Last year’s renewal was won in dramatic fashion by Black Caviar, and while the wonder mare is not here today (she has been retired and has gone to have babies), our international challenge comes from Havelock, trained by Darrin Miller in the US, and the John O’Shea-trained Sea Siren, who has travelled to European from Australia.
Sea Siren looked in fabulous order at the Ascot press conference at Newmarket last week and connections reported that she had travelled well and is at home in her new surroundings. Her recent form in Australia is looking very strong and she has a great chance of emulating her country mates’ achievements. The prevailing fast ground will suit.
Of the home team, Society Rock also loves fast ground and comes into this off the back of a win at York in May and a Group 1 victory at Haydock last September. He is aiming to become the first horse to reclaim a Diamond Jubilee crown, but, beware, he is never the fastest out of the stalls.
At a longer price, Krypton Factor is one to bear in mind. He has not run since a good third in the Group 1 Golden Shaheen at Meydan, and he must have quick ground to show his best – his sixth in this last year (just a head behind Society Rock) came on ground too slow.
Suspicions are that it will be too quick for Gordon Lord Byron, and while this race is a big ask for a three-year-old filly, Restiadargent did manage a third last year. Word has it that Roshdu Queen, a talented two-year-old, has been working very well in the run up to this.
Bunker down in the Chesham
The Listed Chesham Stakes over 7f sees a big field of 21 juveniles challenging for Royal Ascot glory.
Bunker, who was bought by Sheikh Joaan after his first time out success over 6f, is current favourite, this race always being the plan en route to Group 1 entries later in the year.
Somewhat has already won over 7f when successful at Musselburgh on June 14 by 7l and is another with an eye on Group 1 entries in the summer.
Ihtimal was second first time out to yesterday’s Albany Stakes winner Kiyoshi, and then to Wedding Ring, fifth in the Albany, and should appreciate this extra furlong here.
Mount Athos can take the Hardwicke Stakes
Ektihaam ran well when winning here in May (beat Thomas Chippendale) and looks as though he will go well over the 1m4f trip in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (3.05), but he is one who would have wanted the rain to arrive.
This is a big step-up in class for Sir John Hawkwood, though he is proven over the distance, so preference is for the consistent Mount Athos, owned by the enthusiastic Dr Marwan Koukash. The son of Montjeu has Group-winning form over this distance on a variety of ground and put in a great performance last autumn when fifth in the Melbourne Cup.
Dinkum has fair chance in the Wokingham
Sir Michael Stoute fields two fancied runners – Duke Of Firenze and Ladyship, both owed by Cheveley Park Stud – in the 29-strong 6f Wokingham Stakes and both have strong chances .
One at a longer price is Dinkum Diamond. He relishes fast ground and a quick pace, which is almost guaranteed here. He has done most of his running over 5f, but as a five-year-old, and trained by Henry Candy who has previous with good sprinters, looks ready to get the extra furlong now. He is worth an each-way bet.
Castle can be King for the Duke
The middle-distance 1m4f Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap (5.00) is another race with a big field of 22.
Highland Castle has always been held in high regard by his trainer David Elsworth, who sees him as a prospect for the Ebor. He loves the quick ground, has to be held up so will need luck in running, but will be seen doing his best work at the finish. He looks well handicapped on his 2012 form.
Go Mad in the finale
The lucky last, the Queen Alexandra Stakes (5.30) over 2m5f, is the longest race on the Royal Ascot card.
Courtesy Call, a son of Manduro who wants fast ground, represents yesterday’s winning trainer Nicky Henderson, but preference is for Mad Moose, trained by fellow NH trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
The horse has refused to start in three runs over hurdles, but he won over 1m4f at Doncaster in May before finishing second to Mount Athos at Chester. Despite his lack of enthusiasm at the start, he does put his best hoof forward when racing and should go close with William Twiston-Davies on board.