No doubt about it.  Royal Ascot is the world’s best racing festival.  Five days of top class international racing with three Group 1 races on the first day alone makes for a mouth-watering prospect.  For avid punters, the two Big Handicaps, the Royal Hunt Cup (1 mile; Wednesday) and Wokingham (6f; Saturday) provide all the financial stimulus one could ever want to leverage a big fat Greek style bailout if needed.

The weather this year in England has been consistently inconsistent and so we should start with good to soft ground which should dry out as the week progresses.  The festival’s very first race showcases the sublime FRANKEL.



The Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes (4yo+; 1 mile; 2.30 GMT)

FRANKEL hasn’t raced on soft ground since he was a 2yo and Ascot was the scene of his biggest fright when only just lasting home over course and distance by 3/4l from Zoffany in last year’s St James Palace Stakes.  He has improved by leaps and bounds over the winter and is now practically invincible but current odds of 1/6 means that a watching brief must be maintained.  Gambling addicts could try an each way flutter on old rival Excelebration whose best form has been with cut in the ground.



The Group 1 King Stands Stakes (3yo+; 5f; 3.05 GMT)

In recent years, the Royal Ascot sprints have taken on a truly international flavour and this year King Stands Stakes features Hong Kong’s Joy And Fun and Little BridgeOrtensia from Australia and WIZZ KID from France.  The local contingent is led by Roger Charlton’s Bated Breath and Robert Cowell’s Prohibit while 2011 Temple Stakes winner Sole Power comes over from Ireland.  Sole Power, (4 1/2l 8th to Prohibit in this race last year) won the Group 2 Temple last year (Prohibit 1 1/4l 3rd) but was beaten by 1/4l by Bated Breath in this year’s renewal.  Both seem best on a sound surface and so are bypassed.  Prohibit, on the other hand, benefitted from the rain that fell here last year but was beaten by WIZZ KID (received 3 lbs) for the second year in succession in a Group 2 at Chantilly (sharp left handed track) on June 3.  There’s not a lot to choose between these two and both have favoured double-digit draws but Prohibit is now 7yo and WIZZ KID has improved from 3 to 4.  Her biggest threat should come from the Australian Ortensia who beat many of these including Sole Power in the Group 1 Al Quoz sprint at Meydan in March but she has been handed a low number draw and may be coming on the premises too late.



The Group 1 St James Palace Stakes (3yo colts; 1 mile round; 3.45 p.m.0

Six time winner of this race Aidan O’Brien has only two final entries in favourite Power and Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf winner, Wrote.  Both are somewhat suspect on softish ground although Power, who won the Irish 2000 Guineas on a sound surface, did win a 2yo Group 1 on yielding to soft at the Curragh last September.  It’s best to oppose him on the likely going and the two that jump off the page are Most Improved (unexposed improver who was only a head behind Power in the Dewhurst; missed the Guineas due to lameness and whose run in the French Derby can be excused as he met trouble repeatedly and lost both front shoes); and HERMIVAL (best run came on soft when 2 1/2l 3rd to Camelot in the 2000 Guineas; had testicle trouble and ill at ease on the ground when 4l 6th to Power in the Irish 2000).  HERMIVAL earns the nod due to his superior post position.







The 150th Anniversary of The Prince of Wales Stakes (Group 1; 4yo+; 10f; 3.45 GMT)

The late defection of Cirrus des Aigles leaves the way clear for that likeable former Australian horse SO YOU THINK (BANKER BET) to avenge last year’s narrow defeat in this race especially as he may prefer the slight ease in the going he’ll likely encounter this time.  In this her Diamond Jubilee year, expect the Queen’s unexposed 4yo Carlton House to give the selection a very stiff challenge.




The Gold Cup (Group 1; 4yo+; 2 ½ miles; 3.45 p.m. GMT)

Fame And Glory loves it round here and goes for a second consecutive Gold Cup but is at very short odds for what will be a much more competitive race than last year’s renewal.  Opinion Poll, Saddler’s Rock and COLOUR VISION are all likely winners with the last two really attractive young up-and-comers.  The last named has been laid out superbly for this race after begging for the trip only 1 1/4l behind Fame And Glory over 2 miles at Ascot last October as a 3yo and re-appearing on the polytrack at Kempton with a smooth win a month ago.  He looks like something to bet on.




The Coronation Stakes (Group 1; 3yo fillies; 1 mile; 3.45 GMT)

Early days yet as the field is yet to take shape but the usual barrage from Ballydoyle is expected so MAYBE it’ll be her turn now.




The Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group 1; 3yo+; 6f; 3.45 p.m. GMT)

Given that she is rated 10 lbs clear of her nearest rival by Timeform, and also factoring in the record of Australian raiders in the sprints at this fixture in recent years, it’s no surprise that Black Caviar  is already at prohibitive odds for this race. But handicap ratings are not so appropriate in these high class sprints as is speed and this will be her first run outside of Australia so there are sound betting reasons to oppose her.

The French filly MOONLIGHT CLOUD, currently trading at around 8/1, looks a good each-way bet especially when her impressive four-length success over 2011 winner of this race Society Rock (re-opposes) in last year’s Prix Maurice de Gheest is taken into account.  She looked as good as ever when landing a Group 3 at Longchamp on her return earlier in the month and will give the howling favourite the jitters.


The two big betting handicaps:

The Royal Hunt Cup (Wednesday; Class 2 Heritage Handicap; 1 mile; 4.25 pm GMT);

Another where the draw could prove all-important.  The ones to concentrate on are Edinburgh Knight for whom there has been a sustained gamble in recent weeks and who is a perfect fit here; DIMENSION, stable companion of ante-post favourite Primaeval, has done nothing but improve right through his career; was successful on his only start at Ascot last back-end; and made a promising comeback at Lingfield; and Directorship . who has developed into a consistent and useful handicapper over seven furlongs and a mile and gets in on a favourable mark for one currently quoted at 33/1.  Still unexposed generally let alone at a mile, DIMENSION should take all the beating.



The Wokingham Stakes (Saturday; 0-110 Heritage Handicap; 6f; 4.25 pm)

The draw will be all important here with a high number preferred but only middle numbers despised as a position against either rail should be ok.  Alben Star is a sprinter to follow who definitely has his name on a big handicap this season.  Having missed 2011, Alben Star is still in the developmental stages which is the type of profile that wins handicaps like this where a bit of improvement can be decisive.  He’s been crying out for a big field and strong gallop so won’t be easily beaten.  Desert Law appears back to his best but both are well gambled already and will need the ground to have dried out.  So, if he gets a good draw, old stager HIGH STANDING (NAP OF THE MEETING) who won this in 2009 off a 4lbs lower mark and for whom Ryan Moore has already been booked can upstage the youth here.


Royal Ascot Best Treble:   

HERMIVAL (St James Palace Stakes);                                                                                                                                      DIMENSION (Royal Hunt Cup; NAP OF THE MEETING);                                                                                         COLOUR VISION (Gold Cup)

Good Luck!



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