What are the best bets on day two of the royal meeting?
2:30 5f Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2) (Fillies) (Class 1) (2yo)
Bookmakers are taking no chances with Wesley Ward’s Chelsea Choisters, with no bigger than 9/4 on offer at the time of writing, and that’s understandable given she was an easy winner of her prep for a race her stable has won three times previously. However, Ward’s Happy Like A Fool proved no match for Heartache 12 months ago when odds-on and the winning trainer Clive Cox could repeat the trick as his SHADES OF BLUE looked exceptional when scoring on her debut over course and distance. The form of that race has been well and truly franked by the placed horses since and she ought to improve a good deal for that run too. At 13/2 with Coral, she rates a solid alternative to the favourite.
3:05 1m6f (1m6f34y) Queen’s Vase (Group 2) (Class 1) (3yo)
Aidan O’Brien has won four of the last ten runnings and he must be odds-on to add another as he has three fancied runners, headed by Derby ninth Kew Gardens, the mount of Ryan Moore. I’m not convinced Moore is on the right horse here, though, as stablemate Southern France has won two of his three starts and looked a likely type for this race when scoring over 1m5f at Navan last time.
However, he’s far from the finished article and the same comment applies to the John Gosden-trained pair of Stream Of Stars and Almoghared, albeit they are smashing prospects. I smell a potential upset with a couple of relative outsiders catching the eye, namely JEREMIAH, who is better than his rating according to his in-form trainer Charlie Fellowes, and KING’S PROCTOR, whose trainer Mark Johnston has a fantastic record in this race. Both need to improve but that’s possible now they are stepping up in trip and the former is also sporting headgear for the first time. They are 40/1 and 28/1 with bet365 and Ladbrokes respectively and a small each-way interest on each looks the way to go.
3:40 1m (Str) Duke Of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2) (Fillies & Mares) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Hydrangea is by far the highest-rated runner in the field with a couple of Group 1s on her CV and while she was a beaten even money favourite on her reappearance, that’s forgivable as Aidan O’Brien’s horses always need their first run back. She’s a deserving favourite then but fillies carrying a penalty in this have tended to struggle and she might prove vulnerable to last year’s runner-up ALJAZZI, who can be backed at 5/1 with Ladbrokes. Marco Botti’s charge belied her 40/1 price tag 12 months ago – when flying late on to be beaten just three-quarters of a length by Qemah – and she showed that was no fluke when landing a Group 3 on her next outing in comfortable fashion. Now 11lb higher and having run an excellent third against colts on her return to action in the Sandown Mile, she has a good chance of going one better.
4:20 1m2f (1m1f212y) Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Class 1) (4yo+)
CRACKSMAN was hardly impressive when landing the odds at Epsom last time, with just a head separating him from Salouen at the line, but John Gosden’s leading middle-distance colt has never really handled that idiosyncratic track and he’s going to be a different proposition here. His finest hour so far came over today’s course and distance, when running away with the Qipco Champion Stakes, and it would be a shock to see him finish anywhere other than first in this prestigious Group 1. He’s odds-on of course and it could be between the consistent Poet’s Word and the talented (when things go his way) Cliffs Of Moher for the forecast, with the former just preferred. It’s hard to enthuse about the remaining four runners especially as Hawkbill would prefer much softer ground.
5:00 1m (Str) Royal Hunt Cup (Heritage Handicap) (Class 2) (3yo+)
This is one of the big betting races of the week and with 29 set to go to post we can use past results to help narrow down the field to a more manageable size. Tellingly, all of the last ten winner had had no more than three runs that turf season, suggesting freshness is a key factor, and four-year-olds are most definitely the age group to side with, having won seven of the renewals since 2008. That’s because they tend to more progressive types on their way up the handicap and a light weight is handy too, as six winners have carried no more than 9st 1lb since 2009.
There are seven qualifiers based on the above and the pick of these in my mind are Settle For Bay, Medahim and KEYSER SOZE, with the latter getting the pick. He’s not the most straightforward of horses and needs holding up, but he’s got bags of raw talent, as he showed when winning twice from three starts last season and finishing third in the Spring Cup on his reappearance. Subject of a gamble for last year’s Britannia Stakes at this meeting, he could never land a blow from his high draw (now drawn better in stall seven) and he again let down his backers when last seen out in the Victoria Cup. However, he missed the break by six lengths on that occasion, which was uncharacteristic of him, and I remain convinced there is a big handicap in him off his current mark of 96. His trainer Richard Spencer said recently he’d have a “serious chance” in this race if making the cut and the small stable is going great guns with four winners from just 15 runners in the last fortnight.
So, he’ll be carrying my money at Ladbrokes’ 14/1 and the same firm’s 18/1 and 25/1 on Settle For Bay and Medahim is also worth snapping up, with the former horse in particular catching the eye when fourth over 7f in a 16-runner field on turf last time, having rattled off a four-timer over this trip at Dundalk previously.
5:35 7f Jersey Stakes (Group 3) (Class 1) (3yo)
Emaraaty produced a big effort under a big weight when narrowly denied by Society Power in a red-hot handicap at Goodwood last time and a similar effort here would see him go close, while Could It Be Love is another obvious contender on the back of her Irish 1000 Guineas second. However, they’ve both been well found by the market and preference at a double-digit price is for William Haggas’ HEADWAY. An incredibly impressive all-weather winner on his sole start over this trip, nothing went right for him in the 2000 Guineas last time and, now back at the scene of his Coventry Stakes second, he has to be of strong interest in what doesn’t look a particularly strong renewal.
Royal Ascot 2.30, Shades of Blue @ 13/2 Coral
Royal Ascot 3.05, King’s Proctor each-way @ 28/1 Ladbrokes / Jeremiah each-way @ 40/1 Ladbrokes (1/5 odds, 1.2.3)
Royal Ascot 3.40, Aljazzi @ 5/1 Ladbrokes
Royal Ascot 4.20, Cracksman @ 8/13 Paddy Power
Royal Ascot 5.00, Keyser Soze @ 14/1 Ladbrokes / Settle For Bay @ 18/1 Ladbrokes / Mudahim @ 25/1 Ladbrokes
Royal Ascot 5.35, Headway @ 12/1 bet365
All odds were correct at time of posting.