Declan “The DR” Rix previews Royal Ascot on Tuesday, the first day of racing fans get to see the superstar Frankel
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2.30pm – Queen Anne Stakes
One of Ireland’s best milers, Excelebration, will compete for Group One royal honours, but the son of Exceed And Excel has an almighty task of turning over Frankel. Aidan O’Brien’s four-year-old has faced Frankel four times and on all four has come up short, and by some way. The distance between the pair seems to be growing too which leaves the Tipperary horse with a mountain to climb. Coolmore and Ballydoyle can take an optimistic view, if they want, in knowing Frankel, a son of Galileo, may not be around only for their work. That said, it’s the only positive to take.
The Sir Henry Cecil trained colt is the world’s highest rated horse at the moment and it will take an absolute miracle to beat him. Connections of Strong Suit feel they have the second best miler in Europe, but Richard Hannon’s charge still has to prove himself on track this year, and over a distance of one mile. Frankel, quite simply, is the one they all have to beat and barring accidents should win. I’m expecting him to win by at least four lengths.
In terms of a bet we’ll look in the betting without Frankel market. Excelebration should chase Frankel home and I’d much rather back the Ballydoyle runner, at evens, without Frankel than the favourite himself at 1-6. However, evens is still a touch on the small side and a chance is taken on Sir Mark Prescott’s WORTHADD. The 12s on offer with Paddy Power is fair considering he ran Canford Cliffs to a length and a half in last season’s Lockinge. His form tapered off a little after that and his latest run can be excused due to fast ground and an unforgiving track. Softer ground around Ascot should see him go close. Premio Loco can go well in this market, too.
Advice: 0.5pts each-way WORTHADD @12-1 Paddy Power (w/o Frankel market)
3.05 – King’s Stand Stakes
A bumper 23 runner field go to post in what is a hugely open race. Ireland and England are no great shakes in the sprinting division and in the main can’t hold a candle to foreign sprinters. Irish interest comes in the form of Sole Power, trained by Edward Lynam. The son of Kyllachy is a top class horse, but he needs certain requirements to be at his best; rattling quick ground and a flat track. He won’t get either at Ascot and so, is passed over.
The English challenge isn’t much better, but in Bated Breath they have a classy performer. Six furlongs is probably his optimum and faster ground is desirable. He will go close, however, especially as his prominent style of racing will be suited to Ascot in a race lacking true pace. It’s just hard to get away from the fact that foreign sprinters are generally better.
Four times now this race has gone to Australian raiders and the boys from down under send the classy mare, ORTENSIA. She is a Group One winner in her own country and has even encountered the great Black Caviar. She was duly put in her place by the crack Aussie sprinter, but in this company she will take some stopping. Her destruction of Sole Power in Meydan recently means she is the one to beat. Joy And Fun and Little Bridge are two Hong Kong raiders and must be respected. The latter was said to have had a fever after his travelling and news like that is not welcomed from a punters perspective. The old boy Joy And Fun should go well, however. Another foreign raider, Wizz Kid, also needs to be highly respected. Her form is classy and has course experience which is always a help, but in black and white, she is just another European sprinter and I fully expect Ortensia to take plenty of stopping. Two at bigger prices I can see going well are Hamish McGonagall and Spirit Quartz. The former has some solid course and distance form and the latter is a sprinter on the improve representing last year’s winning trainer of this race.
Advice: 1.5ps win ORTENSIA @6-1 general & 0.5pts each-way SPIRIT QUARTEZ @20-1 Paddy Power (w/o Bated Breath market)
3.45 – St James’s Palace Stakes
A race that has been kind to Ireland over the last decade or so. To be a little more accurate, it’s a race that has been kind to Aidan O’Brien. The master of Ballydoyle has tasted success no less than six times in this race. The Tipperary handler is double handed in this year’s renewal where he hopes to become the race’s most winning trainer in its history.
Power and Wrote are the two that go to post and although Power is your favourite, he by no means will have an easy race. He was a good winner of the Irish Guineas last time out, but the race was very much run to suit. He now has to deal with softer ground and is worth taking on in an open race. The Irish contingent will also be represented by John Oxx’s Born To Sea – the half-brother to Sea The Stars. Remember him? He may not be as classy as his illustrious sibling, but he is no back number. Things haven’t gone according to plan this season, but it’s not inconceivable for him to turn his Irish Guineas run with Power, and at twice the price. He has also been well-backed. Similar comments apply to Foxtrot Romeo – second in the Irish Guineas to your current favourite. It’s hard to believe he is a 16-1 shot and looks to be priced-up on his trainer exploits than his own on track performances. He is the likely pace angle in a race full of hold-up horses, too.
The French send a strong challenge this year and Hermival looks best of those. He ran a cracker in the English 2000 Guineas, but disappointed in the Irish equivalent when on a faster surface. A testicular problem was highlighted as a possible fault for his slight below par display. I like him, not his preparation. Most Improved is the potential fly in the ointment today. His Dewhurst run leaves him bang on a par with any of these today. That said, he needs to prove his worth this year and his draw could have been kinder. Fencing is another to note, but in an open race a chance is taking on FOXTROT ROMEO who looks value. Most Improved is a serious danger, but not a betting proposition and if Hermival wins, after I backing him in the Irish Guineas, I’ll be disappointed.
Advice: 0.5pts each-way FOXTROT ROMEO @16-1 Bet365 (who are a 1/3 1,2,3)
4.25pm – Coventry Stakes
Another massive field to contend with as 23 go to post for the Coventry. Some quality performers have taken this event in recent seasons, most notably Henrythenavigator and Canford Cliffs. It’s a bit early to say if we are dealing with that type of class, but plenty of these are showing encouraging signs.
Of the 23 strong field I narrowed it down to 7, you’ll be glad to hear. These include Artigano, Cristoforo Colombo, Dawn Approach, Englishman, Lines Of Battle, New Pearl, who looks the value, and Sir Prancealot. Again, Irish eyes will be heavily focused on Ballydoyle runners who have two entries, but Jim Bolger’s Dawn Approach cannot be overlooked. I was hugely impressed with Cristoforo Colombo’s Navan win where he drifted like a barge to win. He was still green, but looked classy. Lines Of Battle didn’t strike me as much as his stable mate, but I was taken by his gutsy attitude. He won with a bit more in hand than the winning distance suggests. Both Ballydoyle runners will improve significantly for their debut runs. A lack of experience is a worry for both, however. Experience will not be a concern for Jim Bolger’s Dawn Approach, though, which is a massive plus for me given the occasion these horses will meet. His three wins were conducted in facile fashion and class is not a worry for this son of New Approach. Charlie Hills’ Englishman was an impressive winner on debut at Newbury, on soft ground.
Numerous winners have come from that race and even the collateral form looks good. He’ll encounter a different surface today, however, and I’d just be a little worried he gets taken off his feet early. Artigiano looked professional when winning his second start and may prove a little bit of value. New Pearl looks priced-up on his latest start where he didn’t fire. He was massively impressive on debut at English racing H.Q, but the faster ground at Pontefract may have scuppered his chances. This softer surface should help. Massive money has come for Richard Hannon’s Sir Prancealot who was yet another impressive winner last time out. He looks all speed however, and now has to step-up a furlong on softer ground in a better race. He won over 6 at Bath, but that is a speed track. He just looks a little short in the betting for me, but should run well. All in all, it’s another tough, competitive race, but I’m a firm believer in experience in these races and so, DAWN APPROACH gets the vote. An each-way saver on New Pearl is also advised as 20-1 looks a little big. It’s a race in which the Irish have strong claims.
Advice: 2pts each-way DAWN APPROACH @9-2 Bet365 (1, 2, 3, 4) & 0.5pts each-way New Pearl @20-1 (1, 2, 3, 4)