OUR racing man Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) gives us his best bets from Day 1 at the Royal meeting.
14:30 Royal Ascot | Channel 4
The opening race of the meeting is set to be staged on the softest ground Royal Ascot has provided on an opening day in my lifetime and the market has changed shape significantly in the past week. The Queen Anne kicks off the meeting and it looks a good race to begin with, but who wins?
Tepin comes across from the States and has been long time ante-post favourite, and despite being a top class mare it shows a lack of depths in Europe that an American turf horse is even being considered for this race.
She has a fantastic record, her win at the Breeders Cup was impressive and despite making a living hammering her own sex her form stands up to the best of these and is a live threat. There are doubts about the ground for her and the straight stiff mile is a worry and for me she is opposable but I hope she runs well as I love her connections for bringing her over.
Belardo won the Lockinge last time beating a few of these and will relish conditions. Something of a nearly horse he took his form to a new level at Newbury however I’m not getting carried away with that. He was race fit and it was a poor race for this level and despite being the domestic form choice I expect the winner to come from elsewhere.
Endless Drama has hardly been seen and is a 4 year old making only his sixth start today. He was second in the Irish Guineas last season and was third in the Lockinge and is a nicer prospect. He could go close here.
Esoterique was a real improver last season and could go well in conditions she relishes and at a price I also think Mondaliste may well run above his odds as he is a mud lark and there are worse speculative each way options out there however my selection is another French filly.
Ervedya is a top class filly and anyone who read my column last season knows how highly I rated the 3 year old fillies. Her and Found were high class and on soft ground Ervedya was the best of the lot.
She only has one defeat to her name with soft in the going description and that was over 6 furlongs as a 2 year old. She has a race under her belt and looks the horse to beat here. With course form, ground on her side and a weak renewal she is my first bet of the meeting and a confident selection too.
15:05 Royal Ascot | Channel 4
The Coventry Stakes. I love it! Always a race that throws up numerous winners there will be bubbles burst and reputations smashed however whatever wins this could end up being very special.
Carravagio is the favourite here and is an unbeaten Aidan O’Brien horse who looks very classy. Before his last win he was seen as a speed horse and they worried about him seeing out five furlongs on soft ground. He proved that all wrong with a Listed win where he done all his best work late on.
However this is a completely different test here. An extra furlong on soft ground on a stiff track is going to take some getting here and to me he is vulnerable. I think he is a very good colt and on quick ground I’d back him but I’m against him here.
The Mark Johnston trained Yalta is two from two and should cope with conditions here. He has won both starts effortlessly and deserves his place here but I think others may have more class.
Mokarris represents the Simon Crisford yard which is flying with their juveniles. This looks his best one and he won an above average looking maiden on his debut. He could be anything and is respected but again needs to improve significantly.
Broken Stones from Kevin Ryan’s yard is interesting as his connections don’t tend to over-face their horses. He isn’t flashly bred but there is stamina in his pedigree and may out run his price but is a risky proposition.
The one I like here is Psychedelic Funk. Not only does he have a wonderful name he’s also incredibly good and his trainer Ger Lyons rates him as the best he’s ever had.
He’s long been a talking horse and he was withdrawn late on what was meant to be his third start to save him for this. He will handle the ground, he will stay and he looks a very forward 2 year old. He maybe doesn’t have the best form on offer but there is something exciting about him and I plan to back him here.
15:40 Royal Ascot | Channel 4
The King’s Stand is generally a hugely competitive race however with the ground as it is and a low quality cast it looks very much a two horse race. In a field of 20 with the withdrawal of Acopolco it’s crazy to say that however I’m only going to really preview two as they look well clear here.
It won’t surprise anyone that the two I fancy are Mecca’s Angel and Profitable who finished first and second in the Temple Stakes last time out. Profitable won that race and looks like he has improved enormously from 3 to 4 years of age.
He won his seasonal debut at Newmarket in good style and confirmed that promise by taking the scalp of Mecca’s Angel last time out. There didn’t appear to be any fluke to that result and I think he is a sprinter to take very seriously this season. He is straightforward and should handle the ground so I expect him to run a massive race here but can he confirm the Haydock form?
Mecca’s Angel is a five furlong specialist who adores soft ground and last season in the Nunthorpe she was sensational. She is still lightly raced for a five year old and comes here on the back of a solid second at Haydock so is she opposable here? Well, no would be my answer.
Conditions will be perfect for her and she should have improved for her reappearance. Profitable will provide stiff opposition but I feel she can improve past him and providing there are no silly splits or huge draw biases she should win this easily. She is drawn low and surrounded by pace so I expect her to take a hell of a lot of beating here.
16:20 Royal Ascot | Channel 4
The St James Palace Stakes is a superb looking race with the winner of Europe’s three leading Guineas lining up. Add in to that one of last seasons leading 2 year olds returning from injury and we have what is potentially the race of the meeting on our hands.
Galileo Gold won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and was a visually impressive winner. However that race looks like it was below par and in Ireland on softer ground he looked a shadow of his Newmarket self. He’s obviously a very good horse however as I mentioned earlier this is a hot race and I would be surprised if he won this in these conditions.
The Gurkha falls in to the “could be anything” category and turned the French Guineas into a precession. That was only his second start after missing his juvenile campaign and is one of the most exciting prospects around. The French Classic looked even weaker than the English version however such was the authority he won that in her has to be taken very seriously here.
At Doncaster last season Emotionless put up one of the best juvenile performances of the season before flopping in the Dewhurst. He was injured that day so that is forgiven however this is a tough reintroduction today. Last season he was seen as a fast ground horse so I think he will struggle here but I hope he shapes well as he is a horse I like a lot.
I’m siding with my old friend Awtaad here after his impressive win in the Irish 2000 Guineas from Galileo Gold. He has improved more than any other horse in training this season and by all accounts has more to show.
His trainer and jockey both feel he has improved and I think on this ground he is the one to beat. I’m not going to go mad and he is a lot shorter in the marker than he was a week ago however I think that’s because my feelings are shared by many!
17:00 Royal Ascot | Channel 4
The Ascot Stakes is going to take some getting here in these conditions however there is one horse I have been waiting to run since her last win and I’m very excited about her today.
Jennies Jewel was a very good hurdler despite her inability to jump and on her last start won a soft ground Curragh handicap easily. This will be her last career start as currently she is in foal and I believe she will mark her retirement with a victory. It’s a decent race but she ticks every box and I will be backing her each way today.
14:30 Royal Ascot – Ervedya to win (4/1 Bet365)
15:05 Royal Ascot – Psychedelic Funk to win (6/1 Paddy Power)
15:40 Royal Ascot – Mecca’s Angel to win (15/8 Betfair Sportsbook)
16:20 Royal Ascot – Awtaad to win (15/8 Paddy Power)
17:00 Royal Ascot – Jennies Jewel each way (15/2 Paddy Power)