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Queen Anne Stakes preview

Here we go, it's Royal Ascot! What a meeting ahead, international raiders galore from Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, the United States and of course, the rest of Europe. As always, the meeting gets off to a bang with one of the highlights of the week, the Queen Anne Stakes. Those in Asia (and much of Australia) won't hear of Able Friend getting beaten, the French love Solow and then there are the locals who believe Night of Thunder doesn't get the credit he is due (understandable given the recently-departed shadows of Frankel and Kingman).

Padding up for the home team is Ian Mallard, @ianmallard.

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Queen Anne Stakes
Royal Ascot 1430 (2330 AEST)
Straight Mile, Group 1
£375k

The usual curtain-raiser to the meeting gets us underway with what is a gateway to the breeding sheds if past winners are to go by. To say the race has an illustrious role of honour is an understatement, in fact it now looks like a stallion's "Who's Who"! Barathea, Intikhab, Cape Cross & Kalanisi lead the role of honour from the nineties followed through by the likes of Dubai Destination, Paco Boy & no-one will ever forget the 2012 demolition job by Frankel when he simply broke Excelebration's heart with the minimum of fuss. Reminiscing about years gone by won't find us tomorrows winner though so here's your runner by runner guide to this year's renewal.

ABLE FRIEND

The Beast from the East!! Or so we've been led to believe? Sometimes it's very difficult to get a handle on international form so I try & treat it as literally as possible. Well we know he acts around Sha Tin but what does the form amount to? Looking at it you have to say on his last six starts (four G1 victories) he seems to pretty much beat the same horses over & over again. The fact is he's beaten Beauty Flame three times whose previous best performance was winning a handicap from the former Juddmonte-owned Dundonnell who whilst being a decent yardstick, is far from a superstar (Beauty Flame also won the Brittania Stakes here in 2013 as Roca Tumu, Ed.). It's enough to plant a seed of doubt & at the current prices I'd have to look elsewhere for some value as we also don't know how he'll travel either. Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup replay

COUGAR MOUNTAIN

Clutching at straws with this one & I'm not to sure that they know what his right trip is to be truthful. He looked a future sprinter last year when finishing a close-up fifth on only his second start in the July Cup but it sort of went south from there. Unless they plan to attach him to a train, this mile trip looks to stretch his stamina to breaking point. I'm not a fan of these Fastnet Rock offspring (sacrilege! Ed.) if I'm really honest and am yet to be convinced. The one thing backers can cling to is a return to lightning-quick ground which he encountered on debut but that form is way below what's required here. The form out of that is pretty weak.

GLORY AWAITS

His form amounts to Listed level maybe bordering on G3 at a push but that's as good as he is to be honest. His presence in the field is important as he looks the only pace in the race & should take them along at a good clip though. He did win a G2 last year in some far-flung corner of outer Mongolia or somewhere like that but even that run only amounts to about a conditions race over here in the UK, wouldn't be carrying my cash.

HERE COMES WHEN

Connections will be desperate for some rain for this lad but I doubt it will come & even if it does it then only gives him a marginal chance as opposed to none on quick ground. Has plenty to find with both Night of Thunder & Toormore on their Lockinge running and the level of form he's shown so far simply isn't good enough.

NIGHT OF THUNDER

Now it starts to get interesting, last year's 2000 Guineas winner strolls into town like an old-style gunslinger after restoring his reputation in the G1 Lockinge at Newbury (Toormore, Here Comes When & Cougar Mountain all well held). He's never been out of the first two over a mile & that 2000 guineas form is of the highest order with multiple G1 winners to come from the race & are still coming. The lightning-quick ground won't suit them all but this lad won the Guineas when it was like a road. The going stick reading that day varied from 7.7 > 7.9 depending on which side of the course you were on but how he zig-zagged through that final furlong he probably covered every bit of ground anyway! The only two horses to beat him over a mile are Kingman & Charm Spirit who have the small matter of seven Group One victories between them & everywhere you look his form stacks up against the very best.

SOLOW

Slow this fella certainly is not & has been very impressive taking two Group Ones on the bounce but he won't have experienced ground as quick as this yet. You would have to be worried looking at his action that it will suit. He has a very rounded action when galloping & that usually means they want a bit of dig which is backed up by simply looking at his form. If he does handle the surface the way he despatched The Grey Gatsby in Meydan was breathtaking & he's a danger to all if doing so.

TOORMORE

The fallen idol who hasn't won in over a year since last year's Craven Stakes & another who you have to be concerned about the surface. The two times he's faced quick ground were in last year's Guineas behind Night Of Thunder where he was comprehensively beaten & then when turned over in a weak G2 at Goodwood. OK he was only beaten a neck that day but he went into the race as a G1 winner getting weight from the whole field. If he was ever going to win another race you would have felt that was it. as a G1 winner you would think there would be a stallion job waiting for him somewhere but as a son of Arakan the chances of making it to the breeding sheds are slim. There may be a small stallion job for him in Turkey or somewhere like that but in general any country where they print horse pedigrees in the native language would have reservations about taking him. Did go some way to repairing his reputation in the Lockinge but never really looked like beating Night Of Thunder that day although Arod has come out & won at the Derby meeting to give the form a solid look going forward.

ESOTERIQUE

not too sure what there trying to prove with this mare shes a G1 winner & classic placed so the fact she hasnt been whisked away to the paddocks is surprising unless theres been fertility problems. did beat subsequent sun chariot heroine integral on quick ground in last years dahlia stakes at newmarket but could only manage fourth place herself that day. facts are shes raced against the boys four times in her career & come up short every time & i dont see any reason for that to change tomorrow.

OVERVIEW:

Solow would be bang there if handling the surface but the strength of Night of Thunder's Guineas form is too strong to ignore & he looks outstanding value at around 5/1 currently available. It does look pretty much between the front three in the market but with doubts over #TheBeastFromTheEast & the ground for Solow, we will play..

1pt win NIGHT OF THUNDER 5/1 (widely available)

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