2.30 Royal Ascot – Jersey Stakes
The day two Royal Ascot opener doesn’t look a race to get too clever with; the market leaders look to hold outstanding chances, those being Le Brivido (11/4), Dream Castle (4/1) and Daban (15/2).
Without a shadow of a doubt, Le Brivido has the best form on offer and is the correct favourite, but his brilliant French 2000 Guineas effort came on ground with cut in it over a mile and it remains to be seen if he will perform as good over today’s fast-terrain seven-furlongs.
Those conditions will hold no fears for Dream Castle and Daban who have a similar level of ability, but with the filly carrying a penalty, it’s makes sense to give DREAM CASTLE the nod. Saeed bin Suroor’s son of Frankel was unraced as a juvenile, but is now quickly making up for lost time.
A strong-run seven-furlongs on this ground will prove to be his optimum in the short-term and it remains to be seen if the favourite can give him a head start and a beating.
At the prices, I also can’t resist a bet on SOLOMON’S BAY who is now going the right way after a disappointing start to the season. The ability he showed to travel and quicken in winning at Epsom last time out was impressive. He will need to improve, mind, but I think he can.
A strong-run, quick-ground seven furlongs will see him travel into contention nicely, I just hope he can sneak a place late or maybe cause a shock.
1.5pts win Dream Castle @4/1 (general)
1pt each-way Solomon’s Bay @33/1 (general)
3.05 Royal Ascot – Queen Mary Stakes
As much as I want to take on Wesley’s Ward’s criminally short favourite Happy Like A Fool (1-1) here, I’m going to take my medicine and play in the without market. Ward has made no secret of how high he rates this filly and to be fair to him, he has a habit of being right at this meeting. Mentally and physically, she is likely to be streets clear of the home challenge so it makes sense to duck her.
Horses drawn very low could struggle here, so the two I want on my side are NEOLA and OUT OF THE FLAMES. The former is a progressive filly who appears to be getting quicker. The fact she is far more streetwise than a lot of these fillies, along with her ability, will hold her in good stead.
The latter, is another filly that looks to be going the right way. She is progressive and has the early pace to run comfortable when the gates open, her ability off the bridle just adds to her chance. The Hannon team report her in good order with more improvement to come; with that being the case, she should run well.
1pt win ‘betting without Happy Like A Fool’ Neola @8/1 (Bet Victor, William Hill, 15/2 general)
1pt win ‘betting without Happy Like A Fool’ Out Of The Flames @9/1 (Sky Bet, 15/2 general)
3.40 Royal Ascot – Duke Of Cambridge Stakes
With Laugh Aloud out, this fillies and mares Group 2 has become easier to win. Her absence also means this race may not be run at a strong gallop, meaning those horses that need a well-run mile may be inconvenienced.
It could set up nicely for a horse with a strong-ability to travel. With this being the case, MIX AND MINGLE looks the value. Chris Wall’s filly is unbeaten in two starts this season and comes here at the top of her game.
Last campaign, she showed numerous glimpses of ability over a mile, without ever looking comfortable at the trip. She looked a seven-furlong filly in truth and maybe still is, but now she’s a year older and stronger, she may see out the mile better. The fast ground will be a big help, as will her ability to settle and straight-forward character.
On all known form, Qemah should be winning this, but she’s not straight-forward herself. She can be keen and today will be the fastest surface she has encountered. Usherette looked horse destined for the top last season before she bled. I’m not sure she has returned as good this season while Smart Call, to my eye, could be better over further.
1pt each-way Mix and Mingle @9/1 (general)
4.20 Royal Ascot – Prince Of Wales’s Stakes
The big race of the day and a cracker in store. On all known form, Highland Reel is the best horse in here. However, he is a proper 12f performer and today’s trip (10f) will surely be on the sharp side for the tough son of Galileo.
The fact he backs up relatively quickly after a gruelling Coronation Cup victory on fast ground, means he has every excuse not to be near his best today. Dropping in trip, he surely must set strong, even fractions to win, meaning he won’t have an easy race. It would be no surprise to see him completely flop in truth.
Jacks Hobbs is in a similar scenario to Highland Reel; in that he looks a proper 12f horse. Today’s trip and ground won’t play to his strengths.
The setup of today’s highlight looks likely to suit Decorated Knight and Ulysses, but I simply can’t understand the price difference between the pair, considering their form this season is similar.
Therefore, DECORATED KNIGHT is the undoubted value on the back of his recent Curragh Group 1 win. Roger Charlton’s son of Galileo impressed in that victory, travelling through the race like a class act, on ground that wouldn’t have suited, before getting to the front far too early, idling and winning readily.
He’s a hold-up performer with a change of gear and with Highland Reel and Jack Hobbs likely to take each other on early, once softened up, he could quicken by late. Whether he can fend off Ulysses is another matter, but he has a slightly kinder draw and that could prove telling.
2.5pts each-way Decorated Knight @9/1 (Bet Victor, bet365, Boylesports, Ladbrokes, StanJames)
5.00 Royal Ascot – Royal Hunt Cup
A huge-field handicap to get to grips with here, 29 runners going to post. Looking at the pace, those drawn very low could struggle, meaning Banksea and George William are ducked, despite looking ideal for this contest.
My three against the field would be REMARKABLE, HORS DE COMBAT and BALLET CONCERTO.
Remarkable is a risky bet, as last time out, he looked completely off mentally. He comes with risks, but I can forgive one bad day at the office, especially as he has plenty high-quality straight-track form.
Hors De Combat has been in good order this season, and is the most solid of the three bets. He was unlucky last time out, never getting a run, and granted better luck, can be in the shakeup.
Ballet Concerto looks on a winnable mark for a top-class team in Sir Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore. I have small doubts about him on the ground, but his last two efforts have come on undulating tracks, and that may well be why he has been below par. His run last time out was a good effort considering how unlucky he was.
1.5pt each-way Hors De Combat @20/1 (general)
1pt win Remarkable @25/1 (general)
1pt win Ballet Concerto @16/1 (general)
5.35 Royal Ascot – Sandringham Handicap
Two against the field here are GRECIAN LIGHT and PROSPER. Both these fillies have top-class pedigrees and are sure to be suited by the quick ground.
The former ran a cracker on her 2017 debut when far too keen on ground that would’ve been too soft. It’s a credit to her ability that she still manged to see her race out well enough. A stronger-run contest here could be right up her street.
The latter is a big price on the back of a poor run, but that can easily be forgiven. She would’ve hated the ground at Newbury and the trip clearly stretched her. She shaped much better than the distance beaten suggests and back on quicker ground down in trip, can go well.
1pt each-way Grecian Light @22/1 (bet365, Ladbrokes, 20-1 Coral)
1pt each-way Prosper @22/1 (bet365, 20-1 Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power)