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This best week of flat racing is amongst us and we've got some great racing this week. This is Frankie's last Royal Ascot unless he decides to do a U-turn and stay for another year, so he'll be out looking for plenty of winners. Aidan O'Brien is aiming for Sir Michael Stoute's most wins at Royal Ascot, and it's only a matter of time before that happens, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if he did it on Day 1. As always, just because it's Royal Ascot, it doesn't mean your betting bank and system goes out of the window, stick to it and play the long game!
Ascot 2:30 – Modern Games 9/4 (1pt PaddyPower/WilliamHill)
What a race to kickstart Royal Ascot, this is the Queen Anne Stakes Group 1 which is run over the straight mile and it has every horse you'd want to be in it. I think you should be looking towards the head of the market for the winner, and I've opted for Modern Games to win back-to-back Group 1's after recently landing the Lockinge at Newbury.
I do think Ascot is a better-suited track for Modern Games these days, he is a miler, there's no denying it but he does his best work late in his races so a stiff track will play to his advantage. He stays the mile out very strongly, hence why they tried him in the French Derby last year over 12f, but that's not his bag. Last time out he managed to sit off a good pace set by Mutasaabeq and run them down late in the race, pulling clear at the line, and not much got close to him even though the winning margins would suggest otherwise. That was a career-best performance and Charlie Appleby's yard is finding their feet again after a very small blip. Mutasaabeq will more than likely lead the line, as that's what has been successful for him in recent times with the blinkers, but Pogo will hopefully keep him honest and ensure a decent gallop is set as he is a horse who likes to front run or sit close to the pace, so I think Modern Games will have a good pace to aim at.
Inspiral is the other one heading the market, and I can see why. She is a very talented filly on her day, but she has a habit of starting very slowly when she is running on the back of a break. She did it on seasonal reappearance last year, which didn't make a difference as she was in a league of her own, but her very slow start was a big problem on Champions' day at Ascot. With this being her first start of the year, I'd be worried that it might happen again, it might be a coincidence that it's happened in the past, but sometimes you've got to look at things and think it's happened too frequently to be a coincidence. She has to prove her fitness, but I'd imagine she will be revved up for it, especially with it being Frankie's final goodbye for Royal Ascot. But, she only managed to beat Light Infantry by a small margin in France last year, and he was firmly put in his place by Modern Games, so out of the two I've decided on the Godolphin colt. I do think Light Infantry is a dark horse, he is a horse who does need a furlong further, so if they do go off at a ridiculous pace, Jamie Spencer will be purring, so if each-way betting is more your thing, this might be the one for you.
Ascot 3:05 – Asadna 11/4 (1pt Bet365)
I wouldn't be wanting to be putting too much money on this race, with it being the first 2yo race of the festival, but also because it looks very complicated. However, if Asadna can progress again from his debut run, my gosh he could be a superstar sprinter for this year.
To see a horse run to a rating of 106 on debut as a 2yo is some doing, but that's what the handicappers at the Racing Post believe he ran too, and to be fair, you can't argue with them as he was breathtaking at Ripon. He might've beaten a couple of duds in that race, but sometimes you've got to go with your eyes and back what you believe could be a superstar, and that's the impression I get from Asadna. He is built for this race, he is by Mehmas who was second in this race in 2016, and he has become a very reliable sire, especially with 2yos and this could be the best he's produced if he does progress further, which should be likely as there's not a chance I think he has peeked already. Persian Force, another good 2yo starter for Mehmas was second in this race last year having run to RPRs of 99 and 100 in the two races leading up to it, so based on that, Asadna has a great chance if he can handle the occasion and get a clear run through the pack, and the rain stays away.
I don't think this will be a walk in the park by any means, you've got some big guns in here from the Irish stables like River Tiber who has run to RPRs in the 100s as well. He is the favourite, which doesn't surprise me as he is from the Aidan O'Brien stable, and he does look ready to step up to 6f, but his price is too short and I think he should be taken on.
Ascot 3:40 – Highfield Princess 5/2 (2pt PaddyPower)
This is an interesting King's Stand Stakes as you've got Irish, Australian and American contenders and the up-and-coming 3yo Dramatised who could potentially put it up to the older horses, but if there's a real class act in this race it's Highfield Princess.
What this mare did last year was nothing short of sensational, she has been transformed into a Group 1 sprinter in the matter of one season and full credit has to go to John Quinn who has done a tremendous job with her. She went from being a handicapper over further to dropping back to 5f and 6f and turning into a sprinting machine, and if she turns up in the same form as last year, she should be tough to beat, even though there are new challenges against her today.
I think she made a very encouraging return to the track at York in the Group 2 when finishing 2nd to Azur Blue. Finishing second to the progressive mare wasn't anything to be ashamed of, as the winner has been on an upward spiral and had a fitness edge on Highfield Princess, plus, HP was carrying a Group 1 penalty and shouldering 9st 12lbs. Based on that, she looks like the same mare as last year and the price on offer seems fair. It's difficult to see what distance suits her better, I think a fast 5f on a stiff track is ideal as she has the stamina for further, but also has the cruising speed to glide through the race and then the stamina kicks in as she can power away in the final furlongs.
Ascot 4:20 – Chaldean 9/4 (1pt Bet365/WilliamHill)
It might seem boring going for another short-priced horse, but I think the winning chances of Chaldean is there for all to see, that's as long as Frankie Dettori stays on board 😆
Though I think Chaldean has the best chance of winning this race, I think it all depends on whether Frankie gets a good start from the gates as he is in stall 1. If he breaks well, I think he might decide to lead and get the best position at the front and try and dictate the race the way he wants to and avoid all trouble, but if he gets a slow breakaway, it could be curtains before the race has really begun. I'll take the risk and hope he breaks well, as he did manage to in the 2000 Guineas which allowed him to sit prominently that day.
You've got to be impressed by his win in the 2000 Guineas, he was lengthening clear at the line and looked like a top prospect for this season and the next at the very least. His prep for the Guineas was far from ideal with Frankie being unseated at the stalls, so you'd probably say that he would've come on for the Guineas run, and if that's the case, he could be lethal. His best form has come with cut in the ground, so he'll have to answer questions as to whether he's as good on faster ground, but he has shown he handles it as when winning at Newmarket on good ground when beating Royal Scotsman over 7f last year.
This is a mega race and there will be Group 1 winners coming out of like last year, my fingers are crossed Frankie does the business.
Ascot 5:00 – Law Of The Sea 8/1 (0.5pt EW B365 6pl)
Going against the master trainer that is Willie Mullins could be a terrible idea, and though I was close to putting up Bring On The Night who is the favourite for this I've decided to leave him and go for Law Of The Sea who is too tempting at odds of 8/1 or around that.
There will be a few in this race who are deemed to be well-handicapped, with the favourite clearly being one of them having finished second in this race last year behind Coltrane who looks to be a big player in all of the staying races this year and is now rated in the high 110s. However, I do think Law Of The Sea is also on a very good handicap mark and things haven't gone right for him the last two times, and there is a strong possibility it might happen again for him in this race with there being 20 runners. He got no run in the Chester Cup, he was tucked away in midfield turning for home, cantering all over the ones ahead of him, didn't get a gap until late on and when he was putting in his effort, the door was shut in his face and David Egan had to sit there with a double handful. They then went to Haydock over 2f shorter (2m) on faster ground and there was no pace in the race whatsoever, which saw him tapped for a bit of speed but he was doing his best work late on, and an extra 50 yards and he would've gotten up. I think this real stamina test is what he wants and if David Egan can avoid trouble, which will be tough, especially from a wide stall, he is a big EW player.
Ascot - 2:30 pm
9/4 @ William Hill
Ascot - 3:05 pm
11/4 @ Bet365
Ascot - 3:40 pm
5/2 @ PaddyPower
Ascot - 4:20 pm
9/4 @ Bet365
Ascot - 5:00 pm