Magic show in the Palace
Man On The Spot previews Tuesday's action on the opening day of Royal Ascot 2013.
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Ascot 14:30: Queen Anne Stakes
It will be a brave punter who bets odds-on a horse who has never run over a straight mile and there will be plenty willing to take on ANIMAL KINGDOM but the fact is he's 10lb clear on official ratings and has the ability to race on any surface over a variety of trips. The 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, last year's Breeders' Cup Mile runner-up and this year's Dubai World Cup hero looks different class to these rivals, emphasised by his victory at Meydan where he put Red Cadeaux, rated 7lb lower at the time, firmly in his place and he's the automatic selection. Elusive Kate is next best on official figures but a line through Breeders' Cup Mile fourth Excelebration, who beat her twice last year, gives her plenty to find with the selection. Declaration Of War is very highly regarded at Ballydoyle and there were excuses made after his poor effort in the Lockinge, his first attempt at the highest level. The fact that he's in another Group 1 suggests very much better is expected though the evidence isn't there at present. Aljamaaheer finished in front of him at Newbury and can go well though it's difficult to imagine him beating a horse of Animal Kingdom's quality and Penitent, who was conceding 5lb to Gregorian and third-placed Gabrial in the Diomed, could snatch a place at a big price.
Ascot 15:05: King Stand Stakes
Australia have won this three times in the past ten years and Shamexpress represents them here. However, although he won a Grade 1 handicap at Flemington last time, he was receiving a stone from the winner and may not be quite top drawer. The latter remark certainly does not apply to the South Africa-trained SHEA SHEA, who landed the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan in March in track-record time. He had earlier defeated the very good yardstick Sole Power in emphatic style and will take all the beating. Three-year-olds have a reasonable record in the race so Reckless Abandon will attract attention. Unbeaten as a juvenile including two Group 1's, he had plenty to do under his penalties on his reappearance in the Temple Stakes at Haydock and couldn't quite get to Kingsgate Native and Swiss Spirit with Sole Power fourth. He'll be better for the run and races from his correct mark here so can reverse the form and grab a place at least.
Ascot 15:45: St James's Palace Stakes
It was a huge disappointment to see Dawn Approach perform so badly at Epsom after his brilliant victory in the 2000 Guineas. Whatever the reason, banged head, pulled too hard or didn't stay, it was certainly nowhere near what we have come to expect from him and he wouldn't be turning up here unless Jim Bolger believed he was over his problems. Toronado, unbeaten as a juvenile, was expected to provide him with a stiff test in the Guineas but faded after attempting to take him on and was passed by Glory Awaits and his own stablemate Van Der Neer. Richard Hannon is convinced his colt wasn't at his best so it wouldn't be a shock if he reversed the form having been saved for this. MAGICIAN, who was beaten in a Polytrack maiden at Dundalk in September, has improved out of all recognition and was a brilliant winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas where he travelled supremely well throughout. He will need to improve again to beat the Dawn Approach who scored at Newmarket but looks capable of doing so and is given the vote. His stablemate Mars is by no means running as a pacemaker and, having had little experience though running well in the 2000 Guineas and Derby, he's a horse with a future and shouldn't be entirely dismissed.
Ascot 16:25: Coventry Stakes
Aidan O'Brien and Richard Hannon have dominated the juvenile scene on either side of the Irish Sea this year and that's reflected in the entries here. Championship won the same Newbury maiden that subsequent winners of this race Canford Cliffs and Strong Suit were successful in which must be the reason Richard Hughes has preferred him to Thunder Strike, who has much the better form having completed his hat-trick in the Listed Woodcote Stakes at Epsom where he was very impressive in defeating Riverboat Springs and easy Goodwood winner Wahaab. Hannon should have a good line into the Ballydoyle entries as his Sacha Park was beaten just under two lengths by Stubbs in a Listed contest at Naas. The latter is Joseph O'Brien's choice while two remaining runners from Aidan O'Brien's yard, Sir John Hawkins and WAR COMMAND, look evenly matched though a line through Intensify, who has been runner-up to both, just gives the latter an edge and he's suggested as a cracking each-way bet in a fascinating contest. Mawfoor looked a nice prospect at Haydock and Parbold will improve from a smart debut performance at York.
Ascot 17:00: Ascot Stakes
Not one favourite has won this in the past eleven years. Tiger Cliff would be a hugely popular winner and was very impressive over 1m6f at Newmarket though whether he stays this far is another matter. Junior won this in 2010 though his last victory was in a 3m chase at Newcastle but Well Sharp appears to have a better chance as he looked a smart staying prospect at York last month. Midnight Oil, from last year's winning stable, has been going well over hurdles in Ireland but it's fellow traveller JUSTIFICATION who gets the vote. Very lightly raced, he would have finished much closer in a strong renewal of the Chester Cup but for being impeded and with the longer trip likely to suit he can take this for Ballydoyle. Lieutenant Miller looks to have been laid out for this by Nicky Henderson, who won it in 2011 with Veiled, while Homeric looks a good ride for Frankie Dettori as his mount looked a genuine staying prospect when tackling 2m here last time.
Ascot 17:35: Windsor Castle Stakes
Richard Hannon has four entries and with Richard Hughes on board ANTICIPATED, he's likely to come out best of the quartet, especially after his tremendous victory over Justice Day over the course and distance last month. He's given the nod in an incredibly difficult renewal in which the USA raider Ogermeister, who represents Wesley Ward, successful with Strike A Tiger in 2009, has to be of interest. The progressive Wilshire Boulevard makes a quick reappearance after his victory at Navan on Friday and wouldn't be here unless thought capable of winning while Fine 'n Dandy won a Chester maiden by 8l and with further progress likely can go well at a fair price. My Catch ran a cracking race on his debut at Beverley where Supplicant was just behind and it would be no surprise to see the pair involved in the finish.