RACING expert Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) picks out his best bets from the first day of Royal Ascot.
15:40 Royal Ascot | ITV
The King’s Stand is Ascot’s big five-furlong race and as ever it’s attracted a huge field – 17 look set to go to post but the race isn’t as open as the field size would suggest.
Many of these look out of their depth and many others aren’t in the best of form. But there is one I am really excited about.
Lady Aurelia (7/2 Ladbrokes) was the most eye-catching winner of any race at this meeting last year and she looked like she was going to be a real star of the future. She went on to win the Prix Monry however none of her form actually amounts to anything in my opinion.
No horse that she beat in the Morny has won since and even her Ascot form looks suspect. She is respected on last year’s win, but I just can’t back her in this.
Signs Of Blessings (13/2 Ladbrokes) is a speedy gelding and should be prominent throughout. With so many front-runners you have to wonder how much of an advantage it will be to race prominently and it could be that Signs Of Blessings and a few others set the race up for another runner.
Marsha (10/3 BetVictor) has always threatened to be good; now something seems to have clicked and she’s now a proven Group 1 winner.
Her win in the Prix de L’abbaye was followed up with a fantastic performance under a penalty in the Palace House. Even if she’s in the same form as last time out she’ll be hard to beat but I expect her to be even better here and prove too good for her rivals.
17:00 Royal Ascot | ITV
The Ascot Stakes is the longest race of the day and another huge field. The quick ground will make this less testing than it has been in previous years but again this looks a little short on quality. Despite the big field, I’m backing a horse to win this outright.
I backed Who Dares Wins (11/2 Bet365) in the Chester Cup and he ran alright in fourth. He did most of his best work late on and is one of the few in this who look like they will appreciate the extreme distance. However, his stable is a little cold and I’m begrudgingly looking elsewhere.
Thomas Hobson (5/1 Matchbook) was a good horse for John Gosden and since joining Willie Mullins has had training issues but has shown he still retains plenty of ability. He has stamina to prove over this sort of distance and I don’t think he will be at his best on quick ground. He doesn’t appeal.
The one I really like here is the Nicky Henderson-trained Beyond Conceit (15/2 Bet365). Not seen on the flat for just under four years, he had a good season over hurdles ending with a second in a Group 1 over three miles.
When last seen on the flat he came fourth over a trip slightly longer than this at Goodwood so his stamina looks assured. The stable is flying and in a race that looks very winnable, he strikes me as a great bet.
17:35 Royal Ascot | ITV
The Windsor Castle Stakes is the closing race of the day and a typically tricky race to work out. A five-furlong dash for inexperienced two year-olds – and with the presence of three American juveniles – this is likely to be ran at break-neck speed but I’m going against the raiding party from the States.
Wesley Ward sends over two for the race and looking at them Elizabeth Darcy (7/1 Stan James) strikes me as his best chance of winning. With turf experience (which her stable mate doesn’t have) she put up a huge performance on debut, which tends to be the case with Ward’s juveniles.
With speed to burn she will try and make every post a winning one but with two in the race and neither being ‘smashed in’ in the betting, they could be worth opposing.
Roussel (12/1 Ladbrokes) cost a small fortune at the breeze ups and won well on debut at Leicester. He will need to come on a lot for that but the stable is going well and He looks well above average. Of the home team, he looks the best and he could reward each-way supporters.
The one I do like though is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Decelerationofpeace (7/2 Ladbrokes). He looked like going to the Coventry but he was diverted for this perceived easier option and has since been heavily backed.
Visually impressive at Dundalk juveniles, the yard tend to improve with each start and with Ryan Moore taking over I think he could cap what could be a great day for the stable.