The six-day entries are through for the opening day of Royal Ascot and we guide you through the six mouthwatering races.
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No superstar miler this year and a wide-open Queen Anne is the result. MUSTASHRY laid down an early claim to the throne with a decisive victory in the Lockinge at Newbury on his reappearance. True he had the run of the race there but he had two-and-a-half lengths in hand of his nearest pursuer LAURENS.
The runner-up clearly warrants plenty of respect as she locks horns with the males for the third time in an illustrious career and she doesn’t need to make much of a leap forward from that first run back to rate a serious threat.
ACCIDENTAL AGENT won this last year and surpassed expectations when keeping on well for third at Newbury. Ascot is his thing but it will take a bigger performance than the one which landed this in 2018 to follow up.
The market favours fifth home LE BRIVIDO of all the Lockinge protagonists and there’s no doubt he shaped as though the run wouldn’t be lost on him. Dropped out, he went strongly through the race and having had to wait for a gap, kept on well to be closing at the line.
BARNEY ROY has resumed action on the racetrack this season after a brief stint as a stallion. The fire still burns judged on a win at ParisLongchamp last time but both that performance – and his return at Ascot – rate six or seven pounds below his peak efforts in the 2017 St James’s Palace and Juddmonte International. He’s a big threat to them all if getting back up that level.
A fascinating contender is HAZAPOUR who was a leading fancy for last year’s Investec Derby having landed the Derrrinstown Stud Trial in the spring. He didn’t stay at Epsom and has been reinvented as a miler this term, winning the Amethyst Stakes at Leopardstown last time. He needs more here but is completely unexposed at the trip.
A huge entry for the first two-year-old race of the meeting and ARIZONA looks the star turn among Aidan O’Brien’s nine. He stormed nine lengths clear of his field in a Curragh maiden on his second start and looked ready to make his mark at this level.
It’s no penalty kick though. Ger Lyons’ SISKIN has two from two and was particularly impressive when beating King Neptune by two-and-a-half lengths in a Listed race at the Curragh.
PINATUBO seemed ill-at-ease on the track at Epsom but still got the job done in the Woodcote for the Godolphin team while SUNDAY SOVEREIGN is an exciting son of Equinao who caught the eye of the King Power team before his seven lengths stroll in a decent Tipperary heat last time.
However the biggest dangers could lurk in the form of two colts who won Newmarket maidens on their only starts.
THREAT opened his account at the Guineas Meeting and was immediately pointed here. He showed good speed when beating a pair of Godolphin colts in Electrical Storm and Path Of Thunder and will stay the sixth furlong.
VISINARI recorded a very fast time – and some seriously impressive sectionals – when winning on the July Course last week. It was a performance which had many a respected pundit purring and it’s interesting connections have given him an entry here when their initial thoughts had been to wait for the July Stakes.
Will BATTAASH be able to fend off the late thrust of BLUE POINT this time around?
He found it impossible to repel his late challenge 12 months ago but had showed blistering speed to destroy the American challenge of Lady Aurelia and there’s no such early threat here. He produced a more controlled performance to win the Temple Stakes on his reappearance at Haydock, with Mabs Cross in third.
He was more impressive than in that corresponding race 12 months ago – albeit without a Group One penalty this time around – and sets a very high standard.
Blue Point failed to add to his Ascot success in two subsequent starts last term in the July Cup (seventh) and Nunthorpe (third) but rattled off a quick hat-trick at Meydan through the winter and early spring.
An on-song Battaash will be very hard to beat – but if Blue Point is to have his measure anywhere it will be on this track.
MABS CROSS landed the Abbaye last term and returned with a fluent win, under a penalty, in the Palace House. She found Battaash three-and-a-quarter lengths too strong in the Temple Stakes but is five pounds better off here and is another for whom the stiff five is a plus.
SERGEI PROKOFIEV failed to meet market expectations when sent off a warm order for the Palace House, beaten two-and-a-half lengths into fourth. The visual impression he made when winning the Cornwallis last year was very strong through and there could be more to come from the three-year-old.
IMPRIMIS is a fascinating American contender having won seven of his nine career starts including the Shakertown Stakes, a Grade Two contest at Keeneland. He can clearly shift.
PHOENIX OF SPAIN was three lengths too good for TOO DARN HOT in the Irish 2000 Guineas and is favourite to confirm that superiority over last year’s champion juvenile.
The Curragh performance represented a significant turnaround from their 2018 meeting in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster but there was no element of fluke about the display, Charlie Hills’ charge travelling powerfully and quickly putting the race to bed when asked to quicken approaching the final furlong.
He always had the scope to make up in a better three-year-old.
Too Darn Hot’s run in Ireland came hot on the heels of his seasonal reappearance in the Dante at York when connections felt he didn’t stay in finishing second to Telecaster. It was a creditable performance but both displays this term have been below his juvenile peak and he’ll need to scale those heights again to take his revenge.
SKARDU was fourth in the Irish 2000 and seemingly short of excuses for all he’s posted good efforts in both spring Classics.
KING OF COMEDY is fascinating for the John Gosden team having showed a smart turn of foot to win the Heron Stakes at Sandown last time. He looked one to keep on your side there and while this is a much sterner test, he’s earned the right to sit it.
CIRCUS MAXIMUS steps in for Magna Grecia but didn’t look like a Group One miler when winning the Dee Stakes at Chester and fared best of those to race close up to the pace when sixth in the Investec Derby.
SHAMAN represents the French 2000 Guineas form, finishing a length runner-up to Persian King in the ParisLongchamp Classic. FOX CHAMPION probably achieved a little less when winning the German 2000 but he is three-from-three this season and there could be more to come.
Now we get to a real head-scratcher. BUILDMEUPBUTTERCUP was a dual winner on the Flat for Mick Channon before joining Willie Mullins. A winner at Naas in December, she came up short in graded company thereafter but is interesting switching back to the summer game.
MENGLI KHAN was third in the JLT at Cheltenham and would be very hard to beat if they had eight fences in front of them here. He could go close still though as won a Kempton handicap off 90 in the dim and distant past for Hugo Palmer.
Alan King’s COUER DE LION was impressive at Chester last time, slamming Suegioo by five lengths, and will relish every yard of this trip. He was beaten by COEUR BLIMEY at Newbury the time before, a great forecast for Couer fans, and a race that could be significant here.
NESSUM DORMA had a winter off the jumping scene but won a valuable Galway handicap for the Mullins team in August and hit the frame in the Irish Cesarewitch.
CARNWENNAN has won his last two for Charlie Fellows and is on a roll. This stiff test looks likely to suit while to show the mixed make-up of this field, SNOW FALCON was last seen when finishing sixth to Kemboy in the Punchestown Gold Cup. He’s lightly-raced on the Flat but a second place in the 2017 Irish Cesarewitch shows he can be effective in contests such as this.
This is deep. ZAAKI was another who won despite the track at Epsom, beating Oh This Is Us in the Diomed. He’s as good as ever this season having finished third behind HUNTING HORN in the Hampton Court last term.
He could reoppose and while he’s without a win since, has run plenty of good races including when a length fourth to Channel Maker in the Man O’War Stakes at Belmont last time.
WISSAHICKON is on a retrieval mission after a 1/3 reverse in the Easter Classic on All-Weather Finals Day at Lingfield. He’d been progressive before then and is set to revert to the turf for the first time since winning the Cambridgeshire off 107 in the autumn.
ELARQAM got back on track at Goodwood last time and could get on a roll with his confidence restored while stablemate MATTERHORN, the conqueror of Wissahickon at Lingfield, has run well in the Huxley and Brigadier Gerard since.
MOUNTAIN ANGEL has won both starts at Epsom this season and looks ready to test himself out of handicaps while at the other end of the spectrum MAGIC WAND might make her first start outside Group One company since winning the Ribblesdale here last season. She’s run against top flight rivals on the last eight occasions and was placed in the Prix Vermeille, Prix de l’Opera and Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitation.
The recent rain is ADDEYBB’S favour but he needs to come forward from a dull return in the Huxley while the early money in the ante-post market was for RIVEN LIGHT who looked an unlucky loser on his recent return in a Listed contest at the Curragh.