Top Hats and Tails – It’s Day One at Royal Ascot

It's day one of Royal Ascot, the best flat festival of the year.

It's day one of Royal Ascot, the best flat festival of the year.

Top hats and tails, Pimms and Prosecco. The Royal Ascot meeting at the Berkshire track is the highlight of the racing calendar for many flat racing purists and casuals alike. Five days of top class racing, with thrills and spills, close finishes and outstanding performances. What is not to like? On day one we analyse each race, identifying those horses who have been underestimated by the bookmakers.

Don’t forget that Bet365 are running promotions throughout the meeting at Ascot, including Best Price Promise on all live ITV races, the +400  offer on live races where you can win a free bet up to £50 by backing a winner at +400  or more, and enhanced place terms and extra places on all races at the festival.

2.30 – Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1) 1 mile

Favourite backers will be licking their lips, as the opening contest features a strong market leader in the form of the classy Ribchester. The leading light for the powerful Godolphin stable, the son of Iffraaj absolutely bolted up last time out, winning the Lockinge at Newbury by just over 3 lengths (with second favourite Lightning Spear a remote runner up). There is no doubting that Ribchester should be the market leader for this contest, but there is cause to think that Lightning Spear can get closer and make a race of it this time. Last time out, Ribchester made the running and was allowed to dictate steady fractions. Everything was in his favour, and the soft ground made it difficult for runners to make up ground from off the pace. The Godolphin horse had the benefit of a run under his belt, while Lightning Spear was making his seasonal reappearance. With faster ground and a racecourse appearance to his name, Lightning Spear should go close, and he is the each-way value at odds of +600  with Bet365.

3.05 – Coventry Stakes (Group 2) 6 Furlongs

The Coventry Stakes is the early-season showcase for the high class 2 year olds from around the world. This season’s contest looks like a wide open renewal, with a whole host of last time out winners making the line-up. It is difficult to be too dogmatic about any runner in this event due to the fact most of the horses are completely unexposed and the tentative pick is the Mrs John Harrington trained Brother Bear. This horse brings the best raw form into the line-up, as he scored in a Listed race on his last run, but perhaps the most appealing thing is that the horse has won on both fast and slow ground, so however conditions come up, he will cope. A prominent racer with plenty of speed, he should be in the mix at the business end of the race, and is worth a poke at odds of +500 .

3.40 – King’s Stand Stakes (Group 1) 5 Furlongs

Lady Aurelia put on one of the most impressive and devastating performances last season when blitzing her field as a 2-year-old at Ascot, and she returns to the scene of the crime this time around, and has interestingly been usurped as the market leader in the early markets. This filly has tremendous speed and rates the value bet at +333  with Bet365. Last year when racing in the Queen Mary, she jumped out, made all and won by 7 lengths easily.

Following that run, the American filly scored at Deauville over 6 furlongs before struggling at Newmarket. She may not have handled the undulations that day and 6 at Newmarket is testing for young horses. The daughter of Scat Daddy was then given the winter off and came back showing she retains all her ability when winning a race at Keeneland with plenty in hand. The 5 furlongs at Ascot looks this fillies’ optimum trip and she is likely to be trading a lot shorter at the half-way mark than her starting price, so could offer some trading room for those who like to use the betting exchanges.

4.20 – St James’s Palace Stakes (Group 1) 1 Mile

The St James’s Palace Stakes looks like a match on paper between the 2000 Guineas first and second and it should be an intriguing contest. The winner of the Newmarket classic, Churchill, is currently available at odds on, but the value appears to lie with the second favourite Barney Roy. The latter named hails from the Richard Hannon yard and he endured all sorts of problems in the Guineas, becoming unbalanced down the hill before finding trouble in running. The son of Excelebration eventually got rolling and was only beaten 1 length by Churchill, who experienced a far more straight forward run in the race.

Ascot should give both horses a chance to display their best form and although there is a nagging suspicion that Churchill only just does enough and has more in his locker, the odds should be more like -110  v +175  instead of the -149  v +225  that is available, and in a tight match, we have to take Barney Roy as the value at +225 .

5.00 – Ascot Stakes (Handicap 0-100) 2 Miles 4 Furlongs

Most of the races on the opening day at Ascot focus on pace, speed and a turn of foot. The Ascot Stakes is the exception, and this contest is run over one of the longest distances on the flat racing calendar – 2miles 4 furlongs. There are plenty of in form horses in this contest and it is difficult to write off the majority of the horses in the line-up, but we like the look of the Alan King trained Who Dares Wins, now he is stepped up in trip.

A useful dual-purpose performer, Who Dares Wins ran at Chester last time out over 2miles 2 ½ furlongs. The horse got a little outpaced on the tight track, but stayed on to good effect and was closing rapidly at the finish. The longer distance will definitely suit. Alan King does well with his handicappers off this sort of break and he can be backed at +550  with Bet365.

5.35 – Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed Race) 5 Furlongs

Day one concludes with a 24 runner 5 furlong sprint for 2 year olds. This race is for those horses who are maybe just below the top class (those runners typically compete in the Norfolk Stakes), and this contest has been known to throw up big priced winners. Wesley Ward is an American trainer who does very well at Ascot and he is doubly handed in the race with Nootka Sound and Elizabeth Darcy. The latter named has the better form in the book and has proved herself on turf, but the booking of Frankie Dettori for Nootka Sound sways us to be with the daughter of Lonhro. Dettori’s exploits at Ascot are legendary and he knows the track like the back of his hand. Nootka Sound showed incredible speed when leading and bolting up at Keeneland on debut, and that early pace is likely to put many of her rivals in trouble from the get go. Whether she can last home is the question, but Ward surely has the two fastest early pace runners in the race. At odds of +500 , Nootka Sound can hopefully hang on in the latter stages.

Tips Summary

14:30 Ascot – Lightning Spear each way
Tuesday 20th June
Odds:  +600

15:05 Ascot – Brother Bear to win
Tuesday 20th June
Odds:  +500

15:40 Ascot – Lady Aurelia to win
Tuesday 20th June
Odds:  +333

16:20 Ascot – Barney Roy to win
Tuesday 20th June
Odds:  +225

17:00 Ascot – Who Dares Wins to win
Tuesday 20th June
Odds:  +550

17:35 Ascot – Nookta Sound to win
Tuesday 20th June
Odds:  +500