It’s great to be part of BetBright’s Royal Ascot 2017 coverage this week and I’m really looking forward to it getting underway tomorrow.
There is something special about the Royal meeting, I was only born a stone’s throw or so away from the course and it’s been a privilege to broadcast on it for the likes of Channel 4, Racing UK and this year for the vast American audience with NBC. We are well used to them sending the speed balls over by now and it’s important we engage that vast cohort of horse racing enthusiasts for our benefit here and I’m sure we will.
This week Michael Bell and other high profile names have made a well raised point with regard American trainer Wesley Ward working his runners on the Ascot track in the build up. I think the crucial part to note is that these are inexperienced youngsters so a chance to test them on the quite specific Ascot straight and the surface they will encounter does certainly give them a bit of “game day” advantage. I don’t think anyone would have batted an eyelid at the more experienced runners have a stretch out, but in case of the youngsters, it has to have a bit more significance. That’s done now though and the show is ready to start!
We begin with the Queen Anne Stakes at 2.30pm. It’s often one of the best races of the meeting and this year we have a short priced favourite in Richard Fahey’s Ribchester.
He’s drawn stall 1, which is not ideal and possibly faces the quickest ground he will have encountered to date. His main rival in the betting is Lightning Spear, out in stall 14 and almost four lengths second behind Ribchester when Fahey’s four year old took the Lockinge at Newbury in May.
You have to respect the favourites chances on the book, absolutely, but I’m more inclined to take a view that the value lurks withe the bigger prices elsewhere here.
Deauville is one such contender, he might lack for optimum tactical speed but is a proven Group 1 performer, the ground can’t be fast enough and you know he will see the race out. The other is Mutakayyef who also wants it on the fast side and whilst his run behind Tepin ( last years winner ) at Woodbine was only alright he didn’t have ideal conditions that day and I think he would have made her pull out all the stops if it had been. Excellent course form, albeit on the round course and at the prices is also worthy of support here.
The market might not agree but Miss Temple City can prove best of the American raiders, she will need a career best but is perhaps priced longer than American Patriot because of the Dettori and Pletcher factor with that one. She could reward a small interest at big prices.
Up next is the Coventry Stakes and Wesley Ward can win this with the exciting Arawak. This could be the best of his 2yo’s this year but is also certainly in the hottest race. Ward has more than proved that he is capable of looking after a classy horse over further than 5f and it’s not just about handling the precocious bullets at the minimum trip.
Awarak was subject of warm reports from Jamie Spencer after the recent piece of work and the 2yo’s sire Uncle Mo has had an incredible start to his stud career so far. Punters might be concerned by the 6f and perhaps even the jockey booking but it doesn’t worry me at all, remember we are talking about one of the most successful pilots of all time in John Velazquez.
Added to that the European 2yo’s might not be all that special this year, I respect Brother Bear who has been good in two starts for Jessica Harrington but if you wanted to chance a home pick at bigger odds then Charlie Hills’ Nebo really caught the eye when bolting up at Newbury. That was on soft ground but the pedigree suggests better to come on quicker terrain and with the yard just coming into a bit of form, as they often do heading into this week, I’d give him a chance of getting involved too.
The Kings Stand looks stronger this year than last years renewal which was won by Profitable. You’d rightly expect trailblazers like Take Cover and Lady Aurelia to take them along and I can’t see them trying anything different with the latter other than to use her main asset which is to let it all go from the stalls opening.
In Marsha and Lady Aurelia we are getting a great opportunity to see two very talented fillies go head to head but I do fancy one away from those two who can hopefully take a bit of beating at a better price.
Signs Of Blessing looks perfect for this and can reproduce his best on a sound surface as we have seen in the past. He showed loads of pace on Champions Day behind The Tin Man and his jockey Stephane Pasquier will be on a high after his success in the Prix de Diane at Chantilly over the weekend. That’s important with Stephane, a real confidence jockey and the selection showed serious well being when slamming last years winner of this race, Profitable, when giving loads of weight away Deauville in May.
I’ll not be expecting Churchill to fluff his lines in the St James Palace Stakes, Barney Roy will give him a race but if you listen to Ryan Moore he’ll tell you they haven’t got to the bottom of the dual Guineas winner and that says enough. He’s odds on so go ahead if you are getting involved, everything just looks set up for him and should be good to watch.
The Ascot Stakes looks far more appetising for a wager and Thomas Hobson has been so well found at the head of the market there is no juice in the price for a race like this. A horse that has never jumped properly over hurdles to date is probably overdue a return to the level and will obviously be popular for punters with the Moore, Mullins and Ricci factor in play.
I prefer to take a look at Beyond Conceit for another Jumps trainer Nicky Henderson, who of course won this race in 2011 with Veiled. The 8yo will love the ground, has a good draw in 3 which will be ideal for a ground saving trip under jockey Jamie Spencer and along with previous good from at the track over hurdles makes for a solid selection.
Formerly with Tom Tate and then Andrew Balding I expect a good run from Henderson’s horse at what is currently a pretty fair price.
Hopefully we have had a good day up to post time for the Windsor Castle Stakes as you don’t want to be in a position of frantically searching for a winner in here with a mighty hard field to pick from at 5.35pm. Should be good to watch but it’s a swift hard pass from me and on to Wednesday…
Three for Tuesday:
Coventry Stakes 3.05pm Awarak
Kings Stand 3.40pm Signs Of A Blessing
Ascot Stakes 5.00pm Beyond Conceit
Good luck to all this week!
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.