No crowds, no hats, no queen arriving in her carriage at the scene – it’s gonna be a different Royal Ascot to what we’re accustomed to. But then you could say that about nearly everything these days.
Historically I’ve been burnt badly at the Royal meeting. I can’t remember the last time I left the week with the tiniest of profits. I’ll keep a low profile this week, that’s for sure, and instead enjoy the sport for the most part. I can’t help myself, though, and have two selections for day one:
1.50 – Group 1, Queen Anne Stakes, 1 mile
A rather wide open affair where I can make a case for half a dozen in the field which means some of the bigger prices are certainly attractive. Nonetheless I narrowed it down to less than a handful of prime candidates.
The obvious one is Circus Maximus: he has every chance to be an even better four-year-old after a prolific 2019 season. He’s been consistently running well, including when landing the St. James’s Palace Stakes twelve months ago.
He’s clearly the one to beat, although I continue to have a niggling doubt that there are days where h’s finding one or two horses too fast over the mile trip – let’s not forget he was once thought to have a decent shot at the Derby, given his pedigree.
Memories of Terebellum’s impressive Dahlia victory are still fresh. A lightly raced and progressive four-year-old, she should have enough ability to be competitive over a mile, but her price is way too short for me to get involved.
Completely overlooked appears Mustashry, though. Judged on his career-best Lockinge Stakes success from last year he would be the horse they all have to chase home, actually. A topspeed rating of 108 is a standout in this field.
Whether he can run to that sort of level again remains to be seen and his fitness has to be trusted. He ran better than the bare forms suggest in his subsequent defeats last year, before finishing his 2019 campaign on a high note thanks to a fine Group 2 success.
Mustashry is a consistent horse, albeit the oldest in the race, conditions and racing style should be a good fit in this renewal of the Queen Anne. He is certainly overpriced.
10pts win – Mustashry @ 14/1
3.00 – Group 2, King Edward VII Stakes, 1m 4f
We will find out if the hype around Mogul is real. Currently as short as 11/2 in the Derby market, he appears to be team Ballydoyle’s prime chance for the Epsom Classic.
Mogul steps up to the 1m 4f trip for the first time, having raced entirely over a mile as a juvenile. Given his breeding he can be expected to improve significantly for the new distance. On the other hand he has to show significant improvement because he was no more than a fine juvenile, particularly by Aiden O’Brien standards.
He had four runs last year, the highlight a Group 2 success at Newmarket. However, Mogul’s best performance only awarded him a lowly 84 tospeed rating. That doesn’t sound like odds-on favourite to me.
His stable mate Arthur’s Kingdom can’t be underestimated as improvement is likely to come for the new trip as well. Papa Power and Pyledriver have shown good form on the All-Weather and it will be interesting to see how much more there is to come.
Undoubtedly the most intriguing horse in this lineup is Mohican Heights. After a successful debut at Leopardstown in May last year he changed hands for £520k.
Since then he won the Listed Stonehenge Stakes at Salisbury finishing really strongly to win by 2 lengths, when having recent Kempton Classic Trial winner Berlin Tango behind in third (who beat Pyledriver fair and square at Kempton.
Word is Mohican Heights has wintered well, progressed physically – which he had to – and with loads of improvement to be expected from stepping up in trip, given his pedigree – which makes it all the more remarkable that as a late may foal he was able to win on debut a hot Spring maiden over 7 furlongs – he has a prime chance in this race.
10pts win – Mohican Heights @ 9/2
What else is there to see on the opening Day of Royal Ascot? No further bets for me, but that doesn’t detract from the interest in some fascinating contests.
The King’s Stand Stakes is the obvious to mention. Battaash looks nearly impossible to beat in this. There is no Blue Point this time. He wasn’t quite his brilliant best when a beaten runner-up by that rival in this very race the last two years.
Truth told: Battaash can only beat himself here. A good Battaash is still well ahead of anyone else in this field. He is so much faster. That’s the question of the day: will he finally taste success at the Royal meeting?
The Ribblesdale Stakes is a slightly underwhelming event. Make no mistake, Frankly Darling is exciting on the back of her performance at Newcastle. But there is not much else here, is there?
Although, intrigue is added by the addition of Miss Yoda, who won a rather poor Lingfield Oaks Trial, and steps down in trip. With a good run here she can enhance her credentials.
The one from Team AOB I’m most interested in is Ennistymon. She won a maiden only a week ago, needed every inch of the ten furlongs and looks set to show much more for the additional distance.
I leave you here with the 2019 Nunthorpe Stakes: wetting the appetite, with what was Battaash’s best performance, awarding him a 123 tospeed rating!