Royal Ascot Preview with The Snout
They say all roads lead to Cheltenham, and that is most certainly true for any National Hunt racing fan, but for me the pinnacle of quality flat racing happens in mid-June at Royal Ascot as we look ahead to a fabulous five days taking place in Berkshire where over 300,000 spectators will travel to see the finest thoroughbreds in the world. Although the festival has many attributes that make it so unique, for any racing fan it is purely about scything through an unbelievable 18 Group races in addition to some fantastic handicaps that you really can sink your teeth into.
The week really kicks off with a bang as the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes takes place over a straight mile. Won by some serious heavyweights over the past few years including Toronado, last-years victor Solow and Frankel, and more recently there has been a real international aspect to this race as trainers from across the world look to take this prestigious prize. There is no Solow this year, unfortunately, but another international raider heads the ante post markets in the form of TEPIN at 7/2. She is a fascinating contender with some clear form to her name (multiple Group winner in the US) but she will have to race in the UK without Lasix or a nasal strip – which could be really important elements for her. Many local challengers will have serious chances of beating home this US raider, as the Lockinge 1st and 3rd, BELARDO (8/1) and ENDLESS DRAMA (14/1) could well have serious claims if lining up, of course dependant on ground conditions. It looks as if this could be a very open Group 1 to kick proceedings off here and I am certain there will be some great value available as we get closer to the race. I am really hoping Henry Candy’s stable form improves nearer to the time as a certain sprinter-turned-miler could also line up here on his much needed fast ground at a big price…
We are treated to one of the best sprints to take place in the flat season calendar on the opening Tuesday as well, as the Kings Stand is ran over 5f which would be the main aim for many speedsters’ seasons. This race is often won in 58 seconds on fast ground, so there is little hiding place and with lots of early season form taking place on slower ground, it is not necessarily an in-form horse that takes this race. Wesley Ward’s intended runner, ACAPULCO (8/1), was devastating on this card last year in the Queen Mary but will find this a much bigger challenge. She will face a huge amount of competition including last years winner GOLDREAM (10/1) who will love the probable conditions, but at a bigger price so will COTAI GLORY (25/1) who no doubt needs the surface to be rattling quick and could well be one to spring a surprise. One of the races of the week for me and I am sure it won’t disappoint.
The Group races just keep coming and the St James’ Palace Stakes could be the race of the week. English 2000 Guineas winner GALILEO GOLD (9/2) will take on Irish 2000 Guineas winner AWTAAD (7/2), with the added spice of the French Guineas winner THE GURKHA (7/4) who produced an extremely high quality performance in Deauville when destroying the probable sub-standard field. Another race of the highest quality here and an intriguing affair to get stuck into.
Other key Group 1’s in the week include the Ascot Gold Cup, ran over 2m4f, which famously was won in the Queen’s colours in 2013 by Estimate who was given a dream ride by Ryan Moore. No doubt this race requires of course extreme stamina but usually requires luck in running so taking 7/4 about ORDER OF ST GEORGE would be a little premature at this stage. He does look the best stayer around at the moment though and may well prove tough to beat. We also have the Diamond Jubilee taking place on the Saturday with a number of Group 2 and Group 3 affairs running consistently throughout the week which pose a number of great betting opportunities.
Not only do we have these top class Group races but the handicaps are also of the highest quality. The Royal Hunt Cup is a personal favourite of mine ran over 1 mile and CONVEY (7/1) could be a good thing, even at this stage. Since the weights were released he has finished 2nd in a Group 3 to Home of the Brave over 7f (probably an inadequate trip for Convey as he was always staying on at the finish) and I am certain this horse will be going off shorter. He has been backed in the ante post markets but will shorten further as we get closer. He is only a maiden winner, though, and there will be well handicapped lurkers in the field. Similar can be said about the Britannia Stakes and the Wokingham that takes place on the Saturday.
It is sure to be a cracking week that never seems to disappoint. Last year we had winners including Dutch Connection (16/1), GM Hopkins (12/1), Acapulco (5/1) and also the winner of the long distance handicap as Clondaw Warrior (8/1) was given a beautiful ride by Ryan Moore. As the ground continues to dry out and more form lines are created, I am more confident than ever of a huge few days. Get involved today and join for a truly special week.