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St James's Palace preview

The most tantalising race on day one of Royal Ascot looks to be the St James's Palace Stakes. After the debacle which was the favourite in the Derby, he's out for revenge, as is Toronado who had a boom on him coming into the Guineas, while there are a few others hyped to be slightly better than recent performances. And Ascot should prove to be a fairer test.

Making his blog debut to analyse this fine contest is Paul Cooper, @coopsracing. You'll enjoy reading this, he knows his stuff...


St James's Palace Stakes

Until last week, the St James's Palace had a different complexion to it this year than in previous. It was due to be a clash between a classic winner that wasn't even considered a classic contender over the winter months and a horse that has a lot to prove after a disappointing run in the Newmarket classic. Then Jim Bolger changed the whole shape of the race by adding Dawn Approach to the mix, and Magician suffered a setback which threw his participation in doubt and although he's been declared i'm sure we'll only be certain of his participation at post time.

Regarding, Dawn Approach, should we have seen it coming? After all, it's not the first time a horse with the name Approach turns up somewhere we weren't expecting him.

The horse wins the Guineas then runs badly in the Derby for whatever reason and looks like having the summer off. But in the meantime he comes back to his best and is then ready to run at Ascot. If it wasn't for the well documented New Approach scandal, I’d believe this for one reason - exchanges. There wasn't any massive gamble at 100/1 + on him, just an announcement on Wednesday morning that he was back in and he was inserted back into the market both on the exchanges and in fixed odds markets accordingly.

Of course, Bolger could be pulling the wool over everyone's eyes - perhaps Ascot was always the plan and unless he got injured in the Derby the Epsom risk was minimal and the logical place to run him was in the last group one (bar the Jean Prat) for three-year-olds only over a mile. He has a huge question mark over him though, was the hard pulling tendencies shown at Epsom a one off and just down to the funereal pace in the Derby? We won't know the answer to the first point until after two furlongs. If he settles then he will take a lot of beating, if he doesn't then it doesn't matter what trip he runs over he won't win. He was beaten three out at Epsom, and the stamina question was never remotely tested, let alone answered.

Magician arrives off the back of two very impressive wins in May, firstly over ten furlongs in the Dee Stakes at Chester followed by that visually taking performance in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. His profile is somewhat confusing, and doesn't suggest that he was showing the sort of brilliance at two which would have led Aidan O'Brien to be going into winter circles thinking this was going to be his top three-year-old miler. A maiden win was the only notable achievement in four runs as a juvenile, and it wasn't until Chester he burst on to the radar as a horse to follow. Willie The Whipper's subsequent fine run in the Prix Du Jockey-Club confirmed the Chester run to be decent form, but it's the Curragh race that I suppose we have to judge him on in the context of next week's race.

The Curragh can be a searching test for a three-year-old, but the pace set by Trading Leather meant that a real stayer was going to win the Guineas, and from some way out it was obvious to those watching that Magician was going to be that horse. That race now has a huge significance as Bolger will know how far he would expect Dawn Approach to finish in front of Trading Leather over a mile. He may not do it the same way, but I can't see Magician being able to hold off Dawn Approach if the Godolphin horse runs as he did in the Guineas. How would you be pricing this race up if Bolger would have announced then Dawn Approach will miss the Derby and head straight to Ascot? 4/6 Dawn Approach? 4/7, 1/2? You certainly wouldn't have had him as second favourite as he was inserted earlier in the week. The setback doesn't bother me greatly at this stage, as if he's right then he'll run and if he's not then he won't. The setback only happened on Thursday and O'Brien wouldn't have left much to work on that close to the race. He is still the horse to take advantage of Dawn Approach, if the Guineas winner shows any of those alarming traits that he did at Epsom.

Ballydoyle are also represented by Mars and i'm not keen on him running in this because I can't have him as a miler. Favourite for the Derby after his maiden win at Dundalk, he's run two very solid races in classics this year, both staying on sixth places. The Guineas looked like a very good Derby trial, and he wasn't given the greatest of rides at Epsom - watching the race again, he could easily of challenged Ruler Of The World if he'd got running earlier, but did anyone reading this article think they'd drop him back to a mile for his next run? No, of course you didn't. The ten furlong race that he was earmarked for later in the week was the perfect race for him - he'd have been my banker of the week in that race - but a group one over a mile is never going to suit him and i'll be against him in every market possible.

There's another horse that we need to give serious consideration too, but unless Toronado proves to be the horse that both his jockey Richard Hughes, and assistant trainer Richard Hannon jnr hope him to be, I can't see him troubling the top two in the market. Hughes and Hannon are never afraid to show to the public that they believe they have a good horse - plenty have been touted, and a few - Canford Cliffs and Sky Lantern - in recent years have gone right to the top, and after his Craven win, you couldn't blame them for hoping Toronado was going to scale the heights of classic success.

What was the value of that Craven win? Beating Havana Gold and Dundonnell (the latter, who he was entitled to beat on 2012 Doncaster running) in hindsight didn't deserve to give him equal billing going into Newmarket with Dawn Approach, yet he ran a perfectly respectable race to finish fourth, considering he eyeballed the winner going in to the dip before giving way in the final furlong. I think he's exactly where his form puts him at the moment, a Group two winner who deserves another shot at the top level.

Toronado's fourth in the Guineas, strictly speaking entitles Glory Awaits to serious consideration, but I’ve never been one to take placings of outsiders in Group races seriously until they show it a second time. Of course, he and the stable deserve serious congratulations for finishing second in the Guineas but i'll be surprised if he can equal that placing, let alone go one better.

Of the others that complete the line-up, Dundonell is arguably over-priced and well worth a few quid each-way with the question marks over the other horses. A tall reputation at two, his Lingfield win was one of the most striking performances in a maiden last year and then a subsequent win at York followed by group placings at Doncaster and in the Breeders' Cup behind George Vancouver suggests that if Toronado is worth a shot at this level, then so is he. Granted, his two runs this year haven't been up to that level of form, but the Craven was a 4-runner race and you got the impression that Dundonnell would come on a lot for the race, and he could do no more than win at Newmarket last time. The 20/1 available ante-post was too big about him, and to my mind he's one to follow home Dawn Approach.

Strictly speaking he needs to improve to beat George Vancouver, but the O'Brien horse looks like he's going to be aimed at all of these sorts of races this year, whilst not being quite good enough. However, for any horse to go over to America and win a Breeders Cup race he must have a lot of class although Ryan Moore was at his brilliant best that day.

Mshawish would appear to have a decent level of form - my views on Intello that beat him in the French Derby are that he could be the best 3yo this year, and if he was running here I’d be confident of him storming home - but I don't think he'll have enough here.

Leitir Mor is obviously into set the pace for Dawn Approach, and although he managed to land a Group 3 at Leopardstown last week, he's got a far more important job for connections to do here, arguably he's the most important cog for Dawn Approach and young jockey Ronan Whelan has been set a big ask to get the fractions correct for Kevin Manning.

So, I think Dawn Approach will win if he's the horse that turned up in the Guineas. That's not the most original of statements though. From a betting point of view, I’ve two angles into the race - the first is that there is no need to back Dawn Approach before the off. He is already odds-on and will be so until Tuesday afternoon I would imagine. I think that if he takes the preliminaries in his stride and jumps and settles his price in-running will contract from something like 1.8 to 1.7 in a furlong. I'm happy to sacrifice that part of the price to know that everything is in my favour, in fact I think it's mad not to.

If you're not an exchange / in-running player and don't want to back odds-on, then at the prices I’d be happy to chuck a few quid on Dundonnell each-way to give Roger Charlton and James Doyle a big boost ahead of the feature race on Wednesday with Al Kazeem.


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