THE highlight of the Flat racing season starts on Tuesday. Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) gives us his Day 1 best bets.
14:30 Royal Ascot | Channel 4
What a start to the meeting with in my opinion the best race of the five days. We have three horses lining up who have serious claims to be regarded as the best miler in the world and this race is an opportunity for one of them to step forward and claim that crown.
Night of Thunder won the Lockinge Stakes last month and looks the best older miler in Britain. He won the 2000 Guineas last season, and though he never won again he ran consistently at the top level. He didn’t have to improve from three to four to win the Lockinge and I still feel he falls short up against the real top notch Group 1 milers.
If this race was in Hong Kong I would be backing Able Friend. He has established himself as the top miler around Sha Tin looking almost unbeatable round there. But Sha Tin is not Ascot. It’s a tight turning track and nowhere near as stiff. Not only does Able Friend have to prove himself on another track, he has to do it on another continent against horses that have everything in their favour. I may be made to look like a fool, but I cannot see this trip to the UK bearing fruit for connections.
This leaves us with Solow. Wow. What a horse this is. Taken along slowly last season he shot to prominence with a devastating display in the Duty Free on Dubai World Cup night crushing The Grey Gatsby. He followed that up with a less electrifying performance in France where his main rival ran below expectations, but that race was a prep for today and I expect him to win this and win well.
He has the rare ability amongst horses to quicken from a strong pace and there are no stamina doubts about him over a stiff mile. The quicker they go in this the better, and if there is no real early pace then he has the potential to go from the front. His trainer Freddie Head is a master at having his horses 100% on the big occasion and the fact he has said Solow is up there with the best he has trained let’s you know this is a seriously talented animal. Solow will make or break my week at Ascot, but I fully expect this to be the start of a very good week!
15:05 Royal Ascot | Channel 4
A six furlong dash for the top early season two year olds and it has attracted it’s usual strong looking field. Most of the big stables are represented but they may well be playing for prize money in behind the Jim Bolger trained favourite Round Two.
He won his maiden over six furlongs at Naas before stepping back to five furlongs for his second start in a Listed race at the Curragh easily accounting for Washington DC who runs in a later race on Tuesday. He won that in the manner of a very forward two year old but it was Jim Bolger’s comments after the race that struck me. He said he was a dream to train, you could do anything with him, race over any distance and put him anywhere in the race. He then said if you wouldn’t get excited by him you wouldn’t be alive.
This is a man who in recent memory has had Teofilo and New Approach in his yard so if he rates him that highly then it’s enough to make me part with some of my earlier winnings (I may look like an even bigger fool at this point) on a bet on him to win.
15:40 Royal Ascot | Channel 4
This race sees Sole Power out to try and create his own little bit of history by winning this race three years in a row. He has everything in his favour tomorrow with lightening fast ground on a track he enjoys with a likely strong pace in store he couldn’t have asked for more in his favour. But I’m not sure he will complete his hat-trick.
He ran no sort of race last time out, ok it was over six furlongs and he never wins over that trip but he normally mounts a challenge. He is eight years old now, and as much as I would love to see him win I can’t back him at 4/1.
The horse I will be backing is G Force. The winner of the Haydock Sprint Cup last season he returned this season in the Temple Stakes. He was travelling well towards the back of the field when he clipped heels and almost came down. I’m not trying to say he was going to win that day, but he was in the process of running a very encouraging seasonal debut and I expect him to be in the mix here.
Still a relatively lightly raced horse I expect him to have improved from three to four. He stays six furlongs but I still have a suspicion that a fast five furlongs on a stiff track may be his ideal conditions. He has that in this race and at 12/1 he is a cracking each way bet especially if you can find a bookmaker paying five places.
16:20 Royal Ascot | Channel 4
This should be a straight forward opportunity for Gleneagles to cement his place as the top three year old miler in Europe. He was slightly disappointing in the Irish 2000 Guineas last time out, but that was on softer ground than is ideal for him and I expect him to show his true colours here.
His performance at Newmarket was from the top drawer and I think he could be something special. He takes his racing well and even though some of his rivals arrive here fresher I don’t expect him to be anything other than 100% fit. It’s been a quiet year for Aidan O’Briens yard but Gleneagles can get him off the mark at Royal Ascot 2015.
The race is lacking in real strength and depth and I fully expect French Guineas winner Make Believe to follow him home and for anyone who doesn’t like backing odds on favourites the forecast could be the bet for you.
14:30 Royal Ascot – Solow to win (13/8 William Hill)
15:05 Royal Ascot – Round Two to win (5/2 William Hill)
15:40 Royal Ascot – G Force each way (12/1 Titanbet)
16:20 Royal Ascot – Gleneagles to win (8/11 Skybet)
He’s the hottest favourite throughout the week and is odds on with every bookmaker.
Sign up with Ladbrokes before Tuesday afternoon though and you can back him at 5/1 with your first bet.