What are the best bets for day one of the 2015 Royal Ascot meeting?
It’s day one of the royal meeting and as usual it gets way with a storming renewal of the Queen Anne Stakes over the straight mile, while just over an hour later Sole Power will bid to make history by winning his third King’s Stand Stakes.
I’ve covered both races in full elsewhere but you can read my final verdicts here, along with my thoughts on the remaining four races.
2.30: Queen Anne Stakes, 1m
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, 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 Freddy Head 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. Night Of Thunder had just a neck to spare over Toormore when winning the Group 1 Lockinge and the latter could well turn the tables with that run under his belt.
3.05: Coventry Stakes, 6f
Round Two is 2-2 in Ireland and has been the subject of some glowing comments from his trainer Jim Bolger, who knows a top-class horse when he sees one and landed this race in 2012 with New Approach. A son of Teofilo, who was also trained by Bolger and won all five of his starts at two before injury ended his career, he’s already as short as 7/1 for next year’s 2000 Guineas. However, as promising as he is, he still needs to step up on what he’s shown on the racetrack to land this and I’ll happily swerve him at just 9/4. There are plenty of talented juveniles to take him on, including impressive Epsom scorer Buratino and the Aidan O’Brien representative Air Force Blue.
But it could be worth chasing bigger odds and Ed Dunlop’s Newbury maiden winner QEYAADAH looks each-way value at 20/1 with bet365. From a stable not known for first-time-out winners, he should come on a bundle for that cosy debut win and it’s worth noting the stable’s 2009 Albany Stakes winner Habaayib stepped up massively on his second start at the royal meeting.
3.40: King’s Stand Stakes, 5f
Sole Power is a worthy favourite but he will need some luck in running (for the third year running?) and besides bookmakers are hardly giving him away. Muthmir has been threatening to win a big one and this could be his day in the sun, with the fast ground he needs likely to prevail. However, any value in his odds has dried up and I’d rather back one each-way against the field, with David Brown’s WIND FIRE taken to surprise. She appears to be betting better / quicker with age and we know she will handle the track. At 33/1 with bet365, a place will ensure a tasty profit and a bumper payday would not be a total surprise.
4.20: St James’s Palace Stakes, 1m
Gleneagles has scared off most of the opposition and Aidan O’Brien’s dual Classic winner will face just six rivals. The best of these, according to the betting, is Andre Fabre’s MAKE BELIEVE, who won the French equivalent of the 2000 Guineas last time from stablemate and subsequent French Derby winner New Bay. He may have enjoyed the run of that race form a good draw, but he had plenty left in the tank at the finish and his trainer, who doesn’t tilt at windmills, has persuaded connections to supplement him. He’ll need to improve again to beat the favourite, but that is almost a given after just four starts and he’s value at Ladbrokes’ 7/2, whereas Gleneagles is a prohibitive 8/13 after beating roughly the same horses in each of his Guineas and by less than a length at the Curragh last time. Sir Michael Stoute’s Consort is respected but he may be better over further.
5.00: The Ascot Stakes, 2m4f
Ante post punters have been quick to latch on to the David Simcock-trained RAY WARD, who is now clear favourite at around the 6/1 mark (13/2 best with Coral). That’s understandable as he had no luck in running when finishing sixth of 19 in last year’s renewal, before going on to run second in the equivalent race at Goodwood, and was spotted staying on well on his Newmarket comeback under what looked a sympathetic ride. He looks certain to be involved at the finish and, while I’m almost loathe to tip up the jolly in a 20-runner handicap as competitive as this one, I’ll happily take a 13/2 winner at the royal meeting.
The Irish field a strong contingent and the best of their five runners could be Willie Mullins’ Digeanta, while Hughie Morrison’s Fun Mac is entitled to respect after hacking up at Salisbury on his reappearance.
5.35: The Windsor Castle Stakes, 5f
There are some proper speedballs in this Listed sprint for juveniles and, in a huge field of 27, the draw could play a big part. Certainly, it was more advantageous to be drawn high (near the stands’ rail) at last year’s meeting over the straight track and that makes the tasks of the fancied pair of Soapy Aitken and Washington DC, who will exit from stalls four and six respectively, all the more difficult. Richard Hannon’s Orvar has fared better in stall 17 and this impressive Salisbury scorer could well take a hand, while Wesley Ward’s Ruby Notion should not be dismissed lightly despite an iffy draw in 10.
However, the Mick Channon-trained OPAL TIARA is even better value at bet365’s 20/1, is better drawn in 24 and may well have more to offer after finding only Queen Mary-bound Easton Angel too good in the Hilary Needler last time.
Nap of the day: Solow
Best each-way bet of the day: Wind Fire