What an opening day! Bradsell showed his class in the Coventry then Nature Strip humiliated his rivals in the King's Stand. What a flying machine!
Maljoom had no luck in the St James's Palace, while Cleveland took a while to get clear and looked to have those around him covered, but the winner kicked on the rail and couldn't be caught. A very good day which wasn't far off being a bloody marvellous day. The sun's out, proper flat racing ground, what's not to like about it?
Onto day two. Not a day to be going crazy - A - I always find it hard to put as much time into the second and third days of a big meeting as I do the first, and was in attendance yesterday which made it even harder, and B - it looks a harder card.
R1 - 14.30 Queen Mary
This is a handy collection of fillies with two obvious favourites in Dramatised, an impressive winner on debut at Newmarket (and will also be ridden by Danny Tudhope who won the last two races on Tues), and Love Reigns, a US filly who bolted in at Keeneland on turf at her only start.
But others have some decent form behind them, with plenty of upside being very unexposed. Carmela was unlucky at York and then won a decent three-runner race at Carlisle, where the runner-up has since come out and won. Grand Oak won impressively on turf at Churchill Downs after being challenged for a long way. Her trainer Rusty Arnold had Late September yesterday who ran last, but these visiting US trainers often bring a decent filly first and drag others along as travelling companions (see Wesley Ward over the years). Katey Kontent won well at Windsor last time but the form out of that race is poor. Still, a Clive Cox juvenile winner at Royal Ascot happens reasonably regularly. Manhattan Jungle might run a race at big odds. She's won all three starts in France on officially wet tracks but her sire, Bungle Inthejungle, has much better results on dry ground, so there could be a further step forward here. (Trainer stated one of those wins was definitely on good/firm ground, it was a hot day and the going wasn't updated). She fights on well from the front and Mickael Barzalona has followed her across the Channel.
Amo Racing have five running for them, each with a different trainer, so it's rather hard to line them up. Omniqueen is a daughter of first-season sire Tasleet, who had a winner yesterday with Bradsell, and cost £200k at the breeze-ups. Olivia Maralda (£460k at same sale) bumped into a very, very good one in Statuette last time, can't knock that form.
And at the bottom Yahsat is another for Karl Burke. She's only won once out of three runs, but is progressive in ratings and quite speedy. She is drawn to get the run behind Love Reigns.
Tough race, I'll ping a few at odds and go for the exacta in case the favs underperform.
Manhattan Jungle, Carmela, Omniqueen
R2 - 15.05 Queen's Vase
Can make a case for plenty here. I do like Eldar Eldarov but he's a silly price now at 3/1 in an open contest. I was quite taken by the win of Ruler Legend at Naas last time, taking a big step up in ratings on his first try at a mile and a half. He's only seen wet tracks so far in Ireland so there's a slight query on the firm ground, but I'm willing to risk that at around 16/1. Al Qareem (easy win last time at York), Baltic Bird (steadily improving, Frankie + Gosden) and Emotion (ridiculously impressive in second start but then failed when dropped in distance at Goodwood, prepared to forgive that for a big price) are others at the top of my list in a tricky race.
Ruler Legend, Al Qareem, Emotion
R3 - 15.40 Prince of Wales's Stakes
Small but quality field here. Bay Bridge was brutal in winning the Brigadier Gerard by 5L three weeks ago. He's only had seven starts and is still improving. Deserves to be favourite, how short depends on the quality of the Japanese raider.
Lord North won this race two years ago, (recording an RPR equivalent to Bay Bridge's Brigadier Gerard win), but he hasn't hit those numbers since and while he's cashed in winning the Dubai Turf twice (including a DH this year), he's been beaten in England twice by Alenquer - that's not Royal Ascot winning form.
The xenophobes have been crabbing Shahryar, mostly due to the subequent failures of Yibir. His recent form has been over slightly further (1m4f), including the Japanese Derby last May but he arrives fresh here. Any horse that gets close to Contrail (3rd to him in the Japan Cup) deserves respect. It'd be huge for Royal Ascot to have a Japanese winner, he's capable.
State of Rest has racked up a few foreign Group 1s, the Saratoga Derby, the Cox Plate and the Prix Ganay but wasn't able to beat Alenquer (who perhaps I underestimate) in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh recently.
Grand Glory has a reputation as a soft tracker but that may just have been something she couldn't avoid rather than shrewd planning. Has recorded career-best RPRs in her two wins this season but only gets 3lbs against the boys here. Not out of this, would be prepared to have a nibble if she got to 16+ on the exchanges.
All comes down to prices on this one for me, would take 6/4 Bay Bridge, 9/2 Shahryar, 15/1 Grand Glory, or happily sit back and watch.
R4 16.20 Duke of Cambridge
If favourite Saffron Beach was trained by O'Brien or Gosden, she'd be a couple of pts shorter here. She is super consistent, apart from not staying the Oaks trip and possibly running again too soon in the Falmouth, she's run first or second at all bar her last run, when fourth in the G1 Dubai Turf behind Lord North and two Japanese runners. She carries a G1 winner penalty here but she's earned it.
Bashkirova is flying for William Haggas, Mother Earth is always a chance in these races but is priced accordingly, Primo Bacio loves a dry track but can be moody.
Saffron Beach to show her class, from Bashkirova.
R5 17.00 Royal Hunt Cup
One of the hardest races of the year to decipher. I could throw darts in any direction here but have shortened the list to...
Rebel Territory - loves a mile handicap and stays on well when it matters. Jim Crowley at Royal Ascot is always a good angle. SCRATCHED
Legend Of Dubai could be anything and is a deserved favourite. Obvious contender for the 'group horse in a handicap' moniker. Really bred, dominant at Newmarket last time but 11lb penalty for that win unlikely to halt his progress.
Desert Peace - going for the Godolphin horse hidden for a while in Dubai angle here, a la Real World last year. Don't really know what to make of him but respect the stable targetting this race.
Plethora of other chances, shop around for plenty of places if betting each-way.
R6 17.40 Windsor Castle
Plenty of rapid improvers here amongst the unexposed juveniles but the one who heads the market, Little Big Bear, looks a standout. His ratings suggest he could have been competitive in the Coventry yesterday but the stable had two high in the market already. Will prove very hard to beat but 7/4 in a 24-runner race won't have me emptying the pockets.
Rocket Rodney has been purchased since his last run by the owners of Bradsell, the Coventry winner. Strong win at Goodwood back in late April, would be a shorter price in a higher profile stable.
Another in the Victorious Racing ownership is Bolt Action who looked very promising in his dominant win at Leicester a fortnight ago. He's drawn next to the American bullet Seismic Spirit and might get the perfect trail.
Little Big Bear probably wins well but Bolt Action worth an EW bet.
R7 18.10 Kensington Palace
Taking the advice of Paul Kealy here and leading with Improvised. She ran second in a Listed race at Musselburgh recently and is due to go up 10lb in the handicap, but that's come after weights were declared for this race. Has picked the right race under those terms and will give this a shake. Her regular jockey Danny Tudhope has jumped ship but I think that's more to do with the lightweight.
White Moonlight gains the services of the meeting's leading jockey after day one, and has very interesting form. Undefeated from two runs as a 2yo, she had 971 days off before carrying a hefty 10st8 (~69kg) in a Fillies' Novice restricted to horses with no more than two previous starts. Understandably very fresh, she pulled hard and ducked about quite a lot, then couldn't quite go with the two promising fillies carrying nearly 2st less. Drops back to a mile, can only assume the reason they persisted with her is she is a potential Group winner so could be very 'well in' here. However, she has drawn 20 on the round course so will need luck on her side.
Ffion ran second in this race last year, has some handy speed figures and won from a terrible draw at Chester on seasonal debut. Favourite Haziya gets the plum draw and has run well in big Irish handicaps this season. Might have been nicely laid out for this.
This one will come down to price. Haziya 4/1, Improvised and White Moonlight 8/1, even Ffion around 15/1. no clear top pick.
All each way without a great deal of confidence. Will play a lot of exotics as well.
Rebel Territory SCRATCHED - replace with Desert Peace
Watch for others mentioned above with price caveats.