Royal Ascot 2013 Preview, Trends, Tips
And so it begins. The five day, thirty race, wagering challenge that is Royal Ascot 2013. The meeting runs from Tuesday to Saturday, and in my opinion, the first day might be the easiest on which to find winners and, therefore, turn a profit.
Let's test that theory, starting with the...
2.30 QUEEN ANNE STAKES (Group 1) (4yo+)
Queen Anne Stakes Trends
Odds: The last winner priced bigger than 12/1 was Nicolotte, back in 1995. The top four in the betting have won each all bar one of the last sixteen renewals
Ratings: No horse rated lower than 112 has won in the last sixteen years. Five were unrated
Age: Four- and five-year-olds have won every year back as far as 1985. In those 28 years, six winners were aged five and the other 22 aged four
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises Declaration of War, Elusive Kate and Animal Kingdom.
Queen Anne Stakes Preview
The straight mile is used for this Group 1 contest, which always gets Royal Ascot off to a flyer. Last year, it was the incomparable Frankel; before that it was Canford Cliffs, and before that, the magnificent Goldikova. Yes, this is a race for champion milers.
Strange then, perhaps, that the odds on favourite this year is a horse which has never won over shorter than nine furlongs, and never run over a straight mile, let alone won on one. His four turf runs have yielded just one win, and that in a claiming race. Ladbrokes go 8/11 about this horse, but I'm pretty sure he'll be odds against come post time.
On the plus side, he has run a close second to Wise Dan on the tight turning mile at Santa Anita in the Breeders' Cup Mile. He's also the winner of the Kentucky Durrby and the Dubai World Cup, so he's plenty talented (as they might say across the pond).
He can win, for sure, but at the price he's simply begging to be taken on.
Elusive Kate has been the one for money, and I confess that I backed her each way at 9/1 to win a few quid. She's a dual Group 1 winner, will love the ground, can go well fresh, and has the highest European turf rating in the field. She also gets a three pound sex allowance from the boys.
The official figures have her ten pounds behind Animal Kingdom, but that one's best turf figure is much more closely aligned.
Declaration Of War was heavily backed when disappointing in the Lockinge, and the fact remains that, whatever he's been doing at home, he's yet to win above Group 3 and, more worryingly, his form away from soft and all weather is 45. Those two numbers represent his only two defeats, and that represents a serious question mark in this company.
From the remainder I can't entertain a horse rated lower than 112, which rules out Aljamaheer... just. His form figures flatter him in any case, as he's been beaten by fairly moderate opposition when compared to some of these. Those who might make a fight of it are the progressive pair, Trade Storm and Gregorian.
The former was given a lot to do from the moment the draw was made in the Dubai Duty Free on World Cup night, and ran on from the car park for a decent fourth in a field of fourteen. That was arguably his best run, given the inconvenience, and he could still have a bit more to offer.
Gregorian comes from the hugely respected Johnny G yard, a line you'll hear a few more times this week, and he is a decent horse. He's not the same quality of horse as stablemate, Elusive Kate, in my opinion, and he's another that might be better with cut in the ground.
It's hard to see anything else winning.
Queen Anne Stakes Tips
I've backed Elusive Kate each way, as I'm against Animal Kingdom. She was 9/1 then, having been 12/1 at the end of last week, but she's now a best priced 7/1 with Paddy Power. That's still pretty fair in my view, and the only alternative I'd nominate is Trade Storm, at as big as 16/1 with Stan James (14/1 Paddy).
Best Bet: Elusive Kate
Alternative: Trade Storm
How to play the Queen Anne Stakes
Paddy Power are refunding losing bets if Animal Kingdom wins. If you believe he's a false price and that there's value elsewhere, as I do, then this is excellent insurance.
Back Elusive Kate (7/1) and / or Trade Storm (14/1) with Paddy Power, and if Animal Kingdom wins, you'll get your money back.*
*Max £100, T's and C's here.
3.05 KING´S STAND STAKES (Group 1) (3yo+)
King's Stand Stakes Trends
Odds: Four of the last twelve winners were priced 16/1 or bigger
Age: There have been at least two winners for each age group between three and seven in the last sixteen years
Other: Seven of the last ten winners were trained outside Britain and Ireland
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises Shea Shea and Shamexpress.
King's Stand Stakes Preview
There's a pretty strong favourite here in the shape of crack 'Saffer', Shea Shea. He hacked up in a track record time in the Al Quoz Sprint last time, with Sole Power back in fourth, and the rest of the reopposing brigade well beaten off. He may or may not have been on the elixir out there, but he won't be here and that may or may not make a difference in terms of his superiority over Sole Power.
Obviously, the 'supplement suggestion' is merely a suspicion on my part, and if I'm wrong about that then Shea Shea is clearly the one to beat. Although Sole Power was second to Shea Shea on their respective previous starts, the margin between them was consistent at two and a half lengths. That does imply Sole Power has a job to beat his recent vanquisher, but the trainer is adamant that he's in fantastic shape.
Shamexpress is the other Southern Hemisphere raider, and the worry with this fellow is that he just might be a better horse over six furlongs. I'd be looking for him to get beaten here, and then take a price about him in the July Cup.
Reckless Abandon is the young buck here. Just three, and with a nice prep under his belt when third in the Temple Stakes, Clive Cox's star will be fit for his life here. He's a game lad, and stays every yard of five, plus another furlong as well, and he could well bid to make all.
Swiss Spirit was just in front of Reckless Abandon in the Temple, and Johnny G will have him primed for the best run of his life here. The ground is perfect for him, and he'll be absolutely flying at the death. He's the sort where you might be cursing your luck due to traffic problems, but he could give you a helluva thrill if the gaps come, and Buick is a man to find them if they're there.
Of the rest, Pearl Secret was progressive before disappointing in the Nunthorpe, but the balance of his form gives him plenty to find here. And Robert Cowell, three-pronged here, has two old warriors in Kingsgate Native (winner of the Temple Stakes) and 2011 King's Stand winner, Prohibit, as well as Spirit Quartz, who is younger and fitter, but perhaps not quite as good.
Despite their age, the Cowell eight year olds Kingsgate and Prohibit might get close to the frame in a race where four of the last nine winners were aged six or seven.
King's Stand Stakes Tips
Shea Shea holds the key here. If in the same form as in Meydan, he'll probably win. But 9/4 is short enough, and I'd rather take a couple at bigger prices in the hope that Shea Shea fades away away. Sole Power may have a bit to find with the fav, but he's run him closest once recently and he's four times the price at 9/1. And Swiss Spirit will be swooping late - perhaps too late - but he'll give us a real thrill if getting the splits, at around 9/1.
Best Each Way Bet: Sole Power
Alternative: Swiss Spirit
How to play the King's Stand Stakes
bet365 and SkyBet are both paying out on four places here. If you fancy anything at any sort of price, and you're betting each way, bet with them. bet365 are 9/1 Sole Power, which is top price and Best Odds Guaranteed, so bet him with them. Swiss Spirit is a point shorter than top, so if betting to win, bet elsewhere, but if each way, take the hit and hope that he drifts, as you'll get SP if that's bigger.
Back Sole Power (9/1) and / or Swiss Spirit (8/1) with bet365, who are paying four places.
3.45 ST JAMES´S PALACE STAKES (Group 1) (3yo)
St James's Palace Stakes Trends
Odds: The last winner priced bigger than 9/1 was Brief Truce, back in 1992. The top four in the betting have won all bar one of the last sixteen renewals
Ratings: No horse rated lower than 115 has won in the last sixteen years. Ten were unrated
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises Dawn Approach, Magician, and Toronado.
St James's Palace Stakes Preview
I might have this wrong, but I make it a three horse race between the two Guineas winners, Dawn Approach and Magician, and the Craven winner, Toronado.
Dawn Approach is/was* (delete as per your own view) a beast. Seven unbeaten, the last three Group 1's, and also taking in the Coventry Stakes within 45 minutes of this race a year ago. He was sent off a short price for the Derby before one of the most spectacularly high profile equine implosions (metaphorically, of course) of all time.
Jim Bolger is not a mug, and he doesn't get pushed around, even by Sheikh MoMo. So the fact that Dawn Approach shows up here just seventeen days after the carnage of Epsom says a lot. In fact, he probably didn't have a hard race that day: he pulled poor Kevin Manning's arms fair out of their sockets, but with a half mile left he was beaten and allowed to coast home, getting caught by the 200/1 rag, Ocean Applause close to the jamstick.
He's top rated on pretty much any ratings line you like, so the question is, can Dawn Approach come back to the horse he was when annihilating the Guineas field? And, if he does, will that be enough?
My feeling on the first one - and it can only be that - is that he can. And on the second one is that it will be. Henrythenavigator's 128 in 2008 was the only recent Racing Post Rating recorded in the race which bettered Dawn Approach's 127 in the Guineas and, while the tests are very different (early season versus a bit later; straight course versus round course; aspirants versus proven talent), I retain the faith until there is reason not to. In my view, a non-race such as his in the Derby is not a reason to dismiss a formerly very, very good miler.
Magician is on the up and up. He won the Irish 2000 Guineas, having previously won the Dee Stakes. If he progresses again, he will give Dawn Approach a lot to think about. He'd also probably shock the Coolmore mob by knocking on the door of that tip top 128 RPR that the 'navigator ran to here. Far from impossible, but Magician's not really looked like that sort of horse, has he?
Allied to that is the 'will he, won't he?' saga which has prefaced his final inclusion in the field, after a minor scare last week. This is no place to be bringing niggles, and Aiden will doubtless be self-flagellating in his post-race sound bites should the Maigician fail to pull a rabbit from a hat.
Toronado is interesting. A bit of a talking horse thus far, Richard Hughes loves him to bits and reckoned he might be as good as - or better than - Canford Cliffs. That was before the Guineas, when he was beaten out of sight by Dawn Approach. If that was his running, he has no chance of reversing the form. If it wasn't, he's a contender. In such a situation, it's hard to take 4/1 that he's back to his best, and that his best is better than both Dawn Approach and Magician. But he is ridden by Richard Hughes. More on that in a minute.
Mars is surely no better than a Group 3 ten furlong horse, and Dundonnell is a sprinter being stretched too far. The one at a monster price which could steal a place is George Vancouver. He won the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf over a mile last backend and, if he could rediscover that form, he'd be pretty close to the top trio.
St James's Palace Stakes Tips
I'm a huge Dawn Approach fan, and I sincerely hope he repairs his reputation in this decent contest. Whether you agree with me or not, there's a great bet to be had by backing with BetVictor, who are refunding all losing wagers as a free bet if Richard Hughes makes the frame. This looks a shallow race to my eye, for the reasons outlined above, and thus Hughesie must have a chance to do us a favour.
Best Bet: Dawn Approach
How to play the St James's Palace Stakes
BetVictor are refunding losing bets as a free bet if Richard Hughes (riding 4/1 shot, Toronado) makes the frame.
Back your choice of Dawn Approach (6/4) or Magician (9/4) or any horse you fancy with BetVictor, and if Hughesie makes the frame, you'll get your money back as a free bet.
4.25 COVENTRY STAKES (Group 2) (2yo)
Coventry Stakes Trends
Odds: Fourteen of the last fifteen winners were priced at 8/1 or shorter
Runs: Fourteen of the last sixteen winners had had either one or two runs
Other: Aside from the unseating Red Sea, only Landseer from the last fifteen winners had been out of the first two in their career to that point
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises Sir John Hawkins, Championship, Riverboat Springs, and War Command.
Coventry Stakes Preview
Always super-competitive, and a strong pointer to the pick of the following season's milers, the Coventry takes a bit of winning. Thunder Strike was impressive when getting out and staying out in the Listed Woodcote Stakes at Epsom, where he beat the clearly talented Riverboat Springs by three and a half lengths. The latter missed the break - again - and was staying on from an impossible position late in the day.
If he could trap on terms - a big if, it should be said, on the available evidence - he'd be fancied to reverse the form on this more testing six furlongs in a full field.
There's likely to be a lot of pace on here, and the likes of morning line favourite, Stubbs, and Thunder Strike, could be caught up in that early trail blaze. Whether either is strong enough to sustain their run beyond the speed duel and into the final furlong remains to be seen, but I'd personally prefer something settled off what could be a harem scarem pace.
Sir John Hawkins has far more scope to improve than either of Stubbs or Thunder Strike, both of which have had three runs already and are therefore a good bit more exposed, relatively at least!
Richard Hughes mentioned that his boss, Richard Hannon, generally unleashes his Coventry hopeful at the Newbury Lockinge meeting. And so it's proved, with Championship winning well there, and then coming here. Strong Suit won there in 2010 before winning here, and so did Canford Cliffs the year before, so Championship deserves close scrutiny on that basis alone.
Although the winning margin was just three-quarters of a length, Championship found a lot of trouble that day, and traded at a high of 110 in running! I like him, I think the Hannon stable like him, and I think he has a great chance to follow the exact same path as the illustrious alumni mentioned above.
This is a strange slot for War Command, who seemed to need all of the seven furlongs on his debut, and is bred for middle distances. I'll be amazed if he can win this, and it will mark him down as a very smart sort for later in the year too. I'm against him.
There's also the chance of a 'sleeper' lower down the betting lists, but I'm sure I don't know which one it might be, so I'll stick with above named as the likely players.
Coventry Stakes Tips
Stubbs and Thunder Strike bring the best level of form to the party, but it's the once raced improvers I'm most interested in: Sir John Hawkins and especially Championship. The latter had a lot of traffic issues the last day, but was still good enough to match the debut achievements of Canford Cliffs and Strong Suit, and I hope he can win for the same connections as the last named.
If you like fast and late action - and who doesn't?! - then Riverboat Springs might get your hopes up dashing for the line.
Best Bet: Championship
Alternative: Sir John Hawkins
How to play the Coventry Stakes
Richard Hughes is on my fancy in the race. His record in the Coventry since 2000 is 24010201104. If you fancy anything else, and you bet it with BetVictor, you'll get your cash back as a free bet. I'm going to back Championship, with a small bet on Sir John Hawkins too.
Back your choice with BetVictor, and if Hughesie makes the frame on Championship (11/2), you'll get your money back as a free bet.
5.00 ASCOT STAKES (Handicap) (CLASS 2) (4yo+ 0-95)
Ascot Stakes Trends
Odds: Nothing of special note, though favourites only won once in the last sixteen years
Ratings / Weight: All bar Sindapour in 2003 carried 8-12 or more
Previous run: Eight of the last fifteen winners won on their previous start under any code, and another four were fourth
Age: Four and five year olds have won twelve of the last fifteen
Other: National Hunt trainers have had a field day here, winning nine of the last thirteen renewals
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises Well Sharp and Midnight Oil.
Ascot Stakes Preview
Hard to know where to start with a race like this, so best to focus on proven stamina and a liking for the ground. Of the trends pair, both have a liking for decent ground, and both must have a squeak in an obviously open affair.
Well Sharp has won three out of four since transferring to Jonjo O'Neill, and his sole flat run in that sequence was a facile six length soft ground win in a York handicap. He's bags of stamina and might make a dent in the 250,000 Guineas J P McManus paid for him by winning here. Two horses have previously won off such a loft perch so it's certainly feasible.
Midnight Oil ran in the same race as Well Sharp here in September 2011, finishing one place ahead of him, before being sold out of Luca Cumani's yard for 150,000 Guineas to Gigginstown Stud. He goes on any ground, stays, represents last year's winning trainer and is drawn next to Well Sharp.
Tiger Cliff would be an extremely popular winner, having been trained by the late great Sir Henry Cecil to win his last race. Lady Cecil now takes over, and this fellow ought to relish a step up in trip. Whether he's ready for an extra three-quarters of a mile remains to be seen, but he deserves his chance, and he's unexposed after just five runs. That's less than any of the last dozen winners and is a bit of a worry: this is not a race for amateurs!
Surprisingly, perhaps, Aiden O'Brien has only run two horses in this in the last fifteen years, and one of them - Coconut Beach - was third. The other was last. He saddles as many this year as in the previous decade and a half combined, and that's curious.
Son Joseph rides Justification, a progressive and resolute stayer for whom the tightness of Chester was all against him the last day. He looks like he'll devour this sort of a trip and could 'do a Simenon' as he's in the Queen Alexandra on Saturday too. He must have a chance.
Ryan Moore legs up on the other, Marchese Marconi, a nag whose form is all at shorter and on softer. I can't really see it, though there are few connections more respected than Messr's O'Brien and Moore.
Big Easy is in form, though perhaps a bit more exposed than some of these. He's sure to stay the trip though, and his hurdles form looks good in this context.
Ascot Stakes Tips
I won't be betting more than a shekel or two in this, though I'll be hoping to get through the placepot. (Very) small stakes on Justification and Well Sharp for me.
Best Bet: None, but Justification will much prefer this to the tight turns of his last run
Alternative: Well Sharp
How to play the Ascot Stakes
Richard Hughes is on Midnight Oil, for Simenon's connections. He has another reasonable place chance, which means if you're betting with BetVictor, you could get your stakes as a free bet on any losers you might accrue.
Back Justification (15/2, best price) or your own fancy with BetVictor, and if Hughesie makes the frame on Midnight Oil, you'll get your money back as a free bet.
5.35 WINDSOR CASTLE STAKES (Listed Race) (2yo)
Windsor Castle Stakes Trends
Odds: A 100/1, a 33/1 and a 14/1 in the last five years (!)
Previous run: Thirteen of the last sixteen winners were 1st or 2nd last time out
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises most of the field!
Windsor Castle Stakes Preview
It's very hard to countenance a bet in a race like this. Almost everything is capable of improvement, and some huge priced winners have emerged in recent seasons. At the very least we might hope to need to get through the placepot, so we'll have a squint at the form.
First thing to say is that it's surprising - to me at least - that Joseph O'Brien favours Wilshire Boulevard, who must surely be knackered, over Fountain Of Youth. The former will be having his third run in ten days, while the latter has had a nice break between encounters. Fountain Of Youth's form might be slightly better too, with Club Wexford looking a good yardstick for Irish juvenile form.
Anticipated is another Hughes/Hannon horse for BetVictor players. He's two from two, an unbeaten chain which was something two of the six horses since 1998 have maintained here (Flanders in 1998 and Titus Alone in 2005). This must be considered a softer option than some of the five furlongs races he could have contested, and he ought to go close. Hannon, though, is 0 from 25 in this race in recent years.
Ogermeister, form the US barn of Wesley Ward, has to be of interest after his Strike The Tiger ripped the lights out here in 2009, at odds of 33/1. Ward's had two more attempts since, and they've both been beaten, though Gentleman's Code ran fourth of 24 in 2011.
And Johnny G doesn't run too many in this contest - just two in the last sixteen years at least, finishing 6th and 7th - so Ben Hall is of mild interest. He won easily last time, albeit in a nothing race, and is open to a lot of improvement. Sadly, from a punting perspective, that's a comment true of loads of these.
Windsor Castle Stakes Tips
No bet. Not even an interest. I hope I still have a placepot ticket to cheer, and I'll have plenty of picks here if I do.
Gun to head, I'd probably roll with Fountain Of Youth, with an eye out for Anticipated. But there will be easier races than this (like the Royal Hunt Cup and the Wokingham!!!) and I'm happy to wait for them.
Best Bet: None
How to play the Windsor Castle Stakes
I can't advise a bet in this. If you really must play here - good luck! - bet either with BetVictor, as Hughesie's on the favourite. Or look for a bookie paying four places (I mean, seriously, it's the least they can do!) - that's bet365, SkyBet and Boylesports
Back your fancy (if you feel you must!) with BetVictor, and if Hughesie makes the frame on Anticipated, you'll get your money back as a free bet. Alternatively, for each way players, bet with bet365, SkyBet and Boylesports and get paid out if you finish fourth.
Two other points of interest for you.
1. Don't forget the geegeez Royal Ascot tipping competition. You can register here, and win £100 in free bets from BetVictor. Nice! You have £100 a day to bet on the Royal Ascot races, and can bet no more than £50 per race. You must bet each day of Royal Ascot to be in the running to win, and you must have a BetVictor account before the competition starts, into which free bets will be paid.
Click any of the BetVictor links to register.
2. As you'll have gathered from the above, bookmakers are beating themselves up to get your business at the start of this week. It'll likely quieten down later in the week, so now's the time to take advantage. I've put together a list of the best offers, so do make a note of the ones for which you hold accounts, or perhaps open a new account if you feel sufficiently compelled. 🙂
Right, that's my lot. Do join the tipping competition, and do leave a comment below with your bet of the day, and maybe add a reason why.