Express delivery in King's Stand
Ben Linfoot seeks out the value on day one of Royal Ascot and he's backing 10/1, 16/1 and 66/1 chances.
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I know some people prefer a gradual build-up to the day's feature, but I love the fireworks that three Group One races provide each year to kick-off Royal Ascot.
The Queen Anne, the King's Stand and the St James's Palace Stakes is an extraordinary way to begin a race meeting and this year, as is becoming the norm, they are boosted by the presence of an array of international stars.
- 1pt e.w Penitent in 2.30 Ascot at 66/1 (Stan James 1/4 1,2,3) - third best horse in the race, excellent effort under a penalty last time
- 1pt win Shamexpress in 3.05 Ascot at 10/1 (General) - the international raiders could come to the fore again and this horse impressed at Flemington
- 1pt win Marchese Marconi in 5.00 Ascot at 16/1 (General) - looks likely to improve greatly for significant step up in trip for top connections
Animal Kingdom is the most high-profile of these in the opener and, I must admit, the odds-against quotes he's getting now as the bookies fight for our business are certainly tempting.
To put it simply, he's the best horse in the field and if he brings his A-game to the table, he will win.
He has the pace to win over a mile for the first time - his second to Wise Dan at the Breeders' Cup would probably be good enough to win this - while the stiff nature of the track, though an unknown, should play to his strengths.
However, even the 5/4 Ladbrokes will be going in the morning and the 11/10 Betfred offer isn't quite big enough to lure me in.
We've seen on many occasions that some horses simply don't act on the Ascot turf and though he's proven his versatility by winning a Kentucky Derby on dirt and a Dubai World Cup on Tapeta, this is a test of the like he's not had before.
With so many unknowns, I can't back him.
The problem is the paucity of the opposition. If you take Animal Kingdom out of the equation it is a very ordinary renewal of the Queen Anne and I was very close to just not having a bet in the race.
However, I can't ignore the 66/1 available about PENITENT.
His second to Gordon Lord Byron in the Group One Prix de la Foret last October is a piece of form most in the field can't match and he bounced back from a few below-par runs last time when second to Gregorian at Epsom.
That effort shouldn't be underestimated. He gave the horses that finished around him 5lb that day and it was an impressive performance that saw him come out of the race as the best horse at the weights.
I can't see why he's three times the price of Gregorian and on official ratings he's actually the third best horse in the Queen Anne.
Of course, his chance would hugely increase were there to be an unexpected deluge of rain, but he's effective on good ground and at least it isn't good to firm like it was when he flopped in the Lockinge.
I can see this admirable campaigner running well and an each-way bet at 66/1 (1/4 the odds) with Stan James appeals.
In the King's Stand there is another international star who will try to justify relatively short-price favouritism as Shea Shea is a warm order at around 9/4.
I was really taken with Mike de Kock's sprinter in Dubai where he broke the track record twice, travelled like a powerhouse sprinter and accelerated like a horse who could win a King's Stand.
He beat Sole Power pretty easily at Meydan and that horse is a good guide to the merits of our sprinters such are his regular appearances in the top UK speed tests.
So, using Sole Power as a guide, I'm pessimistic as far as the chances of our sprinters go in this as we continue to lack a real star and I'm not convinced Reckless Abandon is the answer. Not at 6/1 anyway.
Shea Shea will take all the beating, but it's a fairly long time since he was last seen in the Al Quoz Sprint and given he needs to be ponied down to the start there has to be a chance he'll be too fired up for this.
At the prices he's passed over, with the Australian-trained SHAMEXPRESS worth chancing at 10/1.
I realise he hasn't run for a while either, but the difference is he's five times the price and he won't have a companion with him on the way to the starting stalls.
All the points about our sprinters not being quite as fast as their international cousins were in my thoughts when deciding whether to back him, while I was really taken with his win in the Group One Lexus Newmarket Handicap at Flemington on his latest start.
Ortensia, though below par, was well beaten in that race which gives us some sort of guide to the merits of his success but it was the style of his victory that was most impressive.
Held up by Craig Newitt in Melbourne, he showed an electric turn of foot when asked to go and win his race and you'd have to think the drop to a stiff five will be to his advantage.
Trainer Danny O'Brien thinks he could be a better horse than his Star Witness who was second in this race two years and if that's the case, he's no 10/1 shot.
One of the three big guns should win the St James's Palace so that looks a race to watch and savour, with the Ascot Stakes at 17.00 BST more appealing as a betting heat.
The one I like at the prices is Aidan O'Brien's supposed second-string, MARCHESE MARCONI, who is too tempting to pass over at 16/1.
For an Aidan O'Brien-trained, Ryan Moore-ridden horse it's slightly surprising he's available at 16s but you only have to check out the result of his latest run to see why.
Beaten into second at odds of 10/11 in a five-runner handicap at Listowel, the winner has since come up short in Listed company and the form admittedly doesn't look great in the context of this race.
He's also only run on either soft ground or Dundalk's all-weather surface, but that's not to say he won't act on good and I think we can expect significant improvement from him now he tackles a trip in excess of two miles for the first time.
His dam's a half-sister to the Gold Cup winner Gildoran and he just looks like a resolute galloper who will thrive at an extreme distance.
Last time at Listowel he was vulnerable to a faster horse and you wouldn't fancy him to display an obvious change of gear, but he could go very well from a prominent position and if he gets into a rhythm up front I don't think too many will be running by him.
Hopefully Ryan Moore can get a good early position from stall nine and race handily from the outset.
After just five runs, this lightly-raced performer could be well handicapped enough to have a big say and unusually, probably due to the presence of stablemate Justification, he's an O'Brien raider that might just have slipped under the radar.
Ben Linfoot's Value Bet Aim: The Value Bet is designed to generate long-term profit by searching for overpriced horses in the feature weekend races and at the big Festivals in the UK. Running total: +246.06pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current). The column is +113.75pts to recommended stakes in 2013.