Royal Ascot is one the best Festival's in the World when in comes to thoroughbred racing and undoubtedly the best in Europe with five days of top class racing, which includes seven Group One races, seven Group Twos and a further eight Group Three and listed events amongst the 30 races run between Tuesday and Saturday this week. Only Longchamp on Prix l'Arc de Triomphe probably boasts a single better day's racing in terms of quality than the opening day of Royal Ascot which kick-off with three back-to-back Group One races.
With the going now described officially as Good to Soft following plenty of rain on the other side of the Atlantic over the past couple of weeks, the chances of a few surprise winners at this week’s Royal Ascot Festival has been increased greatly.
The glitz and glamour of Royal Ascot always grabs the headlines with the 60,000 spectators passing through the gates each day dressed in their finest outfits and the procession of the Royal Family prior to racing each day is what the world's media is most likely to show Stateside but as a Racing fan living in the UK, I thought I'd post up a few tips for day one!
In the curtain raiser, it would seem that all the pundits are napping Canford Cliffs to defeat the brilliant Goldikova, three times winner of the Breeders Cup Mile. There is no doubt that Canford is a quicker animal over the mile, but the French filly is a phenomenon, who warmed up for the race with victory in the Group One, Prix D’Ispahan at Longchamp just over three weeks ago. She will improve for that run and at 13/8 (+162) opposed to the 5/4 (+125) about Canford Cliffs she looks the better value bet.
In the Kings Stand Stakes, look no further than the American Raider, Bridgetown, who is a real flyer over five furlongs. Trained by the hugely successful, Todd Pletcher, this colt has come over to the UK for a very sizable purse of around $270,000 and should prove too good even for the likes of the Australian entry, Star Witness, who will prefer the six furlong Golden Jubilee on Saturday and looks a cracking each-way bet at 14/1 (+1400).
It is good to see that David Simcock will be running Dream Ahead in the St James Palace Stakes, a horse who will prefer the easy going far more than the others. However, whether he can get close to the extremely short price fav (1/3 / -300) favourite, Frankel, who can also perform on Good to Soft, is very doubtful, which is why the English 2,000 Guineas winner is the locked in winner of the week.
There has been much talk regarding the Barry Hills trained, Mezmaar, as the potential "good thing" in the Coventry Stakes, but preference here is for the Aidan O’Brien youngster, Power. This son of Oasis Dream looked very impressive and full of fight when winning the Listed Marble Hill Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland last time and will improve for that run.
Each way punters should look at the Wesley Ward entry from across the pond, Italo, a 16/1 (+1600) shot/ This son of With Distinction comes to Royal Ascot with a big reputation following his debut win at Longchamp last month. My view of Ward's and Pletcher's runners is that foreign horses have a great record at this meeting and they don't incur the expense of sending them over just to make up the numbers! Much in the same way the European Raiders don't head over to the Breeders Cup without good reason...