Ascot 2.30 – Queen Anne Stakes
The meeting kicks off with a bang and I’ll hope to do the same with ELUSIVE KATE who looks an attractive price in the ‘without Animal Kingdom’ market. John Gosden’s now four-year-old filly was mixing it with some of the top milers in Europe last season, namely the likes of Excelebration. On more than one occasion she acquitted herself well and in her last effort she did so on unfavourably soft going. Today’s better terrain will suit her much better. It must also be pointed out that she was taking on these top older milers as a three-year-old. Now older, stronger and probably that bit better she should make her mark in Europe this season especially against her own sex (the overall mile division looks quite weak in general too though). She’s a daughter of Elusive Quality out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare so there is every reason to think she’ll be better this season. She has the services of the excellent William Buick and while her fitness has to be taken on trust Buick did say, in his AtTheRaces.com blog this: “Don’t be put off by this being her first run of the season. She couldn’t have done any more at home than she has and the boss, John Gosden, knows her inside out”. The selection also looks to be the pace angle of the race so she might get an easy time up front which is another huge positive. In what looks an average Queen Anne, with the favourite an exception Elusive Kate should go very close if on song. The American raider will be tough to beat, hence the market selected of the main bet, but he’s certainly beatable. Animal Kingdom is a fantastically consistent and classy horse. He’s a two time Grade One winner boasting wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Dubai World Cup, but today’s test is a whole new demand. He’ll obviously be the one to beat. If he doesn’t hit the frame it wouldn’t be a surprise, but on all known form he looks the best horse in the field. It should be a cracker of a race. Hopefully we can get off to a flyer. If you are looking for a bigger priced selection I do think Sovereign Debt will run well at 16-1, but we’ll stick with Kate.
3pts each-way Elusive Kate @4-1 (Bet Victor – betting without Animal Kingdom)
1pt each-way Elusive Kate @7-1 (bet365, Labdrokes, William Hill)
5.00 Ascot – Ascot Stakes
Willie Mullins is a man to respect in the Ascot Stakes as Ireland’s leading trainer seems to target this race most years. The Carlow handler won this with Simenon last season and has had other runners run well down through the years too. He knows what it takes and I feel MIDNIGHT OIL is worth a bet with Richard Hughes booked. The champion jockey’s ability to settle horses is often seen as one of his key strengths and that ability should be useful over this taxing trip of 2 miles four furlongs. While Mullins’ record in this race helped highlight the selection I do feel Midnight Oil has some decent form to back it up, albeit over jumps. Jumps form, and trainers have won the last three renewals so it’s a positive Mullins is in our corner. Six and five runs back this son of Motivator was pitched into Grade Two and Grade One company, respectively over jumps. He never fired in both events, but it was interesting that his trainer deemed him good enough to compete. Since then his form figures have read 1212 and come in decent novice events. His latest second to a nice horse of Gordon Elliot’s shows him to be in good order. That start was in soft ground over two-and-a-half miles so there is every chance of him staying today’s trip although Ascot is a much stiffer course than Kilbeggan. It’s a wide open race, but hopefully he can run well. Stats and trends also make him of interest as five-year-olds have gone nicely in this race historically. National Hunt trainers have a good record here and you don’t get much better than the 2013 Cheltenham Festival top trainer in Mullins. Willie has his string in good form at the moment too so it all bodes well for a big run.
1pt each-way Midnight Oil @11-1 (Bet Victor, bet365, William Hill)
5.35 Ascot – Windsor Castle Stakes
It’s probably not a race to go crazy in given the massive field of juvenile runners, but I was very taken by BEN HALL’s latest win. The John Gosden two-year-old took a huge step forward from his maiden run to go on and score in strong fashion at Haydock. After breaking sharply he showed plenty early speed to get to the front and make his own running. William Buick was comfortable at all times on him as he simply let the horse breeze to line to score in comfortable fashion. Now, his form doesn’t look as strong as some of those ahead of him in the market, but he impressed with his speed and how hard he hit the line – seemingly doing it easy. He looked powerful in how he finished so today’s stiff finish should be ok. Hopefully his draw will be kind to him so he can run a decent race.
1pt each-way Ben Hall @14-1 (bet365 only 1, 2, 3, 4)