Time may prevent me doing detailed previews later this week but here’s my thoughts for day one – in the words of the song ‘what a smashing, positively dashing spectacle – Ascot op’ning day!
The ground is once again causing some controversy with early watering in advance of weekend showers looking likely the make for sofeter conditions but at time of writing good ground looks most likely on the straight course – with maybe a hint of give on the round track.
Ascot can provide some notable draw bias when weather does get involved but let’s hope the ground does stay fairly even throughout and there aren’t too many hard luck stories for being on the wrong side of the track
2.30 Queen Anne Stakes
Toronado stands out as the obvious Group 1 performer here but too short a price for me on his seasonal reappearance.
It’s hard to know just how good ex States performer Verrazano is – and while he may well improve a bundle on his Newbury UK debut he too seems pretty short on that form alone. Tullius finished ahead of him there on ground that might have been a bit too fast for him and although he is probably only Group 3 level – the comment applies to most of the rest of the field. I’d put him forward as the value ew alternative if the ground remains good but this isn’t really a race to get heavily involved in for me
3.05 Coventry Stakes
Traditionally the top 2yo race of the season so far and the first time that future Guineas performers might put themselves into the spotlight..
Recent O’Brien winners of this race, Power and War Command (stable 3rd string), both came here unbeaten so it seems slightly odd to see War Envoy so short after a 3rd place finish last time behind reopposing Kool Kompany.
Adaay has looked smart in his two wins, while The Wow Signal beat two subsequent winners convincingly on his debut by a wide margin. The latter has since been sold to Al Shaqab racing but while the form looks strong it should be noted the time was only average on quite bad ground.
In terms of price/strength of form I think another Irish raider, the unbeaten Cappella Sansevero comes here with the best credentials. He has done little wrong in 3 starts despite ground being softer than ideal and for me should be vying for favouritism here.
It could be that the better price is because his trainer is less fashionable, a remark that also applies to Cock of the North, a well backed 2nd in the National Stakes at Sandown, where he blew his chances with a slow start but still looked a decent type with his finishing effort. The extra furlong here should suit and quotes of 33/1 look a bit too big to ignore
1pt ew Cappella Sansevero 10/1 fairly general
0.5 pts ew Cock of the North 33/1 Skybet
In both cases look for firms offering ¼ odds rather than 1/5
3.45 Kings Stand Stakes
It’s a while since I’ve seen a 3yo sprinter who has impressed as much as Hot Streak and think he could be a notch above these – his winning time over this course last year was exceptional and his last run suggested he had come on plenty for his debut run this year. Kevin Ryan is adamant this is the best horse he has ever trained – and he’s had some pretty decent ones over the years. The ground isn’t likely to be so firm for that to be an issue for him after the weekend rain.
It would have been nicer to see him drawn closer to the obvious pacesetter, Stepper Point, to give him an early tow, but still hope to see him putting the race to bed before the late efforts of Shea Shea and Sole Power come into play.
I think the latter’s win in this last year was all about the jockey and as good as Richard Hughes is, it’s not ideal for him to be riding this one for the first time in this event.
At very big odds, I could see Caledonia Lady coming late to be a contender for placings. She may be 100/1 but has run well at this meeting before and was placed here as a 2yo at the same odds.
2pts win Hot Streak 4/1 (general)
0.25 pts ew Caledonia Lady 100/1 (general but again avoid anyone offering 1/5 odds)
4.25 St James Palace Stakes
A rematch between 2000 Guineas 1-2 Night of Thunder and Kingman sees the vanquished there the fav to exact revenge. It’s not hard to see why as things may not have gone quite to plan at HQ but it looked an above average classic and I’d be loathe to write off Night Of Thunder too much.
The pace of the race could be the decider with no obvious front runner in the field.
I’ll just be watching it without any financial interest
5.00 Ascot Stakes
A typically competitive long distance handicap.where my eye is drawn to the two at the bottom of the handicap
Brockwell, is fairly consistent in these type of races and, not for the first time, ran as if this extra half mile was what he needed when fancied at Haydock last time.
Ray Ward, with an eyecatching booking of Kieran Fallon, is well worth a try back over a longer trip. His best piece of form was arguably at this meeting last year over 2 miles and he looks well treated on that – the extra distance is an unknown but he shapes as if it may be a bonus
0.5 pts ew each
Ray Ward 16/1
(both fairly general with standard ¼ 1234)
5.35 Windsor Castle Stakes
Mind of Madness looked very decent first time up before getting touched off by Coventry hopeful Adaay last time. Back over 5 furlongs he is a deserved fav and appeals most of those at the forefront of the betting
But at five times the price I have to have an interest in Roudee at 25/1. He beat Midterm Break on his first run before a fine effort from a poor draw at Chester( winner Mukhmal will be a strong contender for the higher grade Norfolk Stakes later this week). He then ran 3rd at Sandown where the softer ground didn’t look ideal.
Back over a less demanding course and with better ground he is the value choice for me with some firms paying out on first 4 places
0.75 pts ew Roudee 25/1 (365 ¼ odds 1234)
Best of luck to all this week
Any comments welcome as usual