Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Day One Preview

Royal Ascot 2013 has arrived and with it a host of international challengers, a fantastic week’s racing and just maybe the hint of some sunshine.

We have a week’s sport ahead of that the late Sir Henry Cecil would have been proud to be a part of – indeed a number of runners with good chances are due to be fielded over the five days by Lady Cecil from Warren Place, including today’s fancied Tiger Cliff, who runs in the Ascot Stakes

Sir Henry loved Royal Ascot and in honour of his amazing record here we are holding a minute’s silence before racing today.

Will Kingdom rule?
And then we get straight into the top class action with the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes (2.30) in which one of the most-talked about horses of the spring is due to take part – the US-trained Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom, who has been resident in Lambourn since travelling from the Emirates in April.

The Graham Motion team report that their fine-looking horse to be in great fettle, although are cautioning that, as he has never run over a straight mile on turf, maybe it is not the straight forward task that the price seem to suggest.

However, he has achieved far more on the form front than other runner in this race and he should make history today by becoming the first Kentucky Derby winner to achieve success at Royal Ascot.

The bet is for a place and although this is a first 2013 start for Elusive Kate, she is a talented genuine Group 1 filly who finished third to Excelebration over course and distance at the Champions’ meeting in October.  Don’t be put off by lack of action so far this year – in 2012 she finished second to Giofra in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes first time out.

A first winner for South Africa?
The 5f King’s Stand Stakes also sees an international challenge to the fore, this time from South Africa with Shea Shea a 2-1 chance and out to become the first-ever South African-trained winner at Royal Ascot.

Another here off the back of a last-time-out success in Dubai, the lightning fast Shea Shea broke his own the track record at Meydan in the Al Quoz Sprint beating the good yardstick Joy And Fun, with Sole Power back in fourth.

If Shea Shea has travelled over well, he should have too much raw speed for the Clive Cox-trained three-year-old Reckless Abandon, a good third in the Temple Stakes (G3) in May, and fellow traveller Shamexpress, who stepped up to Group 1-winning form last time at Flemington, Australia.

Again if looking for an each-way bet, it might be worth looking further down the list of fancied runners and with a dry day ahead of us, Sole Power, who was third in this last year on unsuitable soft ground, has to have a chance if he the race goes right for him (has to have cover until late), while Kingsgate Native looks to be right back to his best, though he has never threatened in this race previously.

A new Dawn?
The St James’s Palace Stakes (3.45) was a late decider for the 2000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach, who fluffed his lines so completely in the Derby. The colt must have come out of the Epsom Classic in good form for trainer Jim Bolger to be considering this as an option and, if he returns to his best, he will be difficult to beat.

It looks as though it will be a battle of the Guineas winners with Magician, successful in the Irish 2000, the current second favourite. He looks an improving three-year-old and this uphill course should suit him as he has already won over 1m2f.

Sir John to arise
Aidan O’Brien has three of the top four in the betting for the 6f Group 2 Coventry Stakes (3.45), headed by Stubbs and Sir John Hawkins, with Championship from the Richard Hannon team – a regular-winning trainer of this race – and Riverboat Springs from the Mick Channon yard splitting the Irish trio.

The unbeaten Thunder Strike, also from the Hannon team, showed plenty of speed to win the Listed Woodcote Stakes at Epsom (Riverboat Springs second), but the market and stable jockey prefers the Julie Woods-owned stablemate.

This race is often a pointer to the future 2000 Guineas winner  (it was won last year by Dawn Approach) and Sir John Hawkins, winner of his sole start so far, appeals as a horse with a future.

Cliff for Cecil?
We go from a sprint trip for juveniles to one of the longest races of the Royal Ascot week, the Ascot Stakes (5.00) over 2m4f, and run over the same course as Thursday’s Gold Cup.

Current favourite is Lady Cecil’s Tiger Cliff, a race earmarked for the son of Tiger Hill by the late great trainer who told owner Henry Ponsonby that he was sure the gelding would stay the trip. It would be fitting if Cecil’s predictions could come true.

Nearer the bottom of the handicap and running off 9st3lb, Homeric was a last time out Ascot winner over 2m, his first try over an extended trip.  He raced a little keen initially then, but should settle better now and has the added benefit of the services of Frankie Dettori.

Mysterious Man has not run over such a trip, but he is bred to appreciate it being out of a half-sister to former Ascot Gold Cup winner Enzeli.

It’s all down to Anticipation 
The Listed Windsor Castle Stakes for two-year-olds rounds the day off with the well-named Anticipated (by Whipper and out of Foreplay) current favourite having been unbeaten in two starts to date, including over course and distance in May.

He is another Hannon graduate so take note of his earlier juvenile runners in the Coventry.

Ogermeister is here from the US, representing the Wesley Ward team previously successful in this in 2009. He broke fast to win his first start in the US, and if he can do so again, yet without burning himself out, then he will have every chance.

Fountain Of Youth from the O’Brien yard is out of Attraction, a former Queen Mary winner, and won at Tipperary in a fast time, while the John Gosden-trained Ben Hall probably would prefer faster ground.

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