The eagerly-awaited first day of Royal Ascot is widely regarded as the best days flat racing in the calendar with three Group 1’s on the card including the opening Queen Anne Stakes over the straight mile.
Soft Falling Rain came back to something like his best form in Meydan last time and will enjoy the drying ground but Toronado (2.30) is hard to oppose on his seasonal reappearance for Richard Hannon and Richard Hughes.
The selection (10/11 at BetVictor) won the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood back in July gaining some revenge for his previous Guineas and Royal Ascot defeats at the hands of Dawn Approach. That is top class form and he has always been held in the highest regard by connections.
This doesn’t look a vintage renewal especially when you think 10/3 second favourite Verrazano was beaten 4L by the selection’s stablemate Olympic Glory on his first turf/European outing for Aidan O’Brien in the Lockinge last month.
That said Verrazano is entitled to come on for that experience and didn’t have the race run to suit at Newbury. He looks a Group 1 horse going forward but he was awash with sweat at the Berkshire track and preference is for Toronado.
Aidan O’Brien has saddled the winner of the Coventry Stakes seven times since 1997 including with War Command one of three O’Brien trained runners twelve months ago.
He relies on just the one this afternoon with War Envoy (3.05) taken to reverse recent Naas form with Kool Kompany having travelled like much the best horse in the race for much of the contest. O’Brien felt he might have left him just a bit short of work and that, allied to the yielding ground, looked the difference.
The Wow Signal beat two subsequent impressive winners by 9 lengths and 11 lengths at Ayr and might be the one to give the selection most to think about. An inexpensive purchase (£50,000) for Al Shaqab Racing Frankie Dettori rides and this is a big day for northern trainer John Quinn whose string are just finding their feet.
The second Group 1 contest is the King’s Stand Stakes and Shea Shea (3.45) can reverse last year’s form with Sole Power for Mike de Kock and Christophe Soumillon.
The selection may have been a shade unfortunate not to win the Al Quoz sprint at Meydan back in March and his style of racing will always require luck in running given he is invariably held up.
Kevin Ryan insists Hot Streak is the best horse he has trained but he might just be at his best with more cut in the ground. The selection is 9/2 at BetVictor and I would be disappointed if he were out of the three.
Kingman (4.25) is taken to reverse Guineas form with Night Of Thunder despite having the worst of the draw in stall 7; the selection, who has subsequently won the Irish Guineas, is 11/10 at BetVictor with his Newmarket conqueror 9/4 and 11/2 last year’s Coventry winner War Command.
The Ascot Stakes is the first big handicap of the meeting and a chance at the foot of the weights is taken on Brockwell (14/1 each way at BetVictor) for Tom Dascombe.
The selection is 3lb lower than when third in the Northumberland Plate last summer, has an excellent draw in stall three and goes on all types of ground. Perfect Heart (7/1) is the obvious danger and can reverse form with Ballinderry Boy on last year’s running over 2m here last autumn.
In the finale Ryan Moore gets the leg up on Merdon Castle (5.35) for the first time and he looks sure to run well at 13/2. The selection is housed next door to favourite Mind Of Madness in stall 13 and the hope is that the centre of the track is the place to be.
Drawn next to the stand rail is American raider Hootenanny and he looked a very fast juvenile when winning at Keeneland on debut. He is trained by Wesley Ward who saddled the winner of the corresponding race back in 2009 with Strike The Tiger and he is sure to have his supporters at 10/1.
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