IT was a great day for the column last Saturday with two winners and two second places at big odds. Let's hope for more of the same this week at Royal Ascot.
I've had a look at the old spreadsheet and since the start of Royal Ascot last year, exactly one year ago, I am 128.4 points in profit. I have staked exactly 1,000 points (by sheer coincidence rather than design) and returned 1128.4 points for an overall return of 12.84% for the year.
Anyway, today marks the start of the best festival of the flat season at Royal Ascot and whether you enjoy all the pageantry or not the racing is undeniably top class.
2.30 Queen Anne Stakes
I don't think this is the strongest Group 1 we've ever seen at Royal Ascot and although Rhodedendron's form is strong enough and Benbatl has been firing on all cylinders over in Dubai I'm not particularly keen to back either of them at the current prices. The one that I think might be great value is YOSHIDA the American-trained horse who won a very good Group 1 last time out at Churchill Downs, beating one of the top American milers (Beach Patrol) in the process. I think he could be the class angle in a fair to middling Group 1 race and with four places on offer with some firms he looks a stonking each way bet.
3.05 Coventry Stakes
The record that colts bred by Scat Daddy have at Royal Ascot is not to be sniffed at and SERGEI PROKOFIEV looks to have a really strong chance here. His two wins to date have been very impressive and with his top connections he is hard to ignore, despite the depth of the race and various notable performances from his opponents.
There is also one of the complete outsiders that I think is overpriced and I can't leave him unbacked. KUWAIT STATION won nicely on debut despite running quite green and he wasn't backed in the market so it is safe to assume that his connections thought he had a bit more to come after his first run. None of his opponents in that race have run again so we don't know how strong the form is but that also means that we are getting this big price today. 100/1 is the sort of price that you just have to get involved with if you think the horse has a squeak.
3.40 King's Stand Stakes
I just can't wait for this race. On paper it's a straight battle between Battaash and LADY AURELIA and I think that's correct. These are two absolute superstars. If one of them turns up in top form they won't see which way it went. If they both turn up in top form then we could be in for an absolute treat. After last year's performance in this race (and her breathtaking win in 2016) I cannot go against Lady Aurelia who seems to relish this 5 furlong track at Ascot like no other horse I can remember. Battaash is a bit of a nutter but if he can get through the preliminaries without incident he might be able to run her close.
4.20 St James's Palace Stakes
ROMANISED has been there and down it in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and he won that race decisively. He clearly is suited by a strongly run 1 mile race on good to firm ground and that's exactly what he will get here. Without Parole is a great name for a horse but he shouldn't be favourite here, having only won a listed race in fairly unimpressive fashion. If Romanised was trained by Aidan O'Brien he would be about 7/4 for this race so we absolutely have to get involved when his price is this big.
5.00 Ascot Stakes
I'll freely admit that I am struggling to pick a winner in this race and I have accepted that I need to look for the best value and the one most likely to finish in a place with the hope that it can sneak the win. The one that I have landed on is LAGOSTOVEGAS, the reason being that she is possibly the most consistent horse in the race and has been running well over hurdles. Her form in the Cesarewitch at the tail end of last season is particularly good and she will enjoy this test today.
5.35 Wolverton Stakes
MIRAGE DANCER seems to be improving for Sir Michael Stoute with each performance and he might peak just at the right time to land this race. His win last time out suggested that a race like this is perfect for him and with the extra place on offer I can't see him finishing out of the frame.
- 2.30 Yoshida – 2 point e/w (14-1, William Hill, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power – all paying 4 places)
- 3.05 Sergei Prokofiev – 4 point win (11-4, Coral, Paddypower)
- 3.05 Kuwait Station – 0.5pt e/w (100-1, Paddy Power – paying 4 places)
- 3.40 Lady Aurelia – 6 point win (7-4, William Hill, Bet365)
- 4.20 Romanised – 4 point win (11/2, Paddy Power, BetVictor)
- 5.00 Lagostovegas – 2 pt e/w (11-1, William Hill – paying 5 places)
- 5.35 Mirage Dancer – 2pt e/w (6-1, Ladbrokes, Betway – both paying 4 places)