RACING expert Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) returns to share his best bets from Thursday's action at Royal Ascot.
Norfolk Stakes | 2:30 Thursday | Royal Ascot | ITV
The Norfolk Stakes gets Day 3 underway where 15 juveniles go to post for a five-furlong dash. Ordinarily you would think a 15-runner race would be fairly wide open but I believe this to have a rather one horse look about it.
Sunday Sovereign (9/4 Paddy Power) was fourth on the opening Irish juvenile race of the season behind the hugely promising Monarchs Of Egypt. He has since won twice, including an easy win over subsequent Coventry Stakes winner Arizona. He is pacey, will see out the five furlongs well and has form on a soft surface.
Though it's a decent-looking race, I think Sunday Sovereign will get us off to a flying start.
Hampton Court Stakes | 3:05 Thursday | Royal Ascot | ITV
The Hampton Court Stakes is often a stepping stone for three-year-olds who are maybe a little off top class at the moment, and it has the look of a race that could throw up a few to follow. I like the look of a few in here but I've finally narrowed it down to one.
King Ottokar (6/1 Bet365) went off favourite for the Chester Vase where he was easily brushed aside by Sir Dragonet but I believe he is better than he showed there. Firstly, the form of that race has worked out well with the third place winning yesterday and the fifth winning a French listed race since. He also didn't appear to stay.
The form of his win the time before is always strong, and indicates 10 furlongs on soft ground is his ideal trip. So given he will encounter that here, I make him a confident each-way bet.
Ribblesdale Stakes | 3:40 Thursday | Royal Ascot | ITV
The Ribblesdale is a fillies Group 2 over a mile-and-a-half and this has a very winnable look about it. Ballydoyle supplemented two horses this week, and with one a winner, I'm expecting it to become two from two here.
Fleeting (7/4 Unibet) came dead last in the 1000 Guineas but turned that form around dramatically when running on late to snatch an unlikely looking third in the Epsom Oaks.
She shapes although she will appreciate even further in future however this stiffer track, softer ground and lower grade make this a fantastic opportunity for her to get her first win of the season and I expect her to take that chance.
Gold Cup | 4:20 Thursday | Royal Ascot | ITV
The Gold Cup is the flagship race of the meeting and star stayer Stradivarius bids to defend his crown. He's won six races in a row yet many believe he is venerable, myself included. Is he the most likely winner? Absolutely. Am I backing him? No.
I've had my eye on Dee Ex Bee (7/1 Paddy Power) for this race ever since the Grand Prix de Paris last July. That day he never looked comfortable going the championship pace yet battled his way round staying on for third.
I think after that he paid the price for a busy campaign at the top level but has returned this season over a more suitable trip and looks so much better for it. He has yet to race over this extreme distance however shapes although it's within reach and if the favourite is to be beat he is the most likely to do it.
2:30 Royal Ascot – Sunday Sovereign (9/4 Paddy Power)
3:05 Royal Ascot – King Ottokar (6/1 each-way Bet365)
3:40 Royal Ascot – Fleeting (7/4 Unibet)
4:20 Royal Ascot – Dee Ex Bee (7/1 each-way Paddy Power)