Fran Berry looks ahead to days two and three at Royal Ascot, with a certain form line from the Curragh expected to work out very well.
For Queen and country
It's not an easy start for punters on Wednesday at Royal Ascot with 28 juvenile fillies declared for the Queen Mary Stakes.
It's a huge field and a fascinating clash between the English and the Irish form, plus the French-trained Brand New Day and American filly Anna's Fast.
It's hard to have a really strong view but I'll happily take Ickworth to win for Willie McCreery and Billy Lee, who does ride the Ascot straight course very well.
She's bred for the job being a daughter of Shamardal and has impressed with wins at Dundalk at the Curragh. Paddy is as shrewd as they come has done really well since recently focusing on the training game.
Aidan O'Brien runs Western Australia, Norway, Barbados and Harpo Marx in the Queen's Vase and all four merit respect. The betting may help sort them out and Jalmoud is worth a mention too after his win out in France, but I'm willing to chance Pythion at a big price.
He was second to Western Australia last time and won't mind the forecast rain.
He also has a good draw in stall one as the opening bend comes up very quickly over a mile and six in the Queen's Vase.
The Prince Of Wales's Stakes is a race to savour and I mentioned in last week's column that Sea Of Class might not be ideally suited by the track at Ascot. Her major improvement last year came over a mile and a half and James Doyle is bound to hold her up for a late run here, something which is going to be hard to execute against a race-fit Magical.
Ocean to make waves
O'Brien's filly looks the right favourite to me but Crystal Ocean is also very solid at Ascot and his 10-furlong form is as strong as his form over further. He'd possibly be the value call but I'd also give a small chance to Desert Encounter if it came up soft.
Buzzing over Fly
I really like I Can Fly in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes. She carries a weight penalty here but it still looks a nice piece of placement from the Ballydoyle team as her best form when second to Roaring Lion in the QEII last autumn is superb.
She ran well enough in the Lockinge this year and then got caught out tactically at the Curragh last time. She's different class to these rivals and is the day-two banker for me.
Take three in Hunt Cup
I've ridden plenty of this year's Royal Hunt Cup field in the past including Kynren, What's The Story and Chief Ironside.
The latter is interesting dropping into handicap company based on his good Group form at Goodwood and York last year and I'll side with him and Seniority of those drawn high and last year's Settle For Bay from those on the other side.
Settle For Bay has been trained for this race again all year and shaped quite well in fourth last time out. He looks on the way back just at the right time.
I've no strong views in the Windsor Castle Stakes but it'll be some spectacle with a couple of Wes Ward runners in there burning up the turf. They're both in blinkers and could be extremely hard to catch, although keep an eye on the weather as they'll surely be a little inconvenienced if it comes up on the softer side by the end of Wednesday.
Sunday a Thursday fancy
I'm looking forward to seeing Sunday Sovereign in the opening Norfolk Stakes on Thursday. He's looked a very exciting prospect and has obviously been bought by King Power Racing but it's good to see Billy Lee keep the ride.
At a much bigger price, Dubai Station could run well as he's proven on softer conditions and Karl Burke's two-year-olds look to be just clicking into gear after a relatively quiet start to the season. Jamie Spencer takes the ride and he's brilliant at Ascot.
Bucking the market
I've a strong view on the Hampton Court Stakes, especially at the princes, with Buckhurst fancied to run a huge race for Joseph O'Brien.
He struggled in the Derrinstown after making a winning debut but he was back on track with a half-length second to Constantinople at the Curragh last time, form I rate quite highly, and he's a great price compared to some of those much shorter than him in the market.
Fleeting has been supplemented for the Ribblesdale after her third in the Oaks and she probably sets the standard but she seems to like closing late in her races and that might not be ideal here.
Fun time Frankellina
Queen Power looks a bit short for what she's done on the track and I'd give a good chance to Frankellina, who came from last to be sixth in the Oaks. William Haggas has his horses in top form and while it's been a while since he had a Royal Ascot winner, Frankellina could be the one to give him a day to remember.
The Gold Cup is a brilliant clash and you can't really fault Stradivarius, who is never going to win by far and looked in good order on his comeback. He's the most likely winner if you like a shortie but at the prices I prefer Called To The Bar who represents the French form.
He was second in the Group One Prix Royal-Oak last season and has improved again this time around with an impressive Group Two win at Longchamp last month. He's consistent and looks capable of surprising some of those at the top of the market.
Raise a glass to Aweedram
The Britannia Stakes is a brute of a betting race but Dark Vision is an interesting runner here under Spencer, who wouldn't ride a huge amount for Mark Johnston.
They've always liked the horse and he's worth a second look but I'll also weigh in with Aweedram for Alan King. The horse has been brought along nicely with this race in mind and his course experience will stand him in good stead.
Thursday's card closes with the King George V Stakes for three-year-olds and hopefully by this point Buckhurst will have franked the Constantinople form. He's on a massive upward curve and could have been aimed at a better race than this.
I'm really keen on the top weight with Ryan Moore booked and the wide draw isn't a negative over a mile and a half at Ascot - in fact it's a positive looking back at the trends.