HYDRANGEA (3.40) looks the right favourite for the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes, with four-year-olds having won this Group 2 contest nine times in a row.
The Ballydoyle filly chased home very smart stablemates Winter and Roly Poly in the Coronation Stakes last year and although slightly disappointing when beaten by Opal Tiara at the Curragh last month, Hydrangea remains the one to beat. French challengers have won the last two renewals (Qemah and Usherette) but there are no Gallic challengers to complicate matters this year.
Aidan O’Brien saddles three in the Queen’s Vase and NELSON (3.05) may emerge best of the trio.
He was below par behind Hazapour in the Derby Trial at Leopardstown but had earlier dished out a beating to stablemate Delano Roosevelt and The Pentagon on much softer ground. Nelson also beat Kew Gardens three lengths as a juvenile and his neck second to Roaring Lion in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket last September sets the bar pretty high.
Of the home contingent, John Gosden’s Stream Of Stars mopped up his maiden here last month on fast ground and remains unexposed.
It’s hard to weigh-up CHELSEA CLOISTERS (2.30) in the Queen Mary Stakes as Wesley ward’s filly won on the dirt at Keeneland on her sole start. This is an entirely different test but the trainer excels with these types at the royal meeting. She wears blinkers for the first time in public and Frankie Dettori rides.
EMARAATY (5.35) is 10lb better off for his short head defeat at the hands of Society Power at Goodwood and should be prominent in the Jersey Stakes. Purser and James Garfield were also on the shortlist.
The draw always plays a significant part in the Royal Hunt Cup and ZHUI FENG (5.00) got lucky last year when winning from stall 26, with the next two horses berthed 22 and 18. Big fields and fast ground on a straight course bring out the best in Zhui Feng as he loves to bowl along at the head of affairs.
The five-year-old is up 8lb this time round but proved his well-being with another excellent effort back at Ascot last month, running Ripp Orf to a neck in the Victoria Cup on his first start in 281 days. Stall two is an unknown but there will be worse each-way bets, especially with many firms offering up to six places.
Last year’s Britannia Stakes winner Bless Him flopped in the mud at Nottingham at the end of May but could well bounce back on this quick ground.
CRACKSMAN (4.20) should land the odds in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. He will be far happier back at Ascot following a laboured performance at Epsom on sticky ground.
- Ascot 3.40 – Hydrangea (7-4, bet365)
- Ascot 3.05 – Nelson (5-1, Ladbrokes)
- Ascot 5.35 – Emaraaty (11-2, McBookie, Paddy Power, Betfred)
- Ascot 4.20 – Cracksman (4-6, Paddy Power)
- Ascot 5.00 – Zhui Feng ew (22-1, McBookie, Ladbrokes, Coral, Paddy Power)
- Ascot 5.00 – Bless Him ew (18-1, Ladbrokes)
- Ascot 2.30 – Chelsea Cloisters (5-2, Coral)
Johnb's Royal Ascot Tips
- 2.30 KODYANNA 25-1 ew 1/5 odds 4 places
- 3.05 STREAM OF STARS 4/1
- 3.40 URBAN FOX 11-1 ew 1/4 odds 3 places
- 4.20 CRACKSMAN 4-6
- 5.0 GABRIAL 25-1 skybet ew 1/5 odds 7 places
- 5.35 PURSER 14-1 1/5 odds 4 places