1m Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes (4.2O). He was impressive at the Curragh, but that was a huge step up on previous efforts and it remains to be seen if Charlie Hills’ three-year-old clot and back it up. I have my doubts as to whether he can as many seemed to run below par that day. So at the odds on offer am keen to take him on and look elsewhere for a bit of value.
At 10/1 with Betfair, the William Haggas trained Skardu makes plenty of each-way appeal. He didn;t get the best of runs when fourth in the irish 2000 Guineas and had previously run well in the English equivalent when third at Newmarket from a poor draw. I think there is better to come from him and this race should be run to suit.
Day 2 (Wednesday): Magical and Sea of Class Set to Clash in Prince of Wales’s Stakes
The feature race on day two is the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, a 1m contest for fillies (3.40). It promises to be a mouthwatering renewal with Magical and Sea Of Class set to take each other on. The former is trained by Ballydoyle maestro Aidan O’Brien and is unbeaten in three starts this season. The four-year-old daughter of Galileo, who is the 5/2 market leader with Coral, is proven at the level and ran a stormer on her final start last season when a 3/4 length runner-up to Enable in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf. That is very strong form and with race fitness on her side she looks the most likely winner of this.
|14:30||Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2)|
|15:05||Queen’s Vase (Group 2)|
|15:40||Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Group 1)|
|16:20||Duke of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2)|
|17:00||Royal Hunt Cup (Handicap)|
|17:35||Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed Race)|
Sea Of Class, a 3/1 shot with Betfair, was arguably an unlucky loser when beaten just a short neck by Enable in the Arc at Longchamp and has previously won her four previous starts – including two Group 1s – in terrific style. This William Haggas trained four-year-old should have more to offer after six career starts, but has a lengthy absence to overcome. That is a big ask against a classy sort like Magical, but she looks sure to give it her best shot.
The French trained Waldgeist doesn’t know how to run a bad race, so looks a solid each-way player at a standout 13/2 with Ladbrokes.
I Can Fly and Raising Sand Ones to Be Interested In
I think the 11/2 available with Coral for I Can Fly in the 1m Group 2 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes (4.20) is more than fair, and course specialist Raising Sand makes plenty of each-way appeal at 12/1 with Paddy Power, who are paying five places, in the 1m Royal Hunt Cup handicap (5.00).
This Jamie Osborne trained seven-year-old shaped really well on his sole start this season when a 1 3/4 length fourth of 26 to Cape Byron over 7f at this venue in the valuable Victoria Cup and looks primed to make a bold bid.
Day 3 (Thursday): Stradivarius Looks Pure Gold in Feature
The stayers take centre stage on Thursday and Stradivarius looks a worthy 6/4 favourite with bet365 to land back-to-back runnings of the Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup run over 2m 4f (4.20). This John Gosen trained five-year-old was the star of the staying division in Britain last year when unbeaten in five starts and scooping the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ £1,000,000 bonus by winning this, the Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale Cup at York over the summer.Stradivarius went on to round off the campaign with a length success over Thomas Hobson in the Group 2 British Champions Long Distance Cup over 2m at this venue and has a tremendous strike rate having won 10 of his 13 career starts. He has also built up a tremendous rapport with regular jockey Frankie Dettori, is versatile as regards ground and looked as good as ever when successfully retaining his crown in the Yorkshire Cup. Taking everything into account, he is very hard to oppose.
|14:30||Norfolk Stakes (Group 2)|
|15:05||Hampton Court Stakes (Group 3)|
|15:40||Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2)|
|16:20||Gold Cup (Group 1)|
|17:00||Britannia Stakes (Handicap)|
|17:35||King George V Stakes (Handicap)|
Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter, a 5/1 a shot with William Hill, may well gives him lost to think about of fully tuned to do himself justice after a lay-off, whilst Dee Ex Bee has taken his form to a new level this season since being stepped up significantly in trip and looks a solid each-way option at the 6/1 available at the Ladbrokes betting firm.
Manuela De Vega ran well when fourth in the Group 1 Epson Oaks, so now eased in grade looks value at 7/1 with bet 365 to get back to winning ways in the 1m 4f Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes (3.40)..
Awe, meanwhile, is a pogressive handicapper trained by William Haggas who could well be head of the assessor and looks the one to be on each-way at the 16/1 available with William Hill in the ultra-competitive Britannia Stakes (5.00).
Day 4 (Friday): Hermosa and Ten Sovereigns a Formidable O’Brien Duo
All-conquering Irish handler Aidan O’Brien looks to hold leading claims of landing a Group 1 double on the penultimate day with Ten Sovereigns and Hermosa.The former is 7/4 favourite with Coral to land the spoils in the 6f Commonwealth Cup (3.40) following highly promising return to action in the 2000 Guineas when a 4 3/4 lengths fifth of 19 to stable companion Magna Grecia.Ten Sovereigns failed to stay the 1m trip that day and now drops back to a far more suitable 6f over which he was unbeaten in three starts as a juvenile.
In the last of those success he was very impressive when landing the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes over 6f at Newmarket when travelling strongly throughout before quickening smartly to score by 1/2 a length from the very useful Jash. Ten Sovereigns looks the ideal type for this test and his handler has won the race a record eight-times courtesy of Harbour Master (1997), Fasliyev (1999), Landseer (2001), Statue of Liberty (2002), Henrythenavigator (2007), Power (2011), War Command (2013), Caravaggio (2016). This son of No Nay Never can add to that impressive tally.
|14:30||Albany Stakes (Group 3)|
|15:05||King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2)|
|15:40||Commonwealth Cup (Group 1)|
|16:20||Coronation Stakes (Group 1)|
|17:00||Sandringham Stakes (Handicap)|
|17:35||Duke of Edinburgh Stakes (Handicap)|
Hermosa is a red-hot 5/4 with Ladbrokes for the 1m Coronation Stakes (4.20) and it’s easy to see why. This daughter of Galielo was a smart juvenile and comes into the race having won landed the English and Iish 1000 Guineas. She showed tremendous battling qualities to beat Lady kaya by a length at Newmarket and then totally destroyed the opposition at the Curragh when forging clear to beat Pretty Pollann at the Curragh. She is clearly right out of the top drawer and improving in each outing. Hermosa also has by far the strongest form in the book and looks impossible to oppose. Jubiloso, a Sir Michael Stoute trained daughter of Frankel, is unbeaten in two starts and could be anything – so looks the obvious one to chase her home.
Day 5 (Saturday): Invincible Army Fancied to March to Glory in Diamond Jubilee
The final Group 1 of the meeting is the 6f Diamond Jubilee Stakes (4.20) and Invincible Army, currently a top priced 4/1 with Black Type, looks to rock solid claims. This four-year-old hails from the yard of Jason Tate and has won five of his 13 starts – making the frame on five other occasions.The son of Invincible Spirit was a useful juvenile and looked a sprinter to keep onside when landing the Group 3 Pavilion Stakes over this course and distance on seasonal bow last year.T backed backed it up with a cracking nose second of eight to Sands Of Mali in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock and was then far from disgrace when a four-length ninth of 22 to old rival Eqtidaar in the Group 1 Coventry Stakes at this meeting. He comes into this on the back of two very taking successes, and was most impressive in the last of those at York when showing a smart turn of foot to easily beat Major Jumbo in a Group 2. Judge on the manner of that victory, Invincible Army should be well up to winning a race of this nature.
|14:30||Chesham Stakes (Listed Race)|
|15:05||Jersey Stakes (Group 3)|
|15:40||Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2)|
|16:20||Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group 1)|
|17:00||Wokingham Stakes (Handicap)|
|17:35||Queen Alexandra Stakes (Conditions Race)|
French raider City Light found only Merchant of Venice too good in last year’s renewal and looks sure to make a bold bid to go one better following a fine return to action when a 1/2 length runner-up to Inns Of Court in a Listed contest at Maisons-Laffitte. At 8/1 with Betfair he looks the each-way value in the race.
Elsewhere on the card, Mirage Dancer looks decent value at 6/1 with bet365 to provide trainer Sir Michaekl Stoute with another winner of the 1m 4f Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (3.40) – a race in which he has a tremendous record.
In the 6f Wokingham Handicap (5.00), Cenotaph and Gunmetal appeal each-way. The former will be Jermey Noseda’s last runner at the Royal meeting before retiring and can be backed at 20/1 with Betfred. Gunmetal, a 14/1 chance with Betfair who are paying five places, has proven form in big field handicaps and has caught the eye in both his starts this season. He looks to be building up to a big performance.