John Doyle analyses the runners for the five-day Royal Ascot festival this week and gives his top tips for the biggest races
Prince of Wales stakes – Weds 21st June, 4.20pm
The Prince of Wales this year is fascinating for the horses that available to run due to injury or other targets. Nevertheless, the field will be very competitive and there are a number of runners you can make a case for.
Jack Hobbs is a very good horse who won well at Meydan in March over 1m 4f, what is probably his ideal distance. The drop to 1m 2f here has not suited him in the past and the likely firm ground is another negative.
Ulysses was an impressive winner of the Brigadier Gerard stakes at the end of April over this distance. He looks to be a typical Sir Michael Stoute improver now he is a 4 year old and any progress from his reappearance effort will make him difficult to beat. The O’Brien team will be competitive too.
Royal Hunt Cup – Weds 21st June, 5pm
The Royal Hunt Cup is the first big handicap of the week at the Royal meeting. The sight of 30 runners spread across the track is brilliant. The thing about Ascot though is that good course form counts for plenty, so the search for the winner should be heavily biased towards good course form. The best place to start is the Balmoral Handicap on Champions day last October.
In that race, two horses ran great races despite being hampered, Afjaan & Morando. Afjaan won well on his seasonal reappearance at Haydock in the style of an improving horse while Morando looks to be heading straight to the race. Roger Varian has campaigned this horse sparingly and it is likely he will run a big race. From other races over the course this year, the standout is George William, who has been close up in the big races here. With a clear run, he will go close
Selection: George William
Gold Cup – Thurs 22nd June, 4.20pm
Order of St George returns to the scene of last year’s triumph and is a strong favourite to follow up. He is a very durable horse who takes plenty of racing. On his seasonal debut at Leopardstown, he easily dispatched his field in a performance that should have him spot on for the big repeat.
The opposition are all limited and have had lots of chances to show what they can do. Provided Ryan Moore avoids any traffic problems, another Grade 1 win should be coming the way of the Coolmore team
Selection: Order of St George
Albany Stakes – Friday 23rd June, 2.30pm
The Albany stakes is a 6 furlong contest for 2 year old Fillies and this year’s renewal includes the standout 2 year old seen so far this season, the Jessica Harrington trained, Alpha Centauri. This Filly has been super impressive in both her starts.
A really big animal, she has supreme power and balance. In her two starts to date, she has readily brushed the opposition aside but these beaten opponents have followed up by winning subsequent starts. The fly in the ointment is the Wesley Ward Filly, Fairyland, who has been hyped up as this year’s Ascot banker.
If she runs here, she will be a danger while the Aidan O’Brien trained, September, was super impressive on debut too.
Selection: Alpha Centauri
Commonwealth Cup – Friday 23rd June, 3.40pm
This relatively new Group 1 sprint for 3 year olds has really taken off. Trainers are no longer aiming doubtful stayers at the Guineas but preparing them for this event. The 2017 has thrown up possibly the race of the week with Caravaggio, Henry Angel & Blue Point all outstanding contenders for this year’s contest.
Caravaggio is unbeaten in 5 starts for Aidan O’Brien and looks to be a superstar in the making. Finishing his 2 year old season after 4 wins, he recently made his 3 year old debut and simply oozed class at Naas. He will be tough to beat. Blue Point beat Harry Angel over the course & distance in April and was immediately given this target.
Harry Angel stormed to a course record at Haydock and was then purchased by Godolphin. They are seriously good horses and this will be an awesome race
Coronation Stakes – Friday 23rd June, 4.20pm
Winter has been super dominant this spring winning both the English & Irish 1000 Guineas. This daughter of Galileo travels with real purpose and looks to be improving at a rate of knots. In the Guineas at Newmarket, she tracked the leaders before surging to the front at the 2 furlong pole to win well.
At the Curragh, she travelled even smoother through the race before running right away from her field. Winter will be hard to beat. The opposition is light as other fillies take different routes
Wolverton Handicap – Sat 24th June, 3.05pm
Khairaat won a handicap at Chester on reappearance running right away from his field. This is a seriously improving Sir Michael Stoute handicapper who can easily defy his big rise in the handicap and win this valuable handicap before going on to better things.
Borrocco, who was runner up at Chester, reopposes following a luckless run at Epsom, where he pulled to hard and got no run in the home straight. The other contenders are more exposed and will find the improving 4 year old too hot to handle
Diamond Jubilee – Sat 24th June, 4.20pm
The Diamond Jubilee is a competitive Group 1 for the star older sprinters before the generations come together in the July Cup. Last year’s star sprinter, Limato, heads the market. He must recover from a couple of poor trips to the Breeders Cup and Meydan, where nothing went well for him. This is a favourite with too many issues to support with confidence.
The protagonists of most interest are Magical Memory and The Tin Man. Both are top quality sprinters and both ran really good seasonal debuts at York in early May. Magical Memory is the more straight forward ride and will be keen to make up for an unlucky 4th in this race last season. The Tin Man has the potential to improve greatly and is a big danger
Selection: Magical Memory
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