Ascot stages its first Flat meeting of the year on Wednesday with six races including two Group races and a Listed heat and there may be a clue or two for the Royal meeting in June.
The fact Aidan O'Brien has sent The Irish Rover over for the opening 5f conditions stakes is a tip in itself - pretty rare he sends one over on a Wednesday afternoon unless there is a fair pot on offer -hence the colt will be odds-on. The fact he is by No Nay Never caught my eye and perhaps this is a sighter of the G.2 Norfolk Stakes at the Royal Meeting won of course by the sire?
Dathanna should win the Conditions Stakes at 2.35 but the Godolphin filly will be another going off odds-on.
I think the two-mile Group Three Sagaro Stakes is too tricky a little heat to get involved with all six in with a chance so it is best watched.
For the Group Three Pavilion Stakes over six furlongs at 3.45 I have to be on Sound And Silence. The colt won the Listed Windsor Castle over five at the Royal meeting last year and his six furlong win in a G.3 at Maisons-Laffitte was on ‘holding’ ground suggesting underfoot conditions today will be fine. He was consistent throughout his 2yo season winning four times, including another Listed heat at York. He was also second to Abel Handy in the five-furlong G3 Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket, this stiffer test expected to suit the selection, as well as running well when narrowly beaten in a Juvenile Turf Sprint over five furlongs at Del Mar, USA, in November. I think he looks the type to make a decent 3yo. Trainer Charlie Appleby commented: “Sound And Silence was a consistent horse last year and has done very well from two to three - he has strengthened and looks like a real sprinter. It was a muddling race on his last start at Wolverhampton and came at the end of a long campaign for Sound And Silence, who had been on the go since April. He has form on soft ground and this looks a nice starting point for his season.” I have the 4-1. Dual G2 runner-up Invincible Army is the obvious danger but I think he wants better ground than he will get especially if the forecast rain arrives.
They go over a mile for the Listed Paradise Stakes at 4.20. There are a few in with a chance here but I think Victory Bond is the one having had a successful time of it on the all-weather over the winter culminating in a good win at Lingfield on Good Friday AW Finals day in the Easter Classic. There is no reason to think he can’t continue in fine fettle returning back to the turf and he will have no issue with the softish underfoot conditions either. Ryan Moore rides for the in form William Haggas and I have the 2-1.
The Apprentice Handicap that closes the card is a real pinsticker job and best given a wide berth.