Day one of Royal Ascot 2016 looks set to unfold on soft ground this afternoon following further overnight rain at the Berkshire track.
The conditions certainly won’t suit many of the blue blooded thoroughbreds who are in action and there could be some surprise results.
Queen Anne Stakes
The best flat race meeting of the year kicks off with the Queen Anne Stakes and the race has a much more open look to it than normal with bookmakers going 5/1 the field this morning.
Likely favourite Belardo certainly handles the conditions and he looks to have become more consistent with age. However, he had a fitness edge over ENDLESS DRAMA when the two met in the Lockinge recently and the Irish raider can turn around the form here with that effort under his belt.
He is okay on the ground too, and given his size and scope he is just the type to excel as a four year old.
The big danger could be the French mare, ESOTERIQUE, who was second to the mighty Solow in this race last year. She also ran well on her comeback and all of her best form is over the straight mile.
The race sums up the modern day Royal Ascot with raiders from the US and Japan also in the line-up and for those looking to back one at a massive price the Oriental challenger, A Shin Erwin, is worth a second glance at 100/1 with Bet365 as all of his best form is with plenty of give underfoot.
|Esoterique (ew)||2.30 Ascot||7/1||Bet365|
|Endless Drama (ew)||2.30 Ascot||6/1||Bet365|
The Coventry Stakes that follows is made much harder to predict by the fact that it is impossible to know which of this young horses will cope best with conditions.
MOKARRIS won his only start so far on good to soft ground, which is a helpful pointer. He was an expensive purchase at two and had a decent rival comfortably held in second on his debut.
MEDIEVAL‘s debut win was on soft ground and this is a race his trainer, Paul Cole, has excelled in in the past. It is also notable that Cole’s two year olds usually need their first run, so this one might be a bit special.
Had the ground not deteriorated we would have been confident in the chances of the Godolphin raider, THUNDER SNOW. We are still going to side with him anyway as he created such a good impression when beating Parys Mountain on his first start at Leicester recently. Whatever he does here, he looks one to follow.
Of the rest, outsiders Van Der Decken and Stoneyford Lane are not without hope and it is worth noting that Sky Bet are offering 5 places for each-way bets on this race, while Paddy Power and Ladbrokes offer 4 (just 3 places elsewhere).
|Mokarris (ew)||3.05 Ascot||8/1||Sky Bet|
|Medieval (ew)||3.05 Ascot||40/1||Sky Bet|
|Thunder Snow (ew)||3.05 Ascot||16/1||Sky Bet|
King’s Stand Stakes
Despite a few non-runners on account of the ground, a large field goes to post for the King’s Stand Stakes at 3.40pm.
Mecca’s Angel has her conditions and is rightly a short price as a result. However, the going will also suit PEARL SECRET and he looks the each-way value at the prices, especially if you back him at Sky Bet who are offering 5 places. He’s yet to win a Group 1, but hasn’t had his ground when he has tried to do so in the past.
Also worth backing with firms offering 4 or 5 places are AEOLUS and JUNGLE CAT.
The former hasn’t been beaten far by a number of these in big sprints run earlier in the season. He stays further than 5f, which will be key in this ground, and his yard is starting to hit form.
Jungle Cat was only just beaten by Profitable in the Palace House Stakes on his last start and he has been kept for this since. If he copes with the ground, he could represent outstanding value.
Another big outsider, Double Up, was also on the shortlist and could also outrun his odds of 33/1 with Sky Bet – especially given those 5 places.
|Pearl Secret (ew)||3.40 Ascot||10/1||Sky Bet|
|Aeolus (ew)||3.40 Ascot||33/1||Sky Bet|
|Jungle Cat (ew)||3.40 Ascot||16/1||Bet365|
St James’s Palace Stakes
The day’s highlight is the St James’s Palace Stakes, where three Guineas winners clash.
Our preference is for the winner of the Irish version, AWTAAD, who emphatically beat the winner of the Newmarket version when the two went head to head at The Curragh.
If eight go to post we’d also be tempted to have a small each-way interest in CYMRIC, as he was a good enough two year old to beat Galileo Gold when they met at Longchamp last Autumn. He handles the ground, but he looks likely to run as a pacemaker for Emotionless, which isn’t ideal. Equally, though, he may get an easy lead and so it is worth taking a risk at a monster price.
|Awtaad (win)||4.20 Ascot||2/1||Bet365|
|Cymric (ew)||4.20 Ascot||80/1||Bet365|
The Ascot Stakes will be a real stamina test and it is no surprise to see some of the top jumps stables represented.
Willie Mullins has two runners and the pick of the field based on their form over hurdles has to be Sempre Medici. There has to be a question mark over him staying the trip, however, so preference is for fellow Irish raider, JENNIES JEWEL.
She reached a level not that far short of Sempre Medici’s when last seen out over obstacles in the Stayers Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival. That was a career best effort and she has bolted up on the level since. She loves the ground and stays forever.
Montaly and Mill Springs are two who could easily improve for this longer trip, but given his odds we can’t resist a small each way interest in CHARTBREAKER.
He has won a couple of soft ground races on the flat in France and did okay over hurdles for Paul Nicholls last season. He is now with Chris Gordon and is open to improvement over this marathon distance.
|Jennies Jewel (ew)||5.00 Ascot||13/2||Bet365|
|Chartbreaker (ew)||5.00 Ascot||50/1||Bet365|
Windsor Castle Stakes
The Windsor Castle Stakes looks a nightmare for any punters looking to dig their way out of trouble in the finale.
TOMILY looks a solid option, with form in the ground, whilst BATTASH was really impressive when winning well at Bath on his debut.
Of the outsiders, Full Intention is interesting as he has been well backed on his two starts to date, but preference is for BOLT PHANTOM, who represents the bang in form Ismail Mohammed yard.
Bet365 are offering 4 places for each-way bets on this final race of the day.
|Tomily (ew)||5.35 Ascot||8/1||Bet365|
|Battash (ew)||5.35 Ascot||12/1||Bet365|
|Bolt Phantom (ew)||5.35 Ascot||28/1||Bet365|