2:30 Queen Anne Stakes
A race in which tactics will play a significant part after their successful use by ‘team O’Brien’ in the Lockinge saw a win for their horse Rhododendron who is the current race favourite again. Was only a narrow win over Lightning Spear though which suggests there isn’t much between the horses and though the latter has yet to win here from six attempts it has placed on three occasions. Second favourite is Benbetl for Bin Suroor and Godolphin who is the highest rated horse on official ratings. Won the Hampton Court stakes at Royal Ascot last year and has been in fine form in Dubai this winter/spring culminating in winning the Dubai Turf at the carnival. All of its group wins have come over further than a mile and though this is a stiff track it remains to be seen if its really what it needs.
Trends strongly point towards those at the head of the betting. In the last ten years the biggest priced winner was Declaration Of War at 15/2 including five favourites, with 9 of the winners from the first two in the betting (Only Tepin in 2016 the exception and that was third favourite at 11/2 in a tight betting affair with 9/2 joint favourites!) Those aged six and over are 0/24 with just three placed which is a big negative for Lightning Spear, the current fourth favourite. Horses who have been off the track for 51 or more days is 1/24, which was Toronado who took a weak renewal of the race at 4/5 despite having been off the track since the previous year.
Thinking of who will win the race then you have to focus on Rhododendron and Recoletos from France. Rhododendron has the higher RPR of the pair by three and though Recoletos is officially rated just higher the weights swing things in Rhododendron’s favour as a filly getting an allowance. Would be the first filly to win for a number of years though both Tepin and Goldikova did win this race as mare’s in the last ten years. The Lockinge has been a good guide for this with three winners following up here in ten years which again points towards Rhododendron, though on the plus side for Recoletos, the French have won this twice recently. However, both were well fancied and classy Freddy Head horses in Solow and Goldikova who both won as 11/8 favourites.
Lack of Ascot form and a niggling concern surrounding the consistency of Rhododendron are the worries though on its Lockinge form and the trends it looks the most likely winner. As trends point towards this I am prepared to put those concerns to one side and believe O’Brien will have it right for the day once more.
1.5pt win Rhododendron @ 7/2 Unibet
3:05 Coventry Stakes
Sergei Prokofiev is a warm order for this 2yo contest being from the sire of Scat Daddy whose progeny has shown to be particularly exciting and boasts a fine record at the meeting. However, 8 of the last 12 winners had already won over 6f and only 1 of the last 12 had tasted defeat. Also, all barring two of the last 12 had raced a maximum of two times, another negative for the favourite along with third and fourth favourites Cosmic Law and Irish Rover, whilst the well backed Burj was also defeated on debut. Of those unbeaten the best on shown form seems to be Calyx who romped home to win a Newmarket maiden by 5 lengths with the third a further 6 lengths behind the runner up. This is obviously a lot tougher and it is always a worry whether a 2yo would be able to repeat or even improve though if it could it would have a great chance.
Of the remaining unbeaten types, a couple catch my eye. First is Indigo Balance for Mrs John Harrington who is desperate for that Royal Ascot winner to add to her Cheltenham Festival haul. Looks to have a live chance as well as it ran particularly well on debut to win having been out the back with no cover. Stayed on well to take the honours in a race where the 2nd and 5th have gone in since. A winner on decent ground it recorded a good topspeed and RPR for its first run and would have a good chance if building on that. Visually more impressive however was Advertise who in a good looking Newbury maiden came from last entering the final 2f to win going away showing a rare turn of foot for a 2yo over a sprint trip. The third and fourth have both won since and are reopposing here suggesting they are well regarded themselves. That win came on fast ground over 6f and though it has a bit to find with the principles it looks an exciting prospect.
With the two once raced runners both drawn on opposite sides in stalls 1 and 19 and the fact they are both available at double figure odds then I am happy to back both of them e/w with a profit still made if one places.
1pt e/w Indigo Balance @ 12/1 Bet365 1/4 odds 5 places
1pt e/w Advertise @ 12/1 1/4 odds 5 places Bet365
3:40 Kings Stand
Fascinating sprint race which according to the betting is dominated by two horses. Last years winner Lady Aurelia and Prix De L’Abbaye winner Battaash. Personally I have doubts about both though. Lady Aurelia got all the allowances when winning last year carrying just 8st 9lb despite having the physique of an older horse. She was getting 9lb on most of the field which is a massive difference over sprint trips. However, was turned over in the Nunthorpe and not looked the same since in two runs in the US including in the same race it won last year and its RPR have been 20lb below. If betting it you are hoping for something nearing last years form, which may well happen, but needs to return to form it showed last August if it was to win this and looks a short enough price on that basis. Battaash is a concern on the fast ground. Yes, taking a literal view of its form it is 2/3 on good to firm including both a group 3 and group 2 wins. However, it’s sole group 1 win and two highest RPRs were gained on soft ground, with its third highest on good. Even then, its fourth highest which was on good to firm may well of been flattered by racing on the often favoured far rail over the 5f of Sandown. Add in the fact that this race hasn’t been great for favourites with just two winning favourites in the last 12 years, though admittedly there has been four second favourites in the same period, it still shows it is often worth taking on the market leader. It is a case of going back to 2009 though for the last winning favourite. Further negatives against the front two are that Lady Aurelia last year is the only winner in ten years that came into the race on the back of just one run or less that season from 47 to have tried. This could well be because sprinters can get too lit up without regular racing and race too keen, blowing their chances.
This means there could be some e/w value. 10 of the last 12 winners had been at least placed on their last start which is a negative for Blue Point as well as the fact it has yet to win over 5f. Kachy has looked a better horse this year, showing plenty of pace to win round Lingfield and Chester. Has a terrible record at group level though beyond its 2yo days and a suggestion it is better on tight left handed tracks rather than a stiff straight 5f like Ascot. I would therefore chance Finsbury Square who could win this for France. Ran at the festival last year but in the Diamond Jubilee over 6f where it ran really well, looking quite keen early and not quite seeing it out at the finish. Showed the fast ground isn’t a problem for the horse and comes here in even better form having won its prep last time out. Interesting it has moved to a trainer who won this in 2008 with Equiano, it looks an interesting e/w option.
Whilst favourites have a poor record in the race, those that go off second fav perform much better and could be significant here, especially if betting favoured Battaash as I have serious doubts about its chances with several negative trends against it. However, from a betting point of view Finsbury Square looks some e/w value for a trainer who knows what it takes to win this and a horse who went well at the Festival last year.
0.5pt e/w Finsbury Square @ 22/1 Skybet 1/5th odds 4 places
4:20 St James Palace Stakes
Whilst I said it was worth looking away from the front of the betting in the Kings Stand, it probably is not worth it here in the St James Palace stakes. 11 of the last 12 winners have come from the first three in the betting and not one winner has been priced in double figures. That would at least give us a shortlist of five for the race according to the betting at the moment. This was in fact a great race for the favourite but with two odds on shots turned over in the last two years then the favourite isn’t necessarily the first point of call. The favourite looks to be Without Parole who has looked very useful in just three starts to date. However, has a few negative trends that leave a concern regarding it value. Firstly 9 of the last 12 had won a group 1 already whereas this hasn’t even raced in a group race yet, let alone won one. It is a significant step up in class for a horse who won a listed race when last seen and is only having its fourth start. That is another negative as 10 of the last 12 had already raced at least 5 times. Finally horses that last raced 26 or more days ago are just 2 from 42 starts suggesting that those out quickly tend to perform best. That is also a worry especially for Tip Two Win who hasn’t been seen since the 2000 guineas and Wootton who was fourth in the French 200 guineas.
With that in mind it may pay to concentrate on the Irish pair of Romanised and U S Navy Flag. Tricky choice as well. Romanised looks to hold US Navy Flag on their Irish guineas run when Romanised beat it by 2 lengths, showing a good turn of foot. However, it had shown very little before that whilst US Navy Flag was a group 1 winner as a 2yo who looks to be coming to form this year and did well to lead most of the way in the Guineas until picked up late on. Because 10 of the last 12 winners had already won over a mile, something that US Navy Flag hasn’t done plus it is drawn widest of all on this round track yet will want to race prominent, I am going to favour Romanised to show it wasn’t a one off.
I am siding with Romanised for the value. Does need to show its Irish Guineas win wasn’t a fluke but in theory it holds US Navy Flag on form and fits all the trends for the race.
1.5pt win Romanised @ 11/2 Paddy, Boyle and BetVictor
5:00 Ascot Stakes
Not really a race that appeals to me. Lots of horses with little recent flat form to go on and dominated largely by National Hunt trainers. Willie Mullins has won this three times in the last six years, all of them ridden by Ryan Moore so it is surely significant that from all his entries that he is riding Chelkar despite it being off the track for over 600 days. I’m happy to take a small chance on Coeur De Lion though who is rising up the handicap but is well suited to these big field, long distance handicaps and has a fine record in them. Fast ground is a slight concern but this is sure to have been a target and if none of the Mullins horses are group class racing in a handicap then it shouldn’t be far away.
Have a bet on Coeur De Lion who has the least to prove from the majority of these. Enjoys long distance big field handicaps where it can stay on late and fast and should appreciate race conditions here. Seems a solid e/w bet in the race with several firms betting to five places.
1pt e/w Coeur De Lion @ 7/1 Paddy 1/5th odds 5 places
5:35 Wolferton Stakes
Used to be a listed handicap but is now just a straight listed race which is therefore frustrating from a trends point of view. As you can imagine it is a very competitive affair with not much between most of the runners at the weights. Whilst there are several unexposed runners in the race it is one of the old boys that seems to reflect value to me. Spark Plug wants a good sized field where it can get cover on decent ground and over 1m 1f or 1m 2f. Still looked to retain ability this year when 6th on seasonal debut carrying top weight in a decent handicap. Carried 10lb more than Sharja Bridge there when finishing just over 6 lengths behind it. Didn’t get the best of runs on its next start in a listed race at Goodwood. Spencer looks a good choice for the horse, it just needs the luck in running and it can run a big race.
Very competitive race where you can barely rule out anyone in the field which is why I have leant towards a small bet on a horse I know will enjoy conditions and has already proven itself on several occasions.
0.75pt e/w Spark Plug @ 22/1 1/5th odds 4 places Paddy and BetVictor
8:00 Beverley – Magnetic Boundary
Looked a promising sort on debut pulling clear with another in a decent time. Not really shown that level of form since though had a wind operation over the winter. Makes handicap debut here at just a class 5 level, connections have also applied cheekpieces which may help. Faces a couple of other unexposed rivals but the step up in trip looks a good move having got outpaced last time so it should run well.
1pt win Magnetic Boundary @ 6/1 Bet365