Day one of Royal Ascot is finally upon us and a bumper television audience is set to tune in to five days of top-class action which is being staged behind closed doors for the first time in its 309 year history due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are two Group One races on the opening day with the King’s Stand Stakes seeing Britain’s finest sprinters battle it out, whilst the Queen Anne Stakes has been won by some of racing’s greats, including Frankel.
The ground at Ascot Good after rain overnight, but the track will be in perfect condition for when racing gets underway at 1.15pm with seven races on the opening day.
The forecast is for scattered showers throughout the day and a high of 22 degrees on Tuesday, as this year’s renewal could be a repeat of last year’s rain-hit meeting.
We’ve previewed all seven races with the Racing Post’s expert tipsters to hopefully provide you with plenty of winners from the comfort of your own sofa.
1.15pm Silver Royal Hunt Cup
An ultra-competitive handicap to start proceedings with this race reintroduced to the calendar this year having been last run in 2014. Speedball Kaeso (8/1) has the services of champion jockey Oisin Murphy and finished a good second over course and distance in July. He badly needed the run on his reappearance at Newcastle earlier this month and rattling, fast ground will suit him down to the ground. Kaeso finished behind Daarik (9/2) on that occasion and he looks the chief threat along with the unexposed Mutamaasik (8/1) who was won his last four starts.
Tip: Kaeso 8/1
1.50pm Queen Anne Stakes (Group One)
The first Group One race of the meeting and Circus Maximus (5/2) should take plenty of beating. Successful at last year’s Royal Meeting in the St James’s Palace Stakes, he is targeting a third success at the top-level over a mile and fast ground will suit. At an each-way price, Mohaather (14/1) is worth a mention. He was an impressive winner of the Greenham Stakes at Newbury last term and ran well in Group One company on his return to action at the back-end of last season after a long lay-off. His trainer Marcus Tregoning has started the season very well and is hopeful of a good performance. King Power Racing’s Fox Chairman (8/1) and the progressive Duke Of Hazzard (14/1) are others with place claims.
Tip: Circus Maximus 9/4
2.25pm Ribblesdale Stakes (Group Two)
A fascinating content which is an acting as a trial for the Oaks at Epsom in July. Frankly Darling (6/4) heads the market for John Gosden who has won two of the last three runnings of this event. The three-year-old made a stylish return to action when scoring at Newcastle, but is coming up against a number of other unexposed fillies, which includes her stable companion Miss Yoda (13/2) who won the Lingfield Oaks Trial recently. Trefoil (5/1) was an excellent third in Listed company at Newmarket this month and the daughter of Teofilo looks ultra-progressive for her trainer Ralph Beckett. Ground conditions will suit and the step up in distance should eke out further improvement.
Tip: Trefoil 5/1
3.00pm King Edward VII Stakes (Group Two)
Aidan O’Brien has won this race twice, including last year with subsequent dual Group One winner Japan. He is doubly represented this time around courtesy of Mogul (5/6f) and Arthur’s Kingdom (11/2). Mogul progressed with every run last term, which included a Group Two success at Leopardstown. Unsuited by the all-weather surface in the Group One Racing Post Trophy at Newcastle in November, he brings the best form into the race. The son of Galileo is an 8/1 chance for the Derby at Epsom in June and expect his odds to constrict further after victory in this event. Arthur’s Kingdom is the mount of Frankie Dettori and whilst he was ultra-consistent last year, he just needs to find more on form compared to his stablemate.
Tip: Mogul 5/6
3.35pm King’s Stand Stakes (Group One)
It is hard to look past Battaash (8/11) here for Charlie Hills. The “Batmobile” was second in this contest last year behind Blue Point but does face a rival of that calibre in today’s running. Successful in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York last season, his form is on another level to the rest of the field and if turning up anywhere near his best, this looks a penalty kick. At a big price, Tis Marvellous (25/1) has winning course and distance form for Clive Cox at Ascot and he makes appeal to chase home Battaash alongside stable companion Shades Of Blue (33/1) who can be forgiven for his disappointing run last time.
Tip: Battaash 8/11
4.10pm Duke Of Cambridge Stakes (Group Two)
A fascinating contest with a number of horses having a live chance. Nazeef (3/1) heads the market for John Gosden and is unbeaten in her last four starts, latterly when capturing a Listed event at Kempton earlier this month. Jubiloso (7/2) looks a typical improver for Sir Michael Stoute and she finished third at the Royal Meeting last season. Miss O Connor (6/1) is unbeaten in four starts but may want softer ground, so Lavender’s Blue (6/1) could be the one to focus on. A Group Three winner at Sandown in August, the four-year-old was not disgraced in Group One company at Newmarket in October and is capable of further improvement this season.
Tip: Lavender’s Blue 6/1
4.40pm Ascot Stakes
A fascinating event in which Cheltenham Gold Cup winning trainer Nicky Henderson saddles the favourite Verdana Blue (4/1). A Grade One winner over hurdles, the fast ground will suit, but she has to carry top-weight & is opposable. Moon King (9/1) roared back to form with a game victory at Haydock earlier this month and this trip could be the making of him based on his breeding. He makes plenty of appeal along with the unexposed Land Of Oz (11/1) who will come on for his excellent second at Chelmsford last week and he is well worth an each-way play here.
Tip: Land Of Oz 11/1