Royal Ascot is finally here! Five days of sizzling action lie ahead and, to get us off the mark, Syndicate Captain TFA has given us his Royal Ascot tips on the first day in a bid to take down the £20,000 Place 6 pool.
2.30 Royal Ascot
This race is a headscratcher. I’ve watched several re-runs of the Lockinge which I’m certain is the key piece of form for this race although, as always, it’s never that straightforward. We have a different course today and different going, which must be accounted for.
Whichever way I look at the Lockinge, I keep coming back to the thought that Laurens travelled better than any other horse that day and, although the winner swept past her late on, she was race fit whereas Laurens just ran out of steam. On softer going and with that run under her belt, I would expect Laurens to take her revenge on Mustashry. Laurens is my main pick in this race.
Beyond Laurens there isn’t much separating several of them. In terms of what else makes the shortlist, I’m tempted to say that I think the Lockinge form will give us the winner and the places for this race which leaves a shortlist of nine.
Accidental Agent won this race last year at odds of 33/1 and ran a cracker to be third in the Lockinge. They have clearly been targeting this race again and, with form on a softer surface, he may be capable of causing another surprise.
Lord Glitters had a shocker in the Lockinge but that isn’t his true form. He was second here last year and is sure to have been laid out for this again. Given that he has a preference for soft ground, he could easily leave that run behind him and bounce back.
Le Brivido was the other one to take away from that day as he finished like a train out wide. He’s clearly a character and has enough form over shorter distances to make it interesting if he stays.
Place 6 Selections – Laurens, Accidental Agent, Lord Glitters, Le Brivido
3.05 Royal Ascot
Historically, this is one of the easier races on the first day as it tends to be won by those at the front of the market so I wouldn’t go too far past them when looking for selections.
Arizona’s second run was a massive improvement from his debut, bolting up in a maiden race and looking like a superstar. That his debut run was on softer ground suggests that won’t be an issue here and he will be tough to beat.
Guildsman looked an absolute monster on debut when winning by six lengths on soft ground and, with similar conditions today, has to be on the shortlist.
Monoski finished second to Bomb Proof on debut, which I suspect is very strong form, and then dotted up in a four-runner event last time. The stable regularly target this race with their best juvenile and, if he can improve again, should run a race.
Place 6 Selections – Arizona, Guildsman, Monoski
3.40 Royal Ascot
This race revolves around Battaash. If he turns up in the same form as last time and behaves himself he’ll take some beating as, on his day, he’s probably the best sprinter around. He’s had a few disappointing races in his time but, if he runs to form, he might blow the rest away.
Blue Point won this last year from Battaash and Mabs Cross and it’s difficult to look past that trio. There’s every chance they fill the same three places, although I’d just favour Battaash over Blue Point.
Place 6 Selections – Battaash, Blue Point
4.20 Royal Ascot
Another straightforward race and it will be a massive shock if neither Phoenix Of Spain or Too Darn Hot win this race, let alone place.
They have history here as Too Darn Hot beat Phoenix of Spain in last year’s Champagne Stakes fairly easily. Phoenix of Spain followed that up with a close second to Magna Grecia in the old Racing Post Trophy. Magna Grecia won the 2000 Guineas this season and, therefore, the form is rock solid.
Pheonix of Spain made his debut in the Irish 2000 Guineas and beat Too Darn Hot fairly easily, although I’m not sure the horse in second received the best ride from Dettori. I’ve no strong opinion on who will come out on top although suspect it will be another close battle.
Place 6 Selections – Pheonix of Spain, Too Darn Hot
5.00 Royal Asco
Things get trickier in this race although it’s one that, historically, the market does a good job at finding the right selections in. It usually favours those at the top end of the betting and is clearly targeted by some of the leading National Hunt stables so it will be a surprise if a couple of the well fancied runners aren’t in the places.
Ryan Moore has a very good record for Willie Mullins and this is a race that Mullins usually targets. It’s surprising that he only has one entry this year but could mean that he thinks it’s well handicapped and he doesn’t need multiple runners. It’s hard to get a handle on Buildmeupbuttercup which started life as a smart bumper performer before going racing on the flat and then making the transition to hurdles. We’re all guessing about whether she is well-handicapped but the booking of Moore suggests it may be. Has to be on the shortlist.
Coeur De Lion was sixth last year but looked an improved performer at Chester last time and I thought the handicapper was kind only raising him 5lbs for that win. It’s different going today but I’m not sure he needs heavy ground to show his best form. If he’s improved a little from last season it’s hard to see him not running a race.
The Cashel Man sneaked into this race at the foot of the handicap but Henderson targets this race each year and I think, off a mark of 90, he’s possibly well handicapped. Was fourth in the Cesarewitch in 2016 off a mark of 89 and has been well-fancied twice this season but needed a stronger pace in both races. He’ll get it here so should be staying on late.
Mengli Khan and Snow Falcon are both high class#National Hunt animals and if they could convert that ability to the flat, they look well-handicapped. Snow Falcon was second in the Irish Cesarewitch in 2017 off a mark of 97 and is off 99, so has a chance.
Mengli Khan hasn’t run on the flat since 2016 when winning off a mark of 90 fairly easily at Kempton. Off a mark of 96 he probably needs to improve a little but has clearly made progress over the jumps in the last three years so may be capable of getting involved.
Place 6 Selections – Buildmeupbuttercup, Coeur De Lion, The Cashel Man, Mengli Khan, Snow Falcon
5.35 Royal Ascot
A tricky race to end the card. With 16 runners and three places, it won’t be easy to get past if you are still in the Place 6. However, two horses do stand out for me.
Addeybb has questions to answer but is down in listed class here and I think this may have too much for this race. He had a couple of poor runs last season in Group 1s but I’m giving him one final chance to show how good he is.
Elarquam is also better than Listed class on his day and, therefore, should be in the frame. His run two starts ago, when third at Newmarket, looks very good form now and, based on this run alone, probably makes him favourite. I can’t see too many reasons why he won’t go well.
With one more space in the perm, it’s tough to separate another eight or nine horses. If forced though, First Nation would be my third selection due to the fact that he finished one place behind Elarquam in the aforementioned race at Newmarket. Given taht this is the strongest piece of form in the race, it makeshim the third most likely winner for me.
Place 6 Selections – Addeybb, Elarquam, First Nation