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Royal Ascot is the week of the flat racing season where the elite horses, jockeys and trainers compete for the major crowns in the sport.
A win at Royal Ascot is unlike any other in flat horse racing, earning a level of prestige and lucrative prize money not found on the rest of the circuit.
Legends are made over the course of the week and owners will be desperate for their horses to catch the eye of the spectators, none more so than the Royal Family.
It promises to be an enthralling week of action and we’ll now give our top tips for the week and a couple of the leading races.
John Gosden holds two of the elite horses in the entire week. Stadivarius is aiming to enter prestigious company by winning the Ascot Gold Cup for the second year in a row. He was extremely impressive last season to take the crown, delivering on expectations after being named the favourite for the event. The Irish-bred horse found his rhythm down the stretch and was able to surge ahead of his rivals to take the crown by three-quarters of a length.
He then added the Goodwood Cup to his collection of titles, producing another outstanding display at Glorious Goodwood. Gosden’s charge was on form with Andrea Atzeni in the saddle rather than Frankie Dettori. He had the pace to beat out a solid challenge from Torcedor by half-a-length. Dettori returned for the Lonsdale Cup at York where the chestnut horse cantered to the crown comfortably ahead of the rest of the field.
In his last appearance at Ascot, Stradivarius was again dominant to defeat a talented group of competitors. Dettori kept him in the middle of the pack for the majority of the race before upping the ante two furlongs out with a move to the inside. Once in the lead, Stradivarius powered down the straight to close out the triumph by one-and-a-quarter lengths.
The five-year-old has only competed once this term, but was again on form as the odds-on favourite. He defeated Southern France at York in the Yorkshire Cup Stakes, timing his surge to perfection down the final furlong to notch the victory. Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter along with Kew Gardens will provide a challenge, but Stradivarius has the outstanding calibre to become the first horse since Yeats 10 years ago to win back-to-back Ascot Gold Cups.
Gosden has another charge that could catch the eye at Royal Ascot. He won the event last year with a brilliant two-year-old Calyx and he could have another talented competitors on his hands with Light Angel. Aidan O’Brien has the favourite in the race with his charge Arizona, while Threat and Guildsman are also in the running for the victory.
However, Light Angel has been impressive in his two outings and could be flying under-the-radar. He made his bow at Doncaster at the beginning of May, but was slightly off the pace after being named the leading contender. Light Angel was beaten out by a neck on the line on his debut by Apollinaire.
However, a change of jockey brought success in his second appearance – this time at Newbury in the Maiden Stakes. The grey colt was not the favourite on this occasion, but he produced an excellent performance to claim his maiden triumph. Light Angel closed down the leading pack before surging into the lead down the final furlong to take the win by one-a-and-a-half lengths ahead of Heaven Forfend. It will take a fine outing from Gosden’s charge to pull off the victory, although with Dettori in the saddle he has a good opportunity to provide an upset.
Phoenix of Spain produced an outstanding performance to defeat Too Darn Hot at the Irish 2,000 Guineas at Curragh at the end of May. Charles Hills’ charge is now the leading contender to produce another triumph at Royal Ascot. He finished three lengths ahead of Gosden’s horse, although the display appeared to come from nowhere, and he has not race at Ascot before.
It is a competitive field and value can be found to back Too Darn Hot to avenge his defeat. Too Darn Hot has finished second twice in a row at the beginning of the term after missing the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket. Back him at 9/4 3.25 +225 2.25 2.25 -0.44 with Bet365 to win the event and bounce back from his disappointing start to the season.
All the attention has been on Le Brivido for the Queen Anne Stakes, although value can be found further down the field. Dermot Weld is only sending one horse to compete at Royal Ascot in the form of Hazapour. Dettori will be at the reins, making him an intriguing prospect for the opening race of the meeting.
Hazapour won his last outing – the Amethyst Stakes – at Leopardstown by a convincing margin therefore he comes into the race with momentum. The rest of the field are far from dominant on the track this term, raising the potential of an outsider to triumph. Back Weld’s charge for the win at odds of 12/1 13.00 +1200 12.00 12.00 -0.08 with 888Sport.
Magical has been in brilliant form this term for O’Brien and does have a win at Ascot under her belt, triumphing in the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes last season. The four-year-old has won all three of her races this season, including the Tattersalls Gold Cup last time out by a dominant margin.
Whether Magical can raise the level of her performance for Royal Ascot remains to be seen, although she will be the class of the field. Ryan Moore will likely be in the saddle for the event amid tough competition. Sea of Class and Crystal Ocean will push her all the way, but take Magical to earn the win at odds of 2/1 3.00 +200 2.00 2.00 -0.50 with 888Sport.