The Freddy Head-trained Solow is hard to fault and he can get favourite backers off a flyer by winning the opening Queen Anne Stakes.
Royal Ascot – Queen Anne Stakes Tips (due off 2.30pm)
Bookmakers are unanimous in making the Freddy Head-trained Solow favourite and anyone who saw his victory in the Dubai Turf at Meydan in March will find it hard to argue with that assessment. A four-and-a-half-length defeat of the The Grey Gatsby confirmed him as a genuine Group 1 contender and he’s since followed that up with a first domestic Group 1 in the Prix d’Ispahan, taking his record to nine wins from 14 starts (nine of his last ten). He looks a machine, although he’s yet to encounter genuine fast ground and that seems likely to prevail.
Who else is fancied?
There was a dearth of international runners at last year’s meeting but that can’t be said this year and Able Friend is the best that Honk Kong can offer. Since November he’s been in a class of his own among domestic milers and he made it six in a row when winning the Group 1 Champions Mile at the start of May. Having never raced anywhere other than Sha Tin, the question is whether he can translate that form to Ascot and the unique challenges that brings.
Night Of Thunder looks the best of the home contingent and he won the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes with more authority than the neck margin of victory over stablemate Toormore suggests. The form of that Newbury race could not have worked out better and it was further evidence that his surprise 40/1 victory in last year’s 2000 Guineas was no fluke, having already posted several high-class efforts in his Classic year, including twice finishing runner-up over track and trip.
Any decent outsiders?
The aforementioned Toormore may have been overlooked slightly by bookmakers as he is entitled to improve for his reappearance effort in the Lockinge and he may have even won that race had he been draw better – he began towards the stands’ rail from stall 15 and finished near the far rail, covering more ground than the winner. His big race pilot Richard Hughes was sounding quite bullish about his chances in his Saturday column, whilst conceding his mount needs to settle better. The rest are much harder to fancy.
Choice jockey quote: “Night Of Thunder is another horse who I can no longer ride [having been purchased by Godolphin], but I can honestly say I would not have wanted to choose between him and Toormore in the Queen Anne because I’m confident there won’t be much between them next week.” – Richard Hughes.
Best bookmaker offer
The bookies are falling over each other to attract your cash at the start of Royal Ascot week and the pick of the offers is Sky Bet’s ‘money back if you back a loser, with stakes returned as a free bet (up to £25) if you don’t back the winner with them.
Shocks are rare in this Group 1 and the winner will surely come from the first four in the betting. Of these, Able Friend seems the most suspect as the style of racing in Hong Kong, where they jump out fast and slow to a crawl, allows him to use his potent turn of foot to great effect, whereas a fast-run mile seemed to find him out in the local Derby run over 1m2f (equivalent to Ascot’s still 1m). SOLOW, bet365’s 6/4 favourite (11/8 with Sky Bet), is much harder to find fault in and he’s looked a monster since dropping back to this sort of trip, and when his trainer says he’s one of the best he’s ever trained we should take notice. Tactically versatile, he should be able to handle whatever this race throw at him and it’s doubtful the ground will be rattling fast (the only real worry) for this opener. Toormore could well chase him home as Hughes’ confidence is rarely misplaced.
All odds were correct at time of posting.