Lucky Vega goes in the St James’s Palace Stakes at 4.20 on day one of Royal Ascot
Royal Ascot gets under way on Tuesday with several great races in prospect. Here is your guide for the first day of one of flat racing’s finest meetings.
2.30pm – Queen Anne
A potentially slow pace looks on the cards in the traditional Royal Ascot curtain raiser, which could make life tricky for 2019 & 2018 winners (and confirmed hold-up performers) Lord Glitters and Accidental Agent respectively. A wide draw and the prospect of a slow tempo does not bode obviously well for PALACE PIER but equally he looks nigh on bombproof, having won seven of his eight career starts to date, most of which came in extremely impressive fashion, including his two victories so far this season. Regal Reality can go forward and, with conditions sure to suit, makes the most each-way appeal.
3.05pm – Coventry Stakes
Whilst Wesley Ward has long proven an irresistible force in the five-furlong juvenile races at Royal Ascot, he has historically struggled beyond the minimum distance with his two year olds and, compounded with the fact that a filly hasn’t won the Coventry in over 100 years, history strongly suggests that Kaufymaker will do very well to win here. Gisburn was a most impressive winner of a Newbury maiden that has long had a bearing on the Coventry Stakes and, with normal improvement expected, he can be bang there. However, DHABAB looks the one to beat following an excellent win at Leicester in a slick time; he can continue a strong start to the meeting for John & Thady Gosden.
3.40pm – King’s Stand Stakes
A race that revolves around the wellbeing, fitness and freshness of four-time Group 1 winner Battaash, whose issues in the build-up to this race have been well-documented. Even if he is a touch below his best, Battaash will surely still take plenty of beating but, in a field brimming with pace angles, there is a fear he may do too much in the early stages of this race and leave himself vulnerable late on. If a strong gallop does materialise, hold-up performer KEEP BUSY makes plenty of appeal to be finishing strongly late on under Ryan Moore, with the return to better ground sure to suit.
4.20pm – St James’s Palace Stakes
Battleground: Beat one rival home when the gamble of the race in the 2000 Guineas. The quality of his formlines still leave plenty to be desired in this context; others make much more appeal.
Bullace: Taken his form up a level in two starts this season, most recently when a good Listed 3rd. Likely comes here as he is 1lb too high for the Britannia Handicap; looks too tough a task.
Chindit: Could be argued that the action in the 2000 Guineas happened away from him and he ran very well in the circumstances. Looks ready to run a career-best; solid place claims at least.
Highland Avenue: One of three coming forward from the Heron Stakes and was arguably the best of them last time given track positions and weight differentials. This test may prove too sharp, however; place chance at best.
La Barrosa: High-class colt with a turn of foot who can be excused two below-par efforts on soft ground. Tuesday’s conditions can suit well and he looks set to run a career-best; lively place chance.
Lucky Vega: Thoroughly consistent colt who ran well in in the Irish 2000 Guineas despite unfavourable ground conditions. This much more suitable; the one to beat.
Maximal: Largely consistent colt having his first start at Group 1 level. Can give a good account of himself without necessarily getting involved in the finish.
Mostahdaf: Winner of all three of his starts, most recently getting up late to win the Heron Stakes at Sandown. This is much tougher and a draw in stall one could be tricky if held up; each-way chance.
Naamoos: Wide-margin winner of the Esher Cup back in April. Not seen since and taking a major step up in class. Likely pace angle but could struggle to lead all the way here; best watched.
Ontario: Winner of one of his nine starts, reported to have stopped quickly last time out. Likely to give stablemates Battleground & Wembley a good tow into the race but will struggle to feature himself.
Poetic Flare: Tough, high-class and likeable colt who won the 2000 Guineas and finished a narrow second in the Irish version. Should relish the return to firmer ground; must go close.
Thunder Moon: High-class juvenile who bombed out on his first try at a mile in the 2000 Guineas. Needs to prove he has trained on and is up to this level as a three year old; perhaps best watched.
Wembley: Thoroughly consistent two year old who has shown very little in two starts this season. Tongue-tie applied for the first time; can bounce back but has plenty to prove here.
Verdict: A wide open renewal of the St. James’s Palace Stakes that speaks volumes of quality of the Classic generation in which many of these in the line-up have been taking turns to beat each other at the highest level. This afternoon, it looks the turn once again of LUCKY VEGA (NAP), who was sent off market leader for the Irish 2000 Guineas and ran very well on ground that was surely too soft for him. Back on better going, he can give another good account of himself and go very close. The 2000 Guineas looks the formline to follow here, bringing in Chindit & Poetic Flare as strong contenders for minor honours.
5.00pm – Ascot Stakes
Warm renewal of this race, with many unexposed contenders coming forward. Cape Gentleman hails from a shrewd stable and has a most eye-catching jockey booking in the shape of this year’s Champion Hurdle & Grand National-winning rider Rachael Blackmore. He was a comfortable winner of last year’s Irish Cesarewitch on his latest start on the flat and must go close despite a 15lb hike in the weights. Willie Mullins once again holds a strong hand, but it remains to be seen how M C Muldoon & Rayapour will fare on the likely fast ground. However, his third runner ROYAL ILLUSION should have little trouble on the going and can go take a bit of beating this afternoon under Tom Marquand.
5.35pm – Wolferton Stakes
PATRICK SARSFIELD (NB) has proven himself to be a model of consistency over 10 furlongs through his career and has mixed it with some high-class opposition to boot. Without a penalty for his Group 3 win last July and, having warmed up with an excellent run in defeat at the Curragh earlier this month, he can take plenty of beating from a good draw in stall three. A recent wind operation can see a much-improved effort here from Juan Elcano, who is entitled to be right in the mix on the back of his early season form as a three year old; he can reward each-way support.
6.10pm – Copper Horse Stakes
Competitive race, and one where the early stages could prove important, given the relatively short run into the first turn for the 16 runners. Asides from a potentially awkward draw in stall one, ARTHURIAN FABLE has plenty going for him here: he remains on a competitive mark, has proven most consistent at this trip and should greatly appreciate the return to better going. His recent Newmarket conqueror Global Storm is another consistent sort who can go very well here once again; he remains unexposed at this trip. Finally, Sextant is not to be dismissed at a big price and rates an interesting contender with the visor off and in a big-field scenario.
2.30 Palace Pier
3.05 The Organiser
3.40 Winter Power NAP
5.00 Coeur de Lion
6.10 Global Storm