Yes, folks, 12,000 lucky ‘vaccinistas’ will be at Ascot this afternoon for the opening day of the Royal Meeting, with all seven races being shown on various ITV channels.
First up at 2.30 is the Queen Anne Stakes, in which we are not about to oppose ‘the best miler in the world’ Palace Pier, which is currently trading at 2-5. We are not about to back it either, so we start our Preview with a ‘no bet’ recommendation.
The Coventry Stakes at 3.05 has a field of 17, including the Wesley Ward trained filly Kaufymaker. Fillies don’t usually run in this race and it’s impossible to judge how good she may be, leading us, on balance, to apply the Spanish Archer.
Our primary pick in this race is Gisburn from the Richard Hannon yard. This son of Ribchester improved markedly on a promising debut by taking a Newbury maiden by an eased down six lengths under Pat Dobbs, who retains the ride. The form of that race is beginning to work out well and he should go well at 6-1.
Our other choice is the slightly wayward but exceptionally talented Ebro River, trained by Hugo Palmer. Winner of his last two starts, Ebro River has yet to race in a straight line, having hung right at Doncaster and then veering violently to the left when taking a Listed event at Sandown.
The fact that he won both races easily is testament to his innate ability and, if Popeye can only keep him going in the right direction, the 12-1 available will look very good come 3.07pm.
The King’s Stand Stakes at 3.40 witnesses the re-appearance of the mighty Battaash, winner of the race last year and, when in the mood, the fastest horse on the planet. All has not gone smoothly in preparation for today, however, with the 7-y-o suffering a sesamoid fracture in December. Although the trainer is still exuding confidence, we keep getting a mental picture of Mr Sod of Sod’s Law rubbing his grimy hands with glee.
Back it and it blows out; Don’t back it and it hoses up.
Tell you what – let’s sit this one out.
At 4.20 we get the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes and this race would be a fitting swansong for Lucky Vega.
Jessie Harrington‘s charge will be going ‘down under’ after today’s effort to get up close and personal with some Australian young ladies of the equine variety and we can think of worse ways to spend one’s retirement.
Lucky Vega fully deserves to add another group 1 to his CV, having been, er, unlucky Vega on more than one occasion this season and represents the value each way bet at 13-2.
And so on to the first handicap on the card, the Ascot Stakes at 5.00.
A maximum 20 strong field pitch up for this with Our Rachel aboard the 9-2 favourite Cape Gentleman.
We could be wrong, but this is surely a case of hysteria affecting the price and we prefer to chuck two other darts at the race, starting with the ‘stays all day’ Muir & Grassick runner Just Hubert, which is available at 11-1.
We also think that if the very lightly raced Untold Story gets the trip it has a cracking chance, so we add it to the folder at 14-1.
The Wolferton Stakes at 5.35, a Listed contest, has Patrick Sarsfield installed as 4-1 jolly and this Group winner from last season deserves to be at the head of the market after a narrow comeback defeat at the Curragh two weeks ago. We recommend a win bet at the odds on offer.
We also suggest an each way bet on Marco Botti‘s Felix, last seen finishing third in a Group 1 out at Meydan. These two could have this race between them so take the 5-1.
Finally, if you are still awake, is the Copper Horse Stakes Handicap at 6.10 and, in this, we think Arthurian Fable is one of the day’s best bets.
Brian Meehan‘s 4-y-o had a good 3-y-o season and came back from a break and ‘sans noisettes’ with a very promising 4th at Newmarket at the end of last month. Given a ‘considerate’ ride by an apprentice, this looks to have been the target and we trust Big Jim Crowley to do the biz at 8-1.
More musings tomorrow.
Gisburn 3.05 Ascot 1.5pts e/w @ 6-1 (5 places Paddy/Betfair)
Ebro River 3.05 Ascot 1pt e/w @ 12-1 (5 places Paddy/Betfair)
Lucky Vega 4.20 Ascot 1.5pts e/w @ 13-2 (5 places Hills/Skybet)
Just Hubert 5.00 Ascot 1pt e/w @ 11-1 (5 places)
Untold Story 5.00 Ascot 1pt e/w @ 14-1 (5 places)
Patrick Sarsfield 5.35 Ascot 2pts win @ 4-1
Felix 5.35 Ascot 1.5pts e/w @ 5-1 (4 places bet365/Boylesports)
Arthurian Fable 6.10 Ascot 1.5pts e/w @ 8-1 (5 places Hills/Paddy/Betfair)