Royal Ascot 2018

Royal Ascot 2018 tips and best bets

Great week, great fun and a profit of +7.94 to level stakes; can't be bad

Saturday

The Listed Chesham Stakes is the opener on the final day. Ballydoyle have sent some decent types for this recently, see Churchill and September the last two years and Maybe back in 2011, so any ‘the lads’ send across the Irish Sea normally have to be taken seriously but Cardini doesnt look up to scratch. Natalie's Joy was an impressive winner of a maiden at Goodwood but Beyond Reason won a 6f Kempton fillies' event in good style a fortnight ago and with likely more to come over this longer trip she is the tip at 7-1.

Group Two Hardwicke Stakes over the 1m4f has been in the sights of Crystal Ocean for a little while off the back of two Group Three wins earlier this year. This always looked the better target compared to the G.1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes on the Wednesday grab 8-15 whilst you can.  

The two-year-olds are out again for the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes over the five. Wesley Ward trained Moonlight Romance was well clear with subsequent Norfolk Stakes winner Shang Shang Shang on debut then got off the mark at Belmont last time. At 6-1 she is fancied to grab the stand rail and attempt to make all.

The Group One Diamond Jubilee Stakes over the six furlongs has the older sprinters strutting their stuff after the three-year-old speedsters yesterday. Merchant Navy is the main hope for Ballydoyle with Aidan O’Brien saying in a recent interview how he is such a big, genuine strong horse. Reportedly he did just the five canters before winning on debut for the yard at the Curragh in the G.2 Greenlands Stakes last month. Aussie sprinters have had some success here down the years and this guy is far more Antipodean than he is Irish! If he can win a G.2 of the back of 5 canters what can he do now they’ve had some time to work on him at Ballydoyle? The colt is available at 7-2. Wesley Ward saddles Bound For Nowhere, fourth last year in the Commonwealth Cup, the colt contrary to his name has been bound for this for some time. Talking of foreign raiders Australian sprint star Redkirk Warrior is here from the land down under. Harry Angel the favourite has run here four times and though he has gone close is yet to win in Berkshire; it is a slight concern for backers. It doesn’t seem to bother his trainer Clive Cox who said recently “I don’t particularly lose any sleep that he has not got his head in front there, I think it’s more coincidence rather than a serious problem.”

We stay on the six furlong strip for the Wokingham Stakes. Wesley Ward inmate Undrafted returns to the Royal meeting having won the 2015 G.1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes when he collared Brazen Beau on the line (was also sixth in 2016). Frankie Dettori rides and said last week in a preview intervew “if he’s half as good as he used to be then he’s got a great chance." which is fair comment. at 16-1 he is the each-way punt. Dreamfield has been short for this for a while - 11-4 now - he would appear to be the pattern-class performer masquerading as a handicapper.

The Queen Alexandra Stakes over two-mile-six-furlongs is the marathon lucky last of the week; if you are scrapping around for a winner to get out of trouble this can be a long and torturous race. Thomas Hobson looks the one at 11-8. He won the Ascot Stakes only 4 days earlier when beaten favourite in this 12 months ago but this has been the main target this time and everything looks in place for a big run.


Friday

The Group Three Albany stakes over six furlongs for two-year-old fillies kicks off day four. Fairyland comes from Ballydoyle and has been heading the market for this in the build-up, as well as the 5f Queen Mary earlier in the week, but unsurprisingly this is the target. She has done little wrong winning her two starts to date both over six the last a Listed heat the Curragh on good-firm where she went from the furlong pole to win comfortably by 2¼ lengths. By smart sprinter Kodiac out of Queenofthefaries (Pivotal) she is bred for the job and is a full-sister to that decent Roger Varian trained sprinter Atletico. I have 7-2. Stillwater Cove is expected by Wesley Ward to “run a big race” and is naturally feared. Pretty Pollyanna may be a live outsider after winning on debut at Yarmouth last Thursday. Michael Bell said afterwards talking of this race “This has been our plan for a while. Plan A has come off so now we will execute phase two.” Just Wonderful won a maiden at the Curragh.  

Group Two King Edward VII Stakes over 1m4f was of course originally known as the Ascot Derby. Tim Easterby admitted recently that he has struggled to get Wells Farhh Go up to speed this year but expects this trip to suit him and the run in the G.2 Dante at York last month has reportedly brought him on a lot. His sire Farhh was a firm favourite at Triple G Towers and I am on his son at 9-1. Derby sixth Delano Roosevelt looks the big danger and is certain to be thereabouts.

The three-year-old sprinters take centre stage for the Group One Commonwealth Cup at 3.40 over the straight six. Invincible Army was an impressive winner of Ascot’s Pavilion Stakes on his seasonal reappearance before being narrowly denied by Sands Of Mali in the Sandy Lane at Haydock; they face off again here but they may be running for the places. Ballydoyle filly Actress has had this as a target since winning a G.3 at the Curragh but she is a fair way down the pecking order in comparison to stable mate Sioux Nation. There is a lost to like about the colt. Scat Daddy offspring tend to like it here, this colt won the G.2 Norfolk Stakes last season as a 2yo, and the fast going will suit perfectly. Grab 4-1 

We are on the old course for the one-mile Group One Coronation Stakes for three-year-old fillies at 4.20. Some pretty decent types have won this, Winter, Qemah and Ervedya to name just the last three. I was gutted with myself when I missed Alpha Centauri for the Irish 1,000 Guineas - she was my ante-post punt for Newmarket!  Jessica Harrington’s filly clearly relished the return to quicker ground at the Curragh last month and her turn of foot was there for all to see as she thundered down the centre of the track to win leaving Happily, Soliloquy, Clemmie and all trailing. The trainer is very happy with her it would appear and she has her conditions again. I have the 7-2. "Clemmie needed the run in the Irish Guineas and came out of the race well," reported O'Brien a couple of weeks back and this has been the target ever since. She’ll need to have come on though as she was a fair way back at the Curragh.

The Sandringham Stakes over a mile is basically the fillies’ Britannia Stakes and a look at any draw bias from yesterday is no bad idea but there hasn't really been any! Hene won a handicap at the Curragh last month it looked a bit cosily and it is assumed the chestnut has more to offer despite her 6lb higher mark. You won't get 12-1 about an O'Brein one often here and I have it each-way. Dangers include Qazyna, Dathanna, Ganayem and Ship Of Dreams.

The Duke of Edinburgh Stakes brings the curtain down on day four. We are over the 1m4f course and it is traditionally a bit of a head scratcher, only a couple of favourites having won since Captain Sensible was top of the charts with Happy Talk! The one I think can send us all home happy on Friday is Count Calabash who arrives 2-2 for the season and won a C&D handicap in good fashion when last seen. 7-1 is the price.

Thursday 

The five furlong Group two Norfolk Stakes for two-year-olds gets day three underway, don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Tim Easterby is clearly excited by his Vintage Brut and this has been the target since he won the Listed National Stakes at Sandown. Wesley Ward trained Shang Shang Shang should be fast if she has inherited any of her sire Shanghai Bobby's precocity and class, he won the G.1 Champagne Stakes and Breeders' Cup Juvenile in an unbeaten champion two-year-old season. She won on debut at Keeneland comfortably over 4.5f in April and it would be no surprise to see her blazing the trail here. She gets the little bit of weight and Triple G has the 11-2 - hes drifting but the Bookies will regret that.

Second race on the card for day three is the Group Three Hampton Court Stakes over 1m2f. This has been won by some decent later maturing 3yo types that have gone on to better things in recent years, see Cannock Chase, Time Test, Hawkbill and Benbatl. Owen Burrows is confident Wadilsafa will handle both the step up in class and trip. Charlie Appleby lowers the sights of Dirty Dozen member Key Victory the colt having finished eighth on only his third start in the G.1 Prix du Jockey Club last time (tipped on here). He wasn’t quite good enough there but in these calmer waters is strongly fancied to get back to winning ways – won his first two starts. I took 4-1 early.

We go over one-and-a-half miles for the Group Two Ribblesdale Stakes. Lah Ti Dar misses the race as Gosden feels she isn’t quite ready; she missed the Oaks due to an unsatisfactory blood test earlier this season. Sir Michael Stoute trained Salisbury novice stakes winner Sun Maiden will be fancied by some but there is only one for me. Having not travelled to France for the Prix de Diane Wild Illusion naturally is of interest. She has been busy and is certainly due a big win having finished fourth in the 1,000 Guineas at HQ and second in The Oaks at Epsom. Reflecting on the Oaks, trainer Charlie Appleby said on 2nd June: "I thought we had a live shout two out but the winner found again and we were just outstayed by a better filly on the day. We'll look at the Prix de Diane or could go to Royal Ascot for the Ribblesdale.” well she comes here and for me has the best form on offer. She shortened pretty quickly when it became clear she wouldn’t cross the Channel for the French Oaks and I grabbed the 3-1. The quick going is possibly the biggest worry but she should be fine.  

It’s the big one at 4.20 the Group One Gold Cup over two-and-a-half-miles. Sadly there is no Big Orange this year but six-year-old Order Of St George, gallant second last year and winner in 2016, is back again having trod the same path here as 2017 winning at Navan and Leopardstown. He will face the young pretender from the Gosden yard Stradivarius. The four-year-old confirmed himself a stayer of some talent winning the G.2 Yorkshire Cup in the style of a good horse on his seasonal bow in May. He won the G.2 Queens Vase over 1m6f at this meeting last year. The old boy was a length too good in the G.2 Long Distance Cup here on Champions Day last back end when they finished first and third but that was on soft and the quicker going should help the four-year-old. I am on at 15-8. Sheikhzayedroad is another back again and you’ll see worse each-way punts this week whilst Vazirabad comes across the channel for the first time but I think he would prefer it softer.

The Britannia Stakes sees us back on the straight mile and a second glance at the results earlier in the week is never a bad idea to check for any draw bias. There is a bundle of unexposed types to consider here but I have plumped for First Contact in the hope he goes on the underfoot conditions. The grey won hard held when making a winning turf debut at Doncaster over 7f on soft last time and may be decent I have 12-1 each-way. Dangers include Crack On Crack On, George Of Hearts and Sam Gold.

Closing day three is the King George V Stakes over 1m4f. Charlie Appleby - I know him again - saddles Cross Counter and the lightly raced gelding has a chance stepping up to this trip. He lost his unbeaten record when second in a decent race at Sandown a fortnight ago and I think he has got in here lightly off a mark of 98 and have snaffled the 7-1 - should be a Group horse as the summer goes by.  

Wednesday

The Group Two Queen Mary Stakes gets day two underway at 2.30 with the 2yo fillies going over the five furlongs. Anything Wesley Ward sends has to be feared as he has won this 3 times. Unsurprisingly his Chelsea Cloisters was installed as jolly the moment he confirmed this as her target. She arrives having won her sole start to date on the dirt at Keeneland over 4½f. Her sire First Samurai was a dual G1 winner at two in the States and she is bred to be precocious. I took 9-4 on Friday last week believing Fairyland must go for the Albany and the moment that was confirmed the price would shrink. Shades Of Blue from the Clive Cox yard went straight in my notebook when she won on debut over track and trip in May. Despite being noisy and missing the kick she travelled nicely through the race and quickened passed, and most impressively for a filly so inexperienced, between horses to win well actually going away at the end. The plan has always been to come for this.

The Group Two Queens Vase isn’t the first race you think of through the week as one to consider the draw in but the race is now 1m6f and the draw has become a factor as there is a very short run to the first bend. In the first running over the shortened trip last year five of the first six horses home were drawn in single figures. Southern France was installed jolly in the ante-post markets having won a Listed heat at Navan in May but he didn’t beat much to my eyes and wouldn’t be anywhere near as short if trained by anyone else but Aidan O’Brien. Ballydoyle were mob handed with entries here but the one I have been watching is of course my St. Leger ante-post punt Kew Gardens who is aailable at 100-30 today. This looks the trip he needs to me and I have to be on’ if he is going to win the St Leger he needs to win this.

Group Two Duke Of Cambridge Stakes for the older fillies over a mile. In the history of this race only one of the ten fillies to run with the Group 1 winning penalty (5lb) has even placed. Hydrangea looks the obvious choice for this even though the stats are against her. Perhaps lacking a little match fitness when beaten in the final furlong at the Curragh last time she should be cherry ripe today. She will have 9-5 to carry having won two Group Ones, including the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes here last back end. It shouldn’t be forgotten she was the only filly capable of beating Winter last year other than Enable and she did it twice! I have the 7-4. Aljazzi needs to improve but is feared as is Wilamina that filly having gone well twice this season finishing second to Wuheida before winning a Group Three at Epsom last time.

The 1m2f Group One Prince Of Wales’s Stakes is the main event of day two. First run in 1862 the race was promoted to Group 1 status in 2000 and the minimum age of participating horses was raised to four – it was won that year by the brilliant Dubai Millennium. Cracksman has been favourite for some time and drifted to a shade odds-on following his narrow Coronation Cup victory at Epsom. He hit his head in the stalls and it all went wrong at the start but he still won and I think it is simply a case of he does not like it there – if he stays in training I bet he never runs at Epsom again. John Gosden has been talking in the build-up about how he is fine and back on a track that clearly suits him better he is the best horse in the race and having briefly drifted to odds against I took the 8-11 after the six-day confirmations. Charlie Appleby is optimistic that Hawkbill can show his true colours dropping back in trip and he is feared if he shows up in the right frame of mind. Aidan O’Brien has Cliffs Of Moher in the line-up whilst Martyn Meade will be hoping Eminent can put behind him a disappointing display at Chester.

It’s the straight mile for the cavalry charge that is the Royal Hunt Cup at 5.00. Those on the none to short short-list at different times included Urban Fox Afaak, Lord Glitters, Keyser Soze, Blass Him, Sharja Bridge and Gilgamesh. Bless Him would be feared at his best off the back of his win in the Britannia last year but his run at Nottingham last month, albeit on soft ground, was pretty poor. The Queen (gawd bless her) has Seniority at 10-1 and the gelding is worth an each-way punt though I am a little worried about the draw after yesterdays results. 2 wins from 2 runs this year he is on the upgrade and a big bid for the hat-trick is expected.

The Group Three Jersey Stakes over seven furlongs brings Wednesday to a close. This often sees one that hasn’t perhaps scaled the heights hoped for in a Guineas dropping down in trip and class and there’s a couple this year in the shape of Expert Eye (10th) and Headway (12th). Sir Michael Stoute, Teddy Grimthorpe and Khalid Abdullah have been looking at this for Expert Eye rather than the Commonwealth Cup and if he settles he would have a chance and at 12-1 can be punted each-way. James Garfield was in front of them at HQ in 7th and he steps back up a furlong having run in the six furlong G.2 Sandy Lane last time; he does though have to give the others 5lb. Wesley Ward runs Lady Aurelia's regular work companion Hemp Hemp Hurray but his form doesn’t look much. Walk In The Sun arrives with a perfect two from two record stepping up in class on debut for Martyn Meade having moved from Jeremy Noseda - It was confirmed earlier this month that the colt had tested positive for cocaine following his second victory at Lingfield - do I sniff a winner? Sorry couldn't resist!

Tuesday

It has arrived, Royal Ascot 2018. Five days, thirty races, eighteen Group races, eight of them Group One and more than £7.3m in prize money up for grabs. The weather looks to be set fine for the week, what more could a man ask for? Hopefully a winner or two! 

Royal Ascot 2018 begins at 2.30 Tuesday with the Group One Queen Anne Stakes over the mile. This race has been won by a who’s who of milers in recent years Frankel (of course), Canford Cliffs, from France we have had Goldikova and Solow, the mare Tepin came across the pond from America and won in 2016 and last year Ribchester was triumphant. As for this renewal, Rhododendron is one of my favourite horses in training and a member of my Dirty Dozen for 2018. Having won the Group One Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in May, the form looks the best on offer for this contest, she was installed as ante-post favourite for this. Ominously for the opposition, Aidan O’Brien said at the time "She is going to improve again – she hasn't been on the grass gallop yet!" A Group 1 winner at two, three and four over different trips and on various going she is a star and with the likely strong run race ideal for her at 11-4 (taken last week) she is my pick for the opener; she even gets 3lb off the colts. Saeed bin Suroor has been aiming Benbatl at this as he feels the stiff mile will suit him and the colt is feared.

The six furlong Group Two Coventry Stakes has had me scratching my head a bit as I like the two heading the market. Aidan O’Brien sends Sergei Prokofiev who was jolly in the run-up after his win a Listed heat over five at Naas (also headed market for the Norfolk Stakes) in which he looked good. He is yet to run over six furlongs. John Gosden has Calyx who won a novice stakes on Newmarket's July course on debut in some style earlier this month looking a seriously quick colt and the Kingman colt immediately entered the betting for this. Having watched the races several times I am on the Abdullah owned colt at 5-2 as he ran green but his turn of foot looked electric. Dubai Legacy booked his place in the line-up with a debut victory in an extended six-furlong maiden at Doncaster earlier this month on the soft and Saeed bin Suroor thinks he will be better on a quicker surface.

The Group One Kings Stand Stakes is perhaps one of the most anticipated races of the week and generally billed as Battaash versus Lady Aurelia. Battaash is quick there is no denying that but he has played up in the past on occasions and the hullabaloo of Royal Ascot will test his temperament; he did come here for the Windsor Castle of 2016 and was soundly beaten after being unruly and rearing in stalls. Although beaten at odds-on for her seasonal reappearance at Keeneland by the end of May Wesley Ward reported Lady Aurelia to have come on massively for the run “she's like a weightlifter now. She's got muscles upon muscles.” Talking after some work done by his filly before she left home for these shores Ward said “Looked like she was very, very happy. Made me very happy" all of which sound ominous for the opposition plus she gets 3lb from her main market rival and that is a big bonus for a race such as this. We know she likes it here, she’s won on the soft and the good-firm, and I think she can retain her crown and have 9-4. I like Blue Point and if he was a point or two bigger I’d have probably backed him each-way but that said his last run in Hong Kong was disappointing so he’s probably best watched for now.

Group One St James’s Palace Stakes has become quite an open affair with the mile division for 3yo colts having been blown wide open following the Classics. Saxon Warrior and Masar have different targets now than those that were pencilled in at the start of the season. The 2000 Guineas form is represented by Tip Two Win, who put up a career best performance to finish second behind Saxon Warrior. Gustav Klimt, sixth at HQ, will be here for Ballydoyle but even Aidan O’Brien said recently “We’re not 100% sure if he stays a mile, even after running him twice over it.” He’ll be joined by stable mate Irish 2,000 Guineas runner-up US Navy Flag the ‘lads’ targeting this after that run but he has been out 3 times this season already and not got his head in front. John Gosden's unbeaten colt Without Parole has been on many peoples lips but in winning the Listed Heron Stakes at Sandown in May he hardly looked out of the top drawer. He reportedly had an interrupted preparation for that Sandown run and the colt is open to bundles of improvement still obviously but I haven’t seen enough to back him for this at the prices. Romanised looked to relish the step up to a mile at the Curragh on good-firm when the clear-cut winner of that Irish 2,000 Guineas in May. He pretty much came from last to first in the straight to pass U.S. Navy Flag and Gustav Klimt to win by 2¼ lengths. The market seems to be pricing him up based on his connections rather than his form in the book; he’d be a lot shorter if from Ballydoyle. To back the favourite you are wagering purely on potential whereas Romanised has a Classic in the bag and has already beaten U.S. Navy Flag. I have the 11-2.

The Ascot Stakes over 2m4f is a real test regularly plundered by the Jumps trainers; Willie Mullins has won three of the last six renewals (Ryan Moore rode all three) so it follows anything he sends has to be considered which this year includes Chelkar, Meri Devie and Whiskey Sour. I was thinking of Who Dares Wins for this but he isn't here. One King has sent is Coeur de Lion who gets in at the bottom of the handicap and looked to be doing his best work at the finish when second to Look My Way at Chester; this more galloping track should suit just fine and at 7-1 the 5yo is the pick.  

The Listed Wolferton Stakes was first run in 2002 when Royal Ascot was extended to five days and only three favourites have obliged in sixteen runnings. Owen Burrows believes Laraaib can make his presence felt dropping back in class and I agree with the master of Kingwood House Stables. Second to Poets Word in the G.3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes last month, Fabricate fourth, that looks the best form on offer. He is top rated on OR’s, won over track and trip in the Playboy Club London Handicap last year and at 11-2 looks a fair punt. Talking about the decision to run in this rather than the G.2 Hardwicke Stakes on Saturday the trainer stated “We all want to have winners at Royal Ascot and I think that the Wolferton is his best chance.”






Ante-Post Bets
Queen Anne Stakes - Rhododendron 11-4 
Kings Stand Stakes - Lady  Aurelia 9-4
Queen Mary Stakes -  Chelsea Cloisters 9-4

15th June
No-one will be surprised to see I have backed Rhododendron in the Queen Ann, she is a class act and should win. Lady Aurelia is the pick for the Kings Stand with the slight weight advantage over Battaash a plus and his temperament a concern, whilst Chelsea Cloisters is bred to be precocious and I believe Fairyland must go for the Albany and when that's confirmed the price for Wesley Wards filly will shrink. 

13th June 2018

With Royal Ascot less than a week away I thought I would take a peak at the Specials Markets. The Top Jockey betting unsurprisingly has Ryan Moore at the head of the list, best price you will get is 8-11 with William Hill. Frankie Dettori is 3’s with James Doyle available at 10-1 and William Buick 12-1.

As for the Top Trainer market Aidan O’Brien (surprise, surprise) is odds-on at 1-2. John Gosden is 4-1 and Charlie Appleby is at 8’s.

William Hill are offering a couple of other markets including Total Wesley Ward Winners priced up as None 3-1, One 11-8, Two 5-2, Hat-trick 6-1.

Hills also have Number of John Gosden Winners and Number of French Trained Winners markets.