Ben Linfoot seeks out the value on day one of Royal Ascot 2020 and he has five bets including one in the King's Stand Stakes where he's taking on the mighty Battaash.
Recommended Bets, Royal Ascot 2020, Day One
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Day one of Royal Ascot is fantastic every year but it’s not always the best day for a bet, as the Ascot Stakes is usually the only handicap on the card and that is always a tremendously difficult contest to try and unravel.
The 2020 behind-closed-doors rejig sees the return of the much-missed Buckingham Palace Stakes, though, a handicap over seven furlongs that was deemed surplus to requirements when the Commonwealth Cup was introduced in 2015.
Hopefully it’ll be back for good, as the competitiveness of the curtain-raiser to this year’s meeting shows us just what we’ve been missing and, guess what, John Gosden and Frankie Dettori could begin the week with a bang.
They team up with hot favourite Daarik, a horse that looked seriously on the up when he accounted for Vitralite at Newcastle 10 days ago. Up 7lb for that, he could still be well treated off 104, but he’s got no form whatsoever on turf yet and for that reason alone it’s worth looking elsewhere.
With 24 runners there is the possibility they’ll split up into more than one group and both sides of the draw have front runners to take them along. On the far side Gifted Master and Alexander James are likely to lead while on the stands’ side First Contact and Jack’s Point are the on-paper pacesetters.
There doesn’t look to be a pace advantage one way or the other, but predicting potential track bias at Ascot is more complex than that. The GoingStick readings can give us further indication of the place to be and they are telling us it’s fair, with readings of 7.5 for the centre and stands’ side and 7.6 for the far side on Monday.
It remains to be seen how it all plays out on the straight track and it will likely change throughout the week anyway, but for the very first big-field contest I want to split stakes on one from each side and both my fancies are drawn wide apart.
Firstly, I like the look of Jamie Osborne’s CLIFFS OF CAPRI at 14/1 (General).
Drawn in 27, he’ll be tracking the stands’ side pace and I was really taken by his effort behind Jack’s Point at Newmarket on June 4 as he came from the rear to take second in a race that suited those that raced prominently.
It was just the second run of his life in blinkers and the change of headgear has had a positive effect, as he won a Meydan handicap in the same accoutrement in good style on his previous start back in February.
He looks fairly handicapped on those runs and he has a really good record over the course and distance, with two wins, a third and a fifth from four goes, while Osborne is adept at targeting horses for this type of race as he’s shown with Docofthebay, Treadwell, Field Of Dream and Raising Sand.
Osborne hasn’t had a winner since resumption, but a few of his horses have run well, including Cliffs Of Capri, so that’s not a concern and I like his chance at 16s.
On the other side of the track FIRMAMENT is drawn in stall eight and he looks a big price at 22/1 (General).
David O’Meara’s horse has been a standing dish in this type of race for a long time, but for years he paid for some early success and had to run off huge marks.
He’s been placed in the top five over seven furlongs at Ascot off 102, 106 and 109 (twice), but he’s been cut some slack by the handicapper in recent years and gets to race off 96 on Tuesday.
Campaigned over one mile on his last six runs, he won over seven furlongs at York off 93 last year and has often performed well over this distance several times when dropping back from a mile.
That York win came under James Doyle and he’s back in the saddle for the first time since, while he has a good record for O’Meara from sporadic bookings, as he won the Ayr Gold Cup on Louis The Pious, coincidentally the last winner of this race, and the Duke of Cambridge Stakes on Amazing Maria.
As for Firmament, he’s eight now but he looks in great nick. In fact, his seasonal reappearance fourth at Newcastle over a mile was highly encouraging, as he traded at 1.52 in-running on Betfair that day and was only run out of the first three late on.
The third home, Fifth Position, franked the form with a win at Doncaster on Sunday and dropping back in trip to seven furlongs looks a huge plus for the selection on that evidence.
It looks like the meeting will start on good ground which is fine for both Cliffs Of Capri and Firmament, but thundery showers are forecast on Tuesday so just bear that in mind – although I’m working on the presumption the ground gets no worse than good to soft on day one.
With that in mind there are several horses in the Queen Anne Stakes that would’ve preferred more rain, with Kingman colts Fox Chairman and Roseman among that number.
Both are unexposed and have hardly raced over a mile, while you could say the same about Terebellum.
That trio have potential, as does Duke Of Hazzard who has been transformed by blinkers, but the promise they have shown looks well factored into their odds, even if Circus Maximus is holding firm as favourite.
His Group One wins demand respect, but he hardly sets a formidable standard and I can’t help but think the value in the race is Sir Michael Stoute’s MUSTASHRY at 16/1 (General).
He’s the highest-rated horse in the field on 121 on the back of both his Lockinge success and Challenge Stakes win under a penalty, both of which were last season.
Following his win at Newbury he was sent off at 11/2 for last year’s Queen Anne, but he could only finish a three-and-a-half length seventh after being short of room throughout and he could never make full use of his long stride.
When he gets in the clear he can be a very useful opponent and I like that he’s drawn close to Circus Maximus with Turjomaan, in the Sheikh Hamdan pink cap, another one close by who should force the pace.
If Dane O’Neill can get him rolling in space he has the pace to catch the 10-furlong horses out and at 16s he looks a very fair price with the Stoute yard in fine form.
In the Ribblesdale Stakes I’m a huge fan of Frankly Darling, but her price has crashed to 11/8 now and, while she could well win handsomely, she’s not the only promising filly in this race.
The bet has to be Aidan O’Brien’s PASSION at 13/2 (BetVictor, Coral, Ladbrokes), as his three-year-old fillies look out of the very top drawer and this one is yet another daughter of Galileo that will improve now she steps up in trip.
She ran like she needed the race when beaten over 10 furlongs on her seasonal reappearance at Navan, but I expect to see a totally different filly now she tackles a mile and a half on slightly easier ground.
A full sister to St Leger winner Capri, she’ll be ridden like she’s expected to get the distance and it wouldn’t be a surprise if O’Brien is celebrating his fourth win in the race in the last seven years afterwards.
Finally, the King’s Stand Stakes and Battaash. Will this fantastic sprinter finally get the Royal Ascot win his talent deserves?
Without Blue Point in there he could, but at 8/11 the nagging doubt remains that he’s more vulnerable on the five-furlong track at Ascot than anywhere else where they host a top-level cavalry charge.
Glass Slippers has beaten him before, but she has to prove she can achieve the level of her Prix de l’Abbaye win away from very soft ground and I would rather back John Quinn’s LIBERTY BEACH at 10/1 (bet365, 9/1 General).
The daughter of Cable Bay could easily have been unbeaten as a juvenile and she was certainly unlucky to be drawn on the wrong side when winning ‘her race’ in the Queen Mary, only to finish fourth overall.
Her electric turn of foot was on show in the Dragon Stakes at Sandown and the Molecomb at Goodwood, while she was ridden to get the trip in the Lowther and then won despite the trip on her seasonal reappearance at Haydock.
She’s got so much natural pace it makes perfect sense to go for this race rather than the Commonwealth Cup, and the 9lb she gets from Battaash because of her age and sex allowances could come in rather handy.
Posted at 1700 BST on 15/06/2020
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