Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot kicks off with the Norfolk Stakes over 5f for juveniles and Aidan O’Brien has not saddled the winner of the race since Johannesburg back in 2001 but I think he will put that right courtesy of the unbeaten The Great War (2.30).
The selection has won both starts over the minimum trip on fast ground and whilst he might not have beaten much of note to date he looks all speed.
On official ratings Cannock Chase (3.05) has a bit to find with a number of today’s rivals but he looked worth following when scoring in a hot Newbury handicap last time and take the transition from handicap to Group 3 in his stride.
Mutakayyef has the plum draw in stall one but I think Barley Mow will confirm recent Newmarket running as he rates the biggest danger to the selection with Richard Hughes in the saddle.
The fancied runners are all drawn poorly in the Ribblesdale Stakes with unlucky Oaks fourth Inchila (3.45) getting the nod although her draw in stall 11 of 12 tempers confidence.
She was held up in the Oaks before meeting interference when coming to challenge and, to my eyes, would have finished runner up with a clear passage. Jockey Jamie Spencer faces a difficult decision as he is likely to drop the selection in from her wide draw and might need luck in running in the short straight.
Vazira is a fascinating raider from France and this daughter of Sea The Stars is likely to love the forecast fast ground given her breeding and she should also appreciate the step up in trip to 12f for the first time.
She reared coming out of the stalls when losing her unbeaten record at Longchamp last month but in a true run race I think Inchila can keep the prize in Newmarket for Peter Chapple-Hyam.
The Gold Cup is the feature race of the day and St Leger winner Leading Light is the 5/4 favourite at BetVictor and the obvious first port of call.
He showed he stayed 2miles at the corresponding meeting last year when a ready winner of the Queen’s Vase and oozed class when scoring at Navan on his reappearance.
His draw in stall 14 is a concern, however, and I think German raider Altano (4.25) might be the each way alternative.
Poorly ridden in both last year’s Gold Cup and the Goodwood Cup he has the plum draw in stall one to get a decent position on the rail and it was noticeable that he raced more prominently when winning the Prix Du Cadran at Longchamp back in October over today’s 2m 4f trip.
BetVictor Brand Ambassador Michael Owen bred and part-owns Brown Panther and is optimistic of a big run; he is not concerned about the forecast ground, has a cracking draw in stall four and must run well but it is Altano for me.
We are betting five places in the Britannia and I take a chance on Born In Bombay (5.00) near the foot of the weights for Andrew Balding and David Probert; the selection is one of the least experienced in the field with only three starts under his belt and he will appreciate a fast pace to track having refused to settle at Newmarket last time. He is likely to go off about 20/1and that looks a fair price.
In the last Art Of War is certainly not bred for the trip but races as though he will appreciate the 12 furlongs but Personal Opinion (5.35) gets the vote for Godolphin and William Buick.
The selection has a 9lb pull for the half-length he was beaten at Newbury last time and has an excellent draw in stall six. Luck is sure to play its part as it invariably does on the round course with a big field and Elite Army and Wrangler are others to consider in an ultra-competitive handicap.
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