King to reign again
Channel 4 commentator Simon Holt with his best bets for the opening day of Royal Ascot.
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KINGMAN, a brilliant winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas last month, is fancied to take a 2-1 lead over Night Of Thunder in Tuesday's eagerly awaited St James' Palace Stakes rematch on the first day of Royal Ascot.
John Gosden's colt appeared to recover all his brilliance at The Curragh slamming Shifting Power by five lengths and confirming previous impressions that his chance may have been compromised in the English Guineas at Newmarket when the field split into two groups.
On that occasion, jockey James Doyle was possibly forced to commit Kingman earlier than he would have liked and Night Of Thunder (who raced in the same group) was able to pounce past inside the final furlong despite hanging badly left.
Of course, the Guineas form looks sensational with third placed Australia having gone onto to win the Derby from the Newmarket eighth Kingston Hill while The Grey Gatsby (tenth) has since taken both the Dante and the French Derby.
The fact that Kingman finished only two-and-a-half-lengths ahead of fourth-placed Shifting Power that day, yet slammed the same genuine horse by an easy five lengths in Ireland suggests to me that he is a better horse than he showed at Newmarket, and he had previously thrashed a possibly ring-rusty Night Of Thunder in the Greenham at Newbury.
Toormore and War Command, seventh and ninth respectively in the 2000 Guineas, obviously have ground to make up though could be capable of better. Richard Hughes reported that 2013 Champion Two-Year-Old Toormore felt a bit flat (having earlier beaten The Grey Gatsby in the Craven Stakes) and War Command, a runaway winner of the Coventry Stakes at this meeting last year, is entitled to come on for the run.
Earlier, SHEA SHEA, the top South African-trained sprinter, is taken to avenge a slightly unlucky defeat by Sole Power 12 months ago in the Kings Stand Stakes (Pearl Secret third, Jack Dexter fourth).
On that day, the two horses raced on opposite sides of the course and, having beaten off his chasing group, Shea Shea wouldn't have been able to see his rival - who he has finished in front of on four occasions since.
Sole Power's finishing kick is certainly a potent weapon as he showed again when scoring at Newmarket in early May but, on clashes with Shea Shea in last season's July Cup, Nunthorpe and then in Dubai, he hasn't been able to pass his old foe.
The big threat here could come from the youngsters Hot Streak and Guerre.
If some moisture stays in the ground, then it could really help Hot Streak who put up a dominating display to beat Pearl Secret half a length in the Temple Stakes in soft ground at Haydock last time having bolted up in the Cornwalis Stakes over this course and distance on good-to-soft last October.
Kevin Ryan's powerful colt, not beaten far into third by Sole Power at Newmarket in May, could easily have more improvement in him and this is his acid test.
Guerre probably has more to find but was having only his third start when taking advantage of a 14lb weight-for-age and penalty concession from last year's Abbaye winner Maarek at Naas in April when he looked very speedy. However, Aidan O'Brien's colt got very warm and stirred up in the preliminaries that day and it remains to be seen how he handles the febrile atmosphere of the Royal meeting.
As usual, the Queen Anne Stakes kicks things off and ought to be a penalty kick for TORONADO who was beaten a short head by Dawn Approach on this day last year (in the St James's Palace Stakes) and subsequently gained his revenge in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
Off since running below form in the Juddmonte International last August, he is reported in excellent condition now and, at likely cramped odds, ought to be a cut above Tullius and Verrazano (second and third in the Lockinge) and the internationally campaigned Side Glance who was beaten a long way into third place behind Frankel in this race two years ago and is probably better at ten furlongs.
Likely second favourite Soft Falling Rain will probably chase the favourite home having come back to form when second to the top class Variety Club in the Godolphin Mile on Meydan's Tapeta surface in late March.