The timing of this year’s Royal Ascot racing festival could be regarded as a mixed affair. The weather is set to be fine and the racing throughout the week is nothing short of pulsating. However, in the wake of recent tragic events, the usual celebratory mood characterised by exclusive fashion wear and champagne receptions backed up by the canvas of the Royal attendance, might be slightly subdued. Nevertheless, the show must go on.
The meeting kicks off on Tuesday 20th June and runs right through until Saturday 24th June: 5 action-packed days, 30 races in total. Surely it must only be a matter of time before Royal Ascot’s closest rival, The Cheltenham Festival, adds an extra lucrative Saturday. But that’s a discussion for another time. Meanwhile, we have 5 Group One events to mull over and the week kicks off in explosive fashion as the much anticipated participation of Churchill is confirmed for the St James Palace Stakes.
THE ST JAMES PALACE STAKES, DAY ONE, TUESDAY 20TH JUNE
Churchill is on the threshold of becoming one of Ballydoyle’s all-time finest acquisitions. His workmanlike beating of decent rivals in the Newmarket 2000 Guineas last May was far better than it looked and this form was further amplified with a 3 length victory in the Irish 2000 Guineas. He’s quick, tough and versatile over any going. The Aidan O’Brien charge should reconfirm superiority over Barney Boy and Thunder Storm to take this at 4/6 best with Sky Bet, Stan James and Coral.
If you’re looking for value then each way on Irish 2000 Guineas runner-up Thunder Storm at 10/1 with Betfred looks to be a tempting opportunity not to waste.
THE PRINCE OF WALES STAKES, WEDNESDAY 21ST JUNE
The extended mile event on the Wednesday looks to be a very competitive heat. The 2015 Derby runner-up, Jack Hobbs, trained by John Gosden leads the market at 3/1 (bet365, Betfred) and he will be looking to strike again after landing a huge purse in the Dubai Longines Dubai Sheema Classic last time out. Highland Reel (7/2 Sporting Bet) and Ulysses (4/1 Bet Victor) will no doubt put up some stiff opposition although the each way value may come from the French raider Mekhtaal who won well last time out in a Group One event at Chantilly. He can be grabbed at 14/1 with William Hill.
THE GOLD CUP, THURSDAY 22ND JUNE
The big stamina test for the week, The Ascot Gold Cup, has a hot favourite in the shape of Order Of St George (Evens with Paddy Power), trained by Aidan O’Brien. He’s been in recent cracking form in Ireland winning both his starts convincingly and of course he won this corresponding event last year in good style. It’s hard to see where any viable opposition may come from although I quite like the look of Sweet Selection, The Cesarewitch winner, who is improving with every race. He’s got a course win and stays well: he shouldn’t be inconvenienced by the extra trip. 14/1 best with bet365 and William Hill.
THE CORONATION STAKES, FRIDAY 23RD JUNE
The main contest for fillies this week should be one way traffic. Winter has been in devastating form for Ballydoyle, winning both 1000 Guineas events in UK and Ireland respectively and in impressive fashion. This for me is the banker of the week and should oblige easily for Aidan O’Brien at 8/13 best with Betfred. However, the best bet of the week is also available here and this needs to be grabbed very quickly indeed. Daban, who was 2 ½ lengths behind Winter in the 2000 Guineas, is available at a whopping 25/1 with Paddy Power.
THE DIAMOND JUBILEE STAKES, SATURDAY 24TH JUNE
This is set to be a very wide open contest to round off the week. Darley July Cup winner, Limato leads the market at 5/1 (Betfred, Bet Victor) and should be there or thereabouts. The Tin Man (Bet Victor 8/1 best), trained by James Fanshawe, has been niggled at in the market in recent days and this isn’t surprising considering his course and distance win in the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes during Champions Day last October. However, the best value may come from the Aidan O’Brien trained Acapulco who may well improve on his first run recently at The Curragh. Currently available at 16/1 best with Coral.
- THE ST JAMES PALACE STAKES, DAY 1, TUESDAY 20TH JUNE - Thunder Storm 10/1 with Betfred (each way) - visit Betfred!
- THE PRINCE OF WALES STAKES, WEDNESDAY 21ST JUNE - Mekhtaal 14/1 with William Hill (each way) - visit William Hill!
- THE CORONATION STAKES, FRIDAY 23RD JUNE - Daban 25/1 with Paddy Power (each way) - visit Paddy Power!
Good luck with Royal Ascot bets this week!