Our racing expert Ben Linfoot had a 10/1 Value Bet winner on Saturday and he has five selections for the opening day of Royal Ascot on Tuesday.
Recommended Bets: Royal Ascot, Day One
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Royal Ascot begins with a bang as usual with three Group One contests among the first four races of the meeting and it’s a massive day for Charlie Hills with two of his stable stars heading the betting for the St James’s Palace Stakes and the King’s Stand.
Phoenix Of Spain will be the banker of the day for many in the St James’s Palace after his super Irish 2,000 Guineas victory at the Curragh, with second favourite Too Darn Hot firmly put in his place by the son of Lope De Vega in Ireland.
Whether Phoenix Of Spain will be allowed to dominate here like he did at the Curragh is debatable, with German Guineas winner Fox Champion a potential pace rival, along with Circus Maximus but, all things considered, I’m in no rush to take him on.
The same cannot be said for Battaash in the King’s Stand. Brilliant on his day, he has the talent to blow the race apart, but he can throw in the odd average performance as well and his temperament is questionable on a battleground as hectic as Royal Ascot.
He could hinder his chance before the stalls have opened, not ideal for a 2/1 poke, and even if he takes the preliminaries well he remains vulnerable on Ascot’s stiff sprint track.
Last year Blue Point got to him in the closing stages and he’s the main danger again. On his Meydan form he should probably be favourite, but he’s not been as consistent in England and at 3/1 I’m happy to leave him alone as well.
I think this will be closer than the market will have us believe and the one I want on side is American raider IMPRIMIS at 12/1 (General).
Joe Orseno’s horse has won seven of his nine races and booked his ticket to Royal Ascot with an impressive win over Bound For Nowhere in the Grade Two Shakertown Stakes at Keeneland last time.
Bound For Nowhere is a top sprinter as we know, his close-up third in last year’s Diamond Jubilee an example of his talents, and he goes well fresh having won on his two previous seasonal reappearances.
Sent off the 8/5 favourite, he was getting 2lb from Imprimis and pulled a few lengths clear in the straight before Orseno’s horse got to him with a late charge under Paco Lopez (watch below).
It was all the more commendable considering Imprimis stumbled coming out of the stalls and I like that he managed to get the job done despite adversity.
The Shakertown is over five-and-a-half furlongs, so a testing five like he’ll get in the King’s Stand could well be ideal. He’s hosed up on soft at Pimlico, too, so any serious rain wouldn’t bother him, and Frankie Dettori has been booked for the ride which is obviously another huge plus.
His owners won last year’s Norfolk Stakes with Shang Shang Shang and at 12/1 they’re fairly priced to bag another big victory at the Royal meeting.
The ground is ‘Good’ on the straight course at the time of writing, but there is a possibility of some heavy showers on Tuesday with thunderstorms in the air. It won’t take an awful lot of rain to turn the ground softer, but predicting when and how much they’ll get is difficult.
It’ll be on my mind for a couple of the later races, but for the Queen Anne I’m going to chance the ground will be something like how it is currently described as I like the look of Ken Condon’s ROMANISED at 33/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4).
He probably wouldn’t want worsening conditions, but, even so, he’s been seriously overlooked by the market in a wide-open renewal.
His career highlight came in last year’s Irish 2,000 Guineas when he stayed on well off a strong gallop to win pretty easily and he’s not really had a go under similar circumstances since.
The closest situation he’s had was in the Lockinge last time out, but even there they didn’t go too hard in the early stages and he didn’t get a perfect run through from off the pace.
It’s difficult to fathom why he’s so much bigger in the betting than the horses he finished amongst that day – we’re possibly dealing with smaller trainer syndrome – and I believe he’ll get the race run to suit at last on Tuesday.
Quite a few of his rivals like to be prominent; Laurens, Mythical Magic, Stormy Antarctic and Matterhorn to name a few, and there are enough in there, like Hazapour, that stay further and will want to draw the sting out of the field.
Things could well pan out nicely for Romanised, then, and in Billy Lee he’ll be steered by a jockey that has already bagged a Britannia and a Hunt Cup on the straight course at this meeting.
At 33/1 he looks a big each-way price.
The Coventry Stakes isn’t usually my kind of race, as they are all so unexposed and when you’re picking from various maiden wins for the top stables it’s difficult to find an edge that the market hasn’t already found.
However, at 33/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4) I’m going to have a small bet on COASE for Hugo Palmer.
Any rain will be very much in this horse’s favour as he won in soft ground on debut at Carlisle and the worry with him is that he won’t have the speed of some of those horses towards the head of the betting.
They didn’t hang around, considering the conditions, at Carlisle and they came home slowly, but Coase was very strong at the finish and pulled away for a clear-cut four-length success.
The third horse was Archie Watson’s Gallaside who had previously run well in a Newmarket maiden and the second horse was Vardon Flyer, for Mick Easterby, who franked the form with a fine run in second at York on Saturday.
It’s reasonable to assume he’s a talented early two-year-old to beat that horse by four lengths on his racecourse debut and his sire, Zoffany, is a dab hand at producing early juveniles.
Indeed, Zoffany has won four juvenile races at Royal Ascot from just eight representatives thanks to Illuminate, Waterloo Bridge, Washington DC and Main Edition, so at 33s Coase is worth a small wager to dent some big reputations.
The only handicap of the day is the Ascot Stakes at 5.00 and GUNNERY looks a fair bet at 20/1 (General) for Nicky Henderson, Fitri Hay and Jamie Spencer.
Three years ago the same connections teamed up with No Heretic to win the Chester Cup and that horse had a very similar profile to Gunnery.
They both came from the Flat off long absences having switched stables to Henderson, who gave both run outs over hurdles for their first starts.
No Heretic landed the Chester Cup off a mark of 93, reduced from 100 after three years off the track, and here Gunnery runs off 92, reduced from 98 after three years off the track.
While No Heretic was too keen and finished third over hurdles on his debut for Henderson, Gunnery was also similarly fresh when second at Bangor two weeks ago. Crucially, though, he looked well, and looks to have retained all of his ability.
He even has Royal Ascot form in his locker after finishing sixth in the 2016 Queen’s Vase, under Spencer, a race that worked out well with the subsequent St Leger winner, Harbour Law, finishing second.
Gunnery was only beaten four lengths and was unlucky in the run. It’s been a while, but on Tuesday he could well make amends.
Finally, FIRST NATION looks a good price at 16/1 (General) in the closing Wolferton Stakes.
He didn’t show much at all in England last season after being gelded, but rediscovered his form in Dubai, especially when he was a runaway winner of a 10-furlong handicap off 101 at Meydan.
The strong gallop looked key to his improvement that day and he should enjoy this big field at this trip, while confidence would increase if any rain gets into the ground.
He’s run well at Royal Ascot before having finished second in the 2017 King George V Stakes and crucially he went some way to bringing his Meydan form to Newmarket when he was last seen at the Craven meeting.
Fifth in the red-hot Earl of Sefton Stakes that has worked out tremendously well, it looked very much a fact-finding mission for the season ahead and better can be expected of him in the Wolferton.
Beaten half-a-length by Elarqam, that horse is disputing favouritism here but First Nation can be backed at four times the price.
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 and Ireland. Running total: +341.09pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1700 BST on 17/06/19.