Royal Ascot 2019

Royal Ascot Ante-Post Portfolio

Gold Cup: Stradivarius 13-8

Queen Anne Stakes: Laurens 6-1 NRNB

St James's Palace Stakes: Too Darn Hot 5-2 NRNB

I finish a tough week -9.29 to level stakes

Saturday: 

We have made it to day five and Royal Ascot 2019 is drawing to a close. It has been tough so far and I go into the last day -6.54 to level stakes. We have had some wonderful racing as ever and it isn’t over just yet with three Group races on the final day and a marathon 2m6f handicap to bring the curtain down.

We get underway at 2.30 with the Listed 7f Chesham Stakes for two-year-olds. Lope Y Fernandez made a very promising winning debut for team Coolmore in a seven-furlong maiden at the Curragh in June in useful time and with good sectionals, I am told. According to his trainer He has always worked like a nice colt and Donnacha was very happy with him at the Curragh.”  11-10 was available on Thursday and I took that bpg luckily as he has drifted a bit. Some money has come for Pinatubo.

The 7f Group Three Jersey stakes at 3.05 Angels Hideaway has been aimed at this by Cheveley Park but her form hardly sets the pulse racing. She was beaten fair and square by Space Blues last time in the Surrey Stakes and team Godolphin seem to have found the ideal distance for their chestnut colt. Even though he only beat Urban Icon by a neck in that Listed race at Epsom it was a shade cosier than the distance suggests. He is fancied to take this at 11-4.

They face 1m4f for the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes at 3.40 has seen several different horses head the market in the build-up and as it turns out none of them are coming for this. One that is here is Derby winner Masar given, on paper, an easier introduction to his four-year-old campaign. Conditions should prove more suitable today than they would have earlier in the week and as he has reportedly been going well at home so I took the 11-4 early as he is fancied to take this before bigger targets later in the season. Cash has come for Defoe but I am still to be convinced by him.

The main event of the final day is the Group One Diamond Jubilee Stakes at 4.20 over 6f. James Tate has never saddled a Royal Ascot winner but has a big chance to break his duck in this with Invincible Army. But Blue Point goes for the double having won the 5f King's Stand earlier this week. I am a fan, was on earlier this week, and I have backed him again for what would be a historic double and I got on early at 9-4. He is drawn bang in the middle in stall 9 and hopefully, he can seal a quickfire treble for the boys in blue.

The 6f Wokingham Stakes at 5.00 is another of those cavalry charges up the straight course. Bundles in here with chances but Gifted Master might be weighted and drawn for a big run here. He is rated 4lb lower than when winning last year's Stewards' Cup and though doesn't arrive exactly bang in form the drying ground won't hurt, cheekpieces are fitted for the first time, stall 30 is seen as a plus and at 25-1 he is the each-way pick (6 places). Dangers include Cape Byron , Danzeno and Gunmetal.

 And so the week comes to a close with the 2m6f Queen Alexandra Stakes at 5.35. Willie Mullins suggested at the start of the month that Max Dynamite would come for this and he is here and the jolly but, having been aimed at some big prizes, he hasn't actually won since August 2017  and well beaten in 2 previous visits here in the Gold Cup. Gordon Elliott has won this twice now, firstly in 2016 with Commissioned and then last year with Pallasator, the ten-year-old is set to return to defend his crown this year. Blew away any cobwebs over a very inadequate1m6f in May and clearly aimed at this again but needs to come on quite a bit for that outing. I think Corelli could nick this with a bit more to come over this trip, you would assume on breeding, and at four and lightly raced you would hope natural improvement to come. I have taken a chance in the lucky last at 5-1

Friday :

That man Frankie had the bookies running for cover there for a minute on Thursday - love him or hate him he makes headlines for the game. We have a couple of Group One races to look forward to on Friday as the three-year-old sprinters go for the Commonwealth Cup and the fillies are on parade for the Coronation Stakes. The weather feels more Ascot like and the ground is now good-soft and drying, I start the day at -4.98 to level stakes after three days.

The Group Three Albany Stakes over 6f for 2yo fillies opens proceedings on day-four at 2.30. This is a race Wesley Ward surely wants to win having not managed to thus far in his ten years of travelling over. Nayibeth went into my notebook, and a few others no doubt, following her debut win at Keeneland over 4½f on the dirt, making every yard and winning on the bridle by 4¼ lengths. The runner-up Owlette has won well at Woodbine since giving the form a decent look; work reports since also suggest she is in rude health. This is a fair step-up in trip but she is by Carpe Diem a colt that was a dual G.1 winner over eight and nine furlongs in his career. Being out of Le Relais she is a half-sister to Soldat who was a G.3 winner at two and G.2 winner at three over 1m1f and second in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf so there is every reason to believe the step-up in trip will be fine and Turf holds no fears. The draw might have been kinder, the apparent bias to the high numbers continued yesterday, but 13-2 looks a fair price to me. The cash has been coming for debut winner Daahyeh every since runner-up to her that day Raffle Prize held off a Ward raider to win the Queen Mary earlier this week.

At 3.05 it is the Group Two The King Edward VII Stakes over 1m4f often referred to as the Ascot Derby. Japan came on for his seasonal debut in the Dante when third in the Derby and sets the standard. Jack Yeats will set the pace for him I expect and he is the one with the form in the book as they say. Short enough at 11-10 but I am on. Private Secretary was briefly talked of as a Derby colt earlier this year and though not tried at Epsom he did win at Listed level last time to complete a hat-trick this season. Took a while to get going that day and won't be afforded such a luxury in this.  

The three-year-old sprinters take centre stage at 3.40 for the Group One 6f Commonwealth Cup. With the opposition dropping like flies, Calyx and Lady Pauline both missing due to injury, Ten Sovereigns has shrunk in the betting over the last couple of weeks. O’Brien said last week There was always a possibility that a mile was going to be too far for him and I thought he ran a massive race there (Guineas). We always had this race in mind for him if he didn’t stay a mile and we think he is well equipped for it.” At 5-4 he is another short one but he looks the solid option.

It’s top-drawer stuff again at 4.20 for the one-mile Group One Coronation Stakes at 4.20. Some good ones have won this down the years not least Alpha Centauri last season, Winter in 2017 and of course those French fillies Qemah and Ervedya before that. We have another star filly this year as dual 1,000 Guineas heroine Hermosa comes for this rather than the Prix de Diane over 1m2f at Chantilly. Talking on the 4th June Aidan O’Brien said: “She came out of the Irish Guineas well and after we discussed plans we decided to aim for the Coronation rather than the Prix de Diane.”  It could be a quick-fire Group One double for the ‘Lads’ from Ballydoyle but she is a shade odds-on and I think no value. If there is one that could take on the jolly I think I will be Poule d'Essai des Pouliches winner Castle Lady. The Godolphin owned filly trained by Alex Pantall over in France is unbeaten in three starts having won on the All-weather, good ground when winning the G.3 Prix de la Grotte and heavy when taking the G.1 French 1,000 Guineas. At 7-1  she is the pick to take on the hot-pot.

The Listed Sandringham Stakes over the straight mile at 5.00 is tricky. As mentioned earlier the draw bias appears to still be for high numbers. Coral Beach takes a huge step-down in class having failed to land a blow in the French or Irish 1000 Guineas so far this season. She did win a Leopardstown Group 3 last back end to finish off a very busy 2yo campaign. She may not have the scope for improvement of some of her rivals but she is battled hardened and has the form in the book. Drawn in 28 I am on each-way (6 places) at 12-1.

The lucky last on day four is the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes over 1m4f at 5.35. Another wide-open affair with several in with chances; Baghdad , Fujaira Prince , Corgi , Secret Advisor etc.... The one I slightly prefer is Secret Advisor as the gelding was going the right way a couple of years back, was third in G.2 Queen's Vase at this meeting in 2017 and ended that campaign winning a decent prize at York over 1m6f. A 22-month absence is naturally a concern but if Appleby has him anywhere near his best he will give this line-up a lot to think about. I have a bit of the 14-1 each-way (5 places).

Thursday:

And so on we go to day three of the Royal meeting, the day the Stayers take centre stage for the Gold Cup. I am running -2.6 to level stakes after two days after a tough day two.

I have gone up a bit later for day three as I wanted to see how the ground affected things on day two and how the weather behaved before making a couple of these selections; the going is soft with the forecast for Sunny intervals and a gentle breeze.

Day three kicks off with the Group Two 5f Norfolk Stakes for the 2yo’s at 2.30. That man Wesley Ward has trained 2 of the last 6 winners and as is the case with the 2yo sprints this week anything he saddles has to enter calculations. Bred and trained by Ward Maven was American Pharoah’s first offspring to win in North America, making all (naturally) to score by a cosy half-length. The Beyer speed figure came out quite high, the first two finished miles clear and Ward also says he’s moved forward since his debut. Fourth on debut Sunday Sovereign won his second start over 6f, beating Arizona on that colts debut and he, of course, franked that form winning the Coventry on Tuesday. He showed soft ground holds no fears when scoring over 5f on his third start at Tipperary 16 days ago making him the form pick. Generally, high numbers have fared better this week on the straight course so stall 10 is handy. I have the 9-4.

It is 1m2f for the Group Three Hampton Court Stakes at 3.05. Winning here is in the genes of Cape Of Good Hope - his full brothers, Highland Reel and Idaho having both won at the Royal meeting. He comes here with solid looking form having been fourth in the G.1 Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly last time having won the Listed Trial at Epsom before that. The going is a bit of an unknown but at 5-1 I am on. Fox Chairman is the potential improver and danger.

The Group Two Ribblesdale Stakes over 1m4f at 3.40 is often a decent race with fillies which ran previously in the Epsom Oaks competing and often going on to compete in next month's Irish Oaks. With that in mind it is perhaps not surprising that Aidan O’Brien has won three of the last five renewals of this. Fleeting was third at Epsom, is top-rated, and understandably the jolly but she has to prove herself on the underfoot conditions. Queen Power was favourite for this for a while and is another with potential but she also has never gone on ground like this before. Frankellina is a filly I have been talking up this season, sixth in the Oaks, and this big strong filly might get through the softer ground better than a few of these. This is only her fourth start so improvement is likely you would think and at 9-1 she is a much tastier price than Fleeting.

The big one the Group One 2m4f Gold Cup is at 4.20. I took the 13-8 about Stradivarius at the end of May simply as, as I said at the time and in the preview video, he looks pretty bullet proof to me. I said in the preview video all of the opposition have questions to answer where as the Champ is proven at the trip and loves a battle. He won over two-mile here on soft last back end on Champions Day - alright perhaps not such a tough race but he got it done - whilst Dee Ex Bee and Cross Counter both have to prove they can get home over this far in this going. 

The Britannia Stakes at 5.00 has the three-year-old colts and geldings heading up the straight mile for the Heritage Handicap. Results from the first couple of days suggest that any draw bias on the straight course is leaning towards middle to high numbers. Lightly raced King Ademar is still a maiden but has been in with some good'uns having found 2,000 Guineas second King Of Change too good at Nottingham on his seasonal return and then finished second in what looks a decent heat with the winner following up under a penalty and the fourth winning since. First-time cheekpieces are applied. Turgenev has been running well in better company but didn't appear to like it soft at Newbury in April. Velorum is two from two this year and could be well ahead of this opening mark in handicaps but has never run on ground this soft, will he handle it? Motafaawit was gelded over the winter and is two from two as a three-year-old. He won over 7f here in the soft last month following up on his Beverley reappearance win. His draw is a concern. Aweedram is a C&D winner on good to soft last month and drawn in twenty so is on the right side plus most of the early pace looks likely to be down the stands side which will suit him nicely. I am on at 14-1 each-way (6 places).

The lucky last on Thursday is the 1m4f King George V Stakes Handicap. O’Brien saddles Constantinople the 3yo having got off the mark this season in the Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh in May. The trainer said of him in the build-up He’s a lovely horse that we think will be even better next year. I’d be hopeful he can take another good step forward.” Was also entered in the G.2 King Edward VII Stakes on Friday but this looks much more his level at this stage. I have the 4-1 and hope the ground will have dried out somewhat by the time they line-up.

Wednesday: 

Day two of the Royal meeting dawns at Ascot. Day one was pretty good finishing +1.5 to level stakes. Just the one Group One on Wednesday but three Group Two’s a Listed heat and one of the Handicaps of the season to get stuck into. The rain has arrived and looks set to come and go all day Wednesday, the going is soft.  

The young fillies get day two underway at 2.30 over 5f for the Group Two Queen Mary Stakes. I was convinced Chasing Dreams would win this but sadly she will not be here. Of those that have made it Wesley Ward raider Anna’s Fast looks fast but she is also totally dirt-bred – can she do it on Turf? Kimari blew the start but was shaken up to get to the lead and that was that on her debut over 4½f at Keeneland. She looks blindingly fast, went on to win in a 15-length demolition job. Out of a dam who won on turf, dirt and all-weather she really could make them all go if liking the conditions. Godolphin owned Saeed bin Suroor trained Final Song was very impressive on debut making all drawing right away here over track and trip on the soft. I have watched the replay several times and the more I watch the more impressed I am, she really kicks away from the field. She can prove a more than adequate replacement for the sadly missing Chasing Dreams and I have the 5-1.  

The Group Two 1m6f Queens Vase is due off at 3.05. Unusually for a race of this distance, the draw is sometimes influential as there is a very short run to the first bend. Jalmoud was in the King Edward Stakes Friday as well but comes for this having won his two starts this season over 1m2f and 1m4f respectively each time looking like a longer trip would be likely to suit. Showed some guts to get up in a French Listed race over 1m4f on good-soft last month; form was boosted when the second and third filled the same positions in a Group 2 at the weekend. The draw could have been kinder but at 6-1 I think the colt is well worth a punt to make to two from two for Godolphin early.  Moonlight Spirit was beaten when odds-on in a G.3 over in France last time but was 3 from 3 prior to that. Western Australia and Norway both come here rather than the King Edward Stakes but both have questions to answer at this stage I think.

The main event of day two, and still arguably the race of the week despite a couple missing from the line-up, is the Group One Prince of Wales’s Stakes over 1m2f at 3.40. Crystal Ocean is actually top-rated not that you would know it from a lot of the chat pre Ascot; that said I do think he is probably best at 1m4f. Waldgeist is better on home turf in France. Sea Of Class has to enter calculations but all her form bar her second in the Arc is one ground on the quick side. And you have to ask can she win this on seasonal debut? I mentioned in the build-up once or twice that I was not convinced about the chances of Magical unless the going got a bit slower; well it has got a fair bit slower! This is her trip, this is her ground and she is match fit, that makes her the pick at 15-8. O’Brien has left Hunting Horn in and he looks to be on pacemaker duty.

The older fillies and mares line-up for the one-mile Group Two Duke of Cambridge Stakes at 4.20. Cheveley Park managing director Chris Richardson suggested this as the likely race for Veracious a few days back and she duly line-up. Not able to live with the likes of Laurens she is none the less a decent miler. Stable mate Rawdaa was doing her best work at the end of the 1m2f G2. Middleton at York last month and may find this a bit on the sharp side, she does have winning form on good-soft over 1m2f also. I Can Fly has to give them all 3lb which looks tough whilst Pretty Baby, who has been winning plenty, has never gone this far and the straight mile here on softer going takes some getting. One with soft ground form is Nyaleti. She won the G.2 German 1000 Guineas last year and has a number of good efforts in defeat since to her name, most on ground I think is far from ideal for her. You can overlook her poor run at Epsom last time as she returned lame. At what I thought was a big 28-1 I had to get on each-way (4 places) on Tuesday as if the rain comes I think the grey will be there or thereabouts - no one else does it appears as the filly is on the drift.

 At 5.00 it is the cavalry charge that is The Royal Hunt Cup down the straight mile. It is a nightmare to pick through the form but a great race to watch if this doesn’t get your pulse racing nothing will. Though the draw can come in to play, at this early stage of the week we have no idea of any potential bias; do make a note of stall numbers and finishing positions in this for later in the week. Second last year Afaak tends to go well here and is in off the same mark again this season. Last years winner Settle For Bay is 6lb higher this year and aint been in great form. James Tate has never saddled a Royal Ascot winner but his New Graduate has been steadily backed into single figures following an impressive Ripon win which has worked out well. This is a different kettle of fish though and he has taken a big old hike in the ratings for that win. Key Victory looked like he had a big future when winning his first two starts but hasn't troubled the judge since. He has never raced on this sort of ground but stays further, no bad thing on this stiff mile, and is on what could be a workable mark. The snips have been reached for to help concentrate the mind I have a bit of the 18-1 each-way (7 places).

The Listed Windsor Castle Stakes over 5f for the 2yo’s brings the curtain down on Wednesday. Wesley Ward has trained the winner a couple of times in the last ten years and naturally anything he saddles has to be considered. Foolish Humour is proven on Turf making a winning debut at Belmont over 5f at the start of May, justifying favouritism to score by 2¾ lengths. Tongue strap and blinkers go on for first time. Karak also won on debut on Turf on the firm at Belmont. How will they deal with underfoot conditions here though? Platinum Star flies the flag for Godolphin with Final Song having run in, and hopefully won the Queen Mary earlier. Won under hands-and-heels encouragement over 6f at Leicester last month. With a number of the oppostion with questions to answer on this going as Paddy Power were a stand-out 14-1 on Tuesday morning and I took a bit of that each-way (4 places). Hopefully its another for team Godolphin on day two.

Tuesday:

It is one of the best weeks of the year, possibly the best, it is Royal Ascot week. As they say, Royal Ascot. Like nowhere else. Five days, thirty races, nineteen Group races, eight of them Group One’s with no less than £7.3m in prize money up for grabs. It’s no week to be a crustacean with over 3,500 Lobsters and 8,000 Cornish Crabs eaten by race-goers during the five-days, washed down by 56,000 bottles of Champagne.

The weather, having been dreadful last week looks to be set better, for the most part, this week with possibly a shower or two on Tuesday and Wednesday. The going is good-good to soft in places on round course for Tuesday. I showed a profit of +7.94 to level stakes in 2018 so hopefully can do at the least the same again; the tips for day one follow:

At 2.30 we are straight into the Group One races with the Queen Anne Stakes over the straight mile. Connections of Laurens were quite open about the fact she was a little undercooked for her seasonal bow at Newbury in the Group One Lockinge Stakes where she finished second – a cracking effort all things considered. Karl Burke reported afterwards she had lost 11 kilos and that he would be keeping most of that off her so you would expect her to be a fair bit fitter for this. The trainer certainly expects her to improve for the run. I took a bit of the 6-1 with SkyBet when they went NRNB last week. Winner of the Lockinge Mustashry has to be on the list of dangers but he clearly had the fitness edge at Newbury and I think the mare will gain revenge. Barney Roy at his best would surely also be in the mix but is he back to his best? This will be a proper test after a couple of runs at Listed level. Money has come for Le Brivido, was fifth in the Lockinge, during the build-up but I think that is as much Bookies running for cover from O’Brien and Moore before anyone has even had a proper punt as it is punters piling on!

The two-year-olds line-up for the 6f Group Two Coventry Stakes at 3.05; brace yourself for the first proper quotes for next years Guineas as soon as they pass the post!. Threat looks likely to be one, he won on debut over 5f at HQ beating an odds-on shot of Godolphin in the process and some money has come for him in the build-up. Arizona wasn’t knocked about on debut when second and duly obliged at odds-on on his second start at the Curragh last month over 6f, one of the best 2yp performances we’ve seen this season. By No Nay Never out of Lady Ederle he is bred for a race like this as a two-year-old, likely moving up to a mile at three. I have a bit of the 5-2. O’Brien seems to like him saying “I’ve been very happy with him since his last run and the plan is to run him in the Coventry. He is a very straightforward colt and with the amount of improvement he showed from his first start to his second, you’d have to hope he can improve again.”

Blink and you will miss it; the speedballs are up at 3.40 for the Group One 5f King’s Stands Stakes. I have said before I cannot trust Battaash, how can you? He could show up and win by four lengths, see the G.1 Prix de l'Abbaye of 2017 or he could get turned over at odds-on, see the G.1 Nunthorpe of last year. I am a fan of last years winner Blue Point, Battaash 1¾ lengths behind in second. Described by trainer Charlie Appleby earlier this year as the finished article" having matured mentally and physically a decision was made to keep him in training when Harry Angel retired to stud as "We felt Blue Point had more to give and can be a flagbearer in that division”. The 5yo looked in cracking form out in Dubai over the winter, winning three including the G.1 6f Al Quoz Sprint, and even if the real Battaash shows up this horse can give him a race on a track I think suits Blue Point better than Battaash. I have a bit of the 3-1. Florida based Joe Orseno has his first Royal Ascot runner with Imprimis. The 5yo gelding beat Wesley Ward's Diamond Jubilee fancy Bound For Nowhere in a Keeneland 5½f G2 in April so clues for later in the week might be available.

At 4.20 it is the highlight of the day the Group One The St James’s Palace Stakes over the old mile. Phoenix Of Spain went favourite following his impressive front-running display under Jamie Spencer to beat Too Darn Hot in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. Will they let him bowl along in front again relatively unchallenged? I doubt it. I would expect to see a Ballydoyle inmate hassling him for the early lead trying to unsettle him in an attempt to set it up for Circus Maximus. One I have talked of a lot is Royal Marine be he hasn't shown the form he did as a 2yo yet this season and is best watched for now I think.  Too Darn Hot has been busy early season, and beaten, in the G.2 Dante and aforementioned Irish Guineas. Can the colt finally confirm what so many thought and prove he is a star? John Gosden said last week that Too Darn Hot has been the "worst managed horse of the year" but he is now the happiest he has been with the colt this season. He stated the colt “was only 80 per cent fit when we ran him in the Dante. Very stupidly he then went to the Irish Guineas only nine days later in which time he'd had a flu jab…..” I believe he can finally prove how good he is and took 5-2 NRNB with SkyBet last week.

At 5.00 it is the Ascot Stakes over 2m4f and the first of a few tricky handicaps for us punters over the week. This is regularly plundered by the Jumps trainers with Nicky Henderson David Pipe and Jonjo O’Neill having all won it since 2010. Willie Mullins loves a punt at it more than most and has won four of the last seven renewals (Ryan Moore rode three) so it follows anything he sends has to be considered. Moore was booked for Buildmeupbuttercup early and the dual bumper winner for Mick Channon before decanting to Ireland duly went ante-post jolly. Mengli Khan is clear top-rated over of the winter game raiders, 154 Grade One runner, and is a fascinating runner.  Third behind Defi Du Seuil in the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in March. At 11-2 he is worth a punt in this being potentially well-treated back in this sphere.

The lucky last on day one is the Listed Wolferton Rated Stakes over 1m2f due off at 5.35. First run in 2002 when the meeting was extended there aren’t many stand out stats to help here other than John Gosden has won three of the last seven renewals, he saddles Star Of Bengal. Addeybb hasn't quite got back to the form he showed early last season but with the word soft in the going has to enter calculations. The Filly Magic Wand is of interest at this level with the sex-allowance, having won the G.2 Ribblesdale here last year. Not win since but in with some very good ones; was also entered in Prince of Wales's Stakes. The draw could have been kinder but at 9-2 I am taking a chance Moore can get her in a nice position early and pick these off down the straight.