Royal Ascot 2014: Day One Preview, Trends, Tips
It's the biggest flat meeting of them all, Royal Ascot 2014, and it starts on Tuesday with three Group 1's and a Group 2!
And here at geegeez, we've also got a £100 cash prize tipping competition. 🙂
It's open to all registered members of geegeez. Registration is free and can be done here.
To enter, just add your tips via the racecards (click the tip icon next to the horse you fancy).
You must enter at least ten tips across the five days of Royal Ascot. That could be two a day, five each on Tuesday and Saturday, ten on Saturday, or... well, you get the idea. But at least ten tips.
Higher scorer wins £100 cash. Nice!
To the preview. And we'll start at 2.30 with the...
2.30 Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1) 1 Mile
One of the races of the week to get us underway, and it has an odds on favourite in the form of Toronado.
Queen Anne Stakes trends
Surprisingly, perhaps, only six of the last seventeen winners since 1997 also won last time out. (All stats courtesy of horseracebase.com)
Four-year-olds have the best record, and five year-olds the next best. Three-year-olds tend to go for the St James's Palace Stakes later on the card.
Of the twelve winners to be officially rated, all were at least 112
13 of the last 17 winners had run in Group 1 company last time, with both French winners in that period winning the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan. Anodin finished a close second to Cirrus Des Aigles in that race this year.
Queen Anne Stakes form preview
Toronado is the highest rated of these. He has the highest Racing Post Rating too. And he has top class track form, having been touched off in the St James's Palace Stakes last year. What he doesn't have is a recent run. Indeed he's been off for exactly 300 days, since finishing distressed in the Juddmonte at York last August.
That was on good to firm, conditions responsible for his two heaviest defeats. He was unlucky to be short-headed in the St James's Palace last year, having been interfered with there and, aside from that would have been unbeaten on good or softer.
The suggestion is that ground conditions will be just on the easy side of good, and that will be bang on for Toronado. He won't want for fitness either, the Hannon team having no masters when it comes to readying one first time; and the talk is that he's improved since last year.
Talk is famously cheap, but the thing is Toronado probably doesn't have to improve on last year's form, as there don't look to be any others in here capable of running to his mark of 125 (adjusted down from 126 after that last day doing).
Toronado has five pounds in hand of the South African, Soft Falling Rain, and he has eight pounds and more on the rest. In other words, a combination of Toronado under-performing by half a stone and/or one of his rivals improving by the same amount, is required for him to be beaten. On paper, at least.
With plenty of prominent racers in the field - Glory Awaits, Mull Of Killough, and stablemate Producer (quite possibly as a pacemaker), this ought to be a true test, and I like Toronado to justify his short price.
Who will chase him home? Tullius has improved this season, despite now being six, and his hold up style could see him pass beaten pacier sorts late on. However, the French raider is the one for my forecast ticket. Anodin's trainer, Freddy Head, brought Goldikova ova (!) twice, to record a win and a second, and he clearly knows what is required to challenge for honours.
Anodin ran a very smart trial when running up to super Cirrus in THE French prep for this, the Prix d'Ispahan, and the 16/1 with BetVictor is surely too big.
Mike de Kock, trainer of Soft Falling Rain, is not too confident on his chance, though he has strong form in the book; and Verrazano, who could be very good, has to prove that he can win in this company on turf, having been a 'main track warrior' on dirt before shipping from the States to Ballydoyle.
Queen Anne Stakes Tips
Most likely winner: Toronado Evs PP
Best each way: Anodin 16/1 BetVictor
3.05 Coventry Stakes (Group 2) 6 Furlongs
Sixteen juveniles, most of them last time out winners, makes for a far tough puzzle than the opener, in theory.
Coventry Stakes trends
16 of the last 17 Coventry winners also won last time out, from just two-thirds of the runners.
Eight of the 19 favourites (including joint- or co-jollies) have won since 1997, for a 12.46 unit profit (though last year's winner was a 20/1 shot!)
Nine of the 17 winners in the review period had been off for a month and more, from just 26% of the runners
Perhaps interestingly, three of the six horses to have won over further than six furlongs last time out since 1997, won this. Including 20/1 Landseer and 20/1 Henrythenavigator. Case Statement, a 50/1 shot, is the only runner in this year's field to have won over seven last time.
Coventry Stakes form preview
This is almost always the best two year old race of the year to this point, and it often sees horses stepping up from five furlongs for the first time. The record of seven furlong winners dropping back in trip is remarkable, and attests to the relatively strong test of stamina this is for such young horses.
The favourite is War Envoy, who was beaten into third by re-opposing Kool Kompany, the pair split by a length or so. There is likely to again be little between them, and the form of that Naas Listed race is probably the best on show. But this will be a race won by an improving horse.
Clearly, after two and three runs respectively, War Envoy and Kool Kompany have claims. But with their respective abilities revealed - at least to some degree - they represent little value in an open looking contest (5/1 the field).
Against them, and of more interest to this punter, is The Wow Signal, trained by John Quinn. Bought by one of the Qatari's (Al Shaqab Racing), he was a nine length winner on his sole start. That was an Ayr maiden, and probably a nothing race, but a nine length win on debut is a nine length win on debut. The time of the race was nothing special, but he'll have plenty more to come with just one start to his name.
Adaay has won both his starts, both over six furlongs and with less than a length to spare on each occasion. It's hard to know what the form is worth and, with that race coming just two weeks ago, he may not have had a chance to improve too much in the interim.
Capella Sansevero is, like Kool Kompany, a thrice raced unbeaten colt. The middle victory was over six furlongs, where he looked extremely lucky to beat Dick Whittington, a horse I backed for this race. I'll be surprised and disappointed if he wins this, given that Dick's cat sent the pigeons scattering last Saturday rather than here. Capella looks to have more speed than stamina too, and may prove to be a precocious early type less effective beyond the minimum.
Justice Good is relatively exposed after four runs, and wouldn't have the improvement of some of these; and Portamento showed a real liking for soft last time, so unless it pelted down I'd be against his chance.
Dr No is the Hannon stable second string, and Hughesie doesn't tend to get it wrong often at this meeting. Still, this chap won well at Nottingham four weeks ago and could have improved since then. Meanwhile, Jungle Cat - thumped twenty lengths by The Wow Signal on debut - won by a couple at Goodwood on his second start. The runner up there, Sixty, has won since.
At the very bottom of the market, Prophesize won well for Noel Quinlan on his only start, and Quinlan told me he's come on a bundle since then. As a trainer who, with his brother, had both a Cheltenham Festival winner (Silk Affair) and a Royal Ascot winner (Langs Lash), that insight could be worth heeding.
And Case Statement is the only runner in the field that won over seven furlongs last time. That stat about winners at seven-eighths dropping back here is very interesting, and he too merits a shekel each way in a very open affair.
Coventry Stakes tips
Win selection: The Wow Signal 13/2 bet365
Two massive pokes each way: Case Statement 50/1 PP, Prophesize 50/1 BetVictor
3.45 King's Stand Stakes (Group 1) 5 Furlongs
The second Group 1 of the day is a sprint at the minimum trip, and it will be a ferocious pace throughout.
King's Stand Stakes Trends
The older horses usually hold sway, with twelve of the last seventeen winners aged five or above. 3yo/4yo's have a 3.33% strike rate (5/150) while older horses win at 7.2% (12/167 ). 5yo to 7yo's have won all dozen of those, so the really old horses can generally be ignored too. Hot Streak, the 9/2 favourite, is a 3yo.
Eight winners since 2000 have been trained outside of UK and Ireland, and that is highly noteworthy. Mike de Kock's Shea Shea looks a far more likely than the Joan Scott US turfer.
King's Stand Stakes form preview
An absolute burn up and one in which the late running Shea Shea was mown down by the even later running Sole Power twelve months ago. The de Kock runner was unlucky there, as he broke well clear of 'his side' of the field, only to be mugged on the wire by the isolated near side Sole Power.
This time, they're both drawn lowish, with Shea Shea in two and Sole Power in eight, of seventeen. There's early toe at both ends of the draw, and I'd expect they'll gravitate towards the middle.
It is perfectly possible that Hot Streak will cut out his own running but, as a three year old, I'd imagine something with more speed in the finish will run him down. The most likely contenders are last year's 1-2, with genuine good ground optimal for both of them. I think last year's runner up will go very close this year.
Two at bigger prices of mild interest are Guerre and Steps. The former is a lightly raced Ballydoyle colt, with two wins from his three career starts, most recently in Listed company over five on good ground. This is a big step up and he too is a three year old taking on elders, but his profile fits that of former three year old winners, Dominica and Mitcham, both of which were taking a leap of faith as well as class.
Steps ran a blinder having missed the break at Epsom last time and, over this more testing strip, could make the frame. He'll not be doing much early, but if he can avoid missing the kick like he did at Epsom, he'll have a shot at these.
King's Stand Tips
I respect the favourite, Hot Streak, but as a three year old front-runner against seasoned pro's in the older horse ranks, he's got his work cut out to justify fairly short odds. Against him, Shea Shea has the T-shirt and remains in top form.
Win selection: Shea Shea 5/1 BetVictor
Each way a pleasure: Steps 16/1 Stan James
Coral, bet365 and SkyBet are paying FOUR places on this race
4.25 St James's Palace Stakes (Group 1) 1 Mile
St James's Palace Stakes Trends
The favourite or joint-favourite has won this race in ten of the last seventeen years (56%) for a profit of 7.75 units
There's really very little else of value, in terms of whittling down the field. Most ran in a Group 1 last time - as did most of this field; most were top four last time out, as were most of this field; most with a rating were rated 115 or higher, as are most of this field...
St James's Palace Stakes Form Preview
Onto the round course for the second mile Group 1 of the afternoon, this time restricted to 3yo's. Night Of Thunder won the 2000 Guineas, and Kingman won the Irish 2000 Guineas. Both appear here, as do Toormore, highly touted prior to a flop in the Guineas; and War Command, super impressive winner of the Coventry here last year.
Night Of Thunder had been four and a half lengths behind a match fit Kingman in the Greenham, but he reversed the form to beat that one in the 2000 Guineas, and there were no hard luck stories for the runner up that day. Kingman then went to Ireland where he ran away with the Irish 2000 Guineas, putting five lengths between himself and the rest of the field. That was on soft to heavy ground, and it may have left its mark on Kingman.
Kingman has had three runs already this season to Night Of Thunder's two, and the latter has had a good rest since his Guineas win. The prices don't look quite right to me, with Kingman - no excuses in defeat at Newmarket - the 11/10 favourite, and Night Of Thunder as big as 11/4 in a place.
Of the rest, Toormore has a lot to prove after a moderate effort in the Guineas, and though Ryan Moore rides, he's deputizing for Richard Hughes whose allegiance has switched to Night Of Thunder. I doubt even Moore can get this one home.
War Command was three-quarters of a length behind Toormore at Newmarket, and both have been off since. Aidan O'Brien's colt was dazzling here in the Coventry last year, winning by six lengths. Alas, the form of that race is lamentable: just three horses have won four races between them since, and two of those were won by War Command. That is from a total of 67 subsequent runners!
Outstrip is one that could go well at a big price. He was off his game at Newmarket in the Guineas, sure enough, but 33/1 just has to be an over-reaction to that one sub-par effort, and the Appleby camp are making more confident noises now. He is after all the reigning Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf champ, and also beat The Grey Gatsby (subsequent winner of both the Dante Stakes and the French Derby) in a Doncaster Group 2 last autumn.
St James's Palace Stakes Tips
In what might turn out to be a match, I think Night Of Thunder is legitimate value against Kingman. And Outstrip could, well, outstrip his odds. It's just a pity there are only seven runners and, therefore, two places.
Value win bet: Night Of Thunder 5/2 PP
Each way sneak: Outstrip 33/1 general
5.00 Ascot Stakes (Class 2 Handicap) 2m4f
A twenty runner handicap, and one that normally goes to a relatively fancied runner.
Ascot Stakes trends
In fields that have been as big as 29, low to middle draws have been favoured, due to less traffic issues and less likelihood of having to go wide. That said, draw has been less important since the field size was pegged at twenty.
9/17 Ascot Stakes winners since 1997 won last time out, and 14 were in the top four last time.
Four- and five-year-olds have won thirteen of the seventeen renewals (76%) since 1997, from just 56% of the runners. Horses as old as eight have won.
Since the field size restriction, the race has become quite a compressed handicap (i.e. very little weight difference between the top and bottom weights). Consequently, those near the top of the weights have tended to do well.
Those with a trends profile to win this include Villa Royale, Sizzler, Perfect Heart, Gabrial's King, Agreement, and Brockwell.
Ascot Stakes form preview
Betting of 8/1 the field tells you what you need to know about this contest, and it's a brave or drunk punter that goes 'all in' here. More of the latter will be taking that tack, I suspect.
A horse with a midfield position and luck in running is good bet in this race, and I'd be more interested in the young bucks than the old boys. Two that fit the bill are Another Cocktail and Ray Ward.
Both are four-year-olds, both have track form, and both hail from yards in solid if unspectacular form. Another Cocktail represents Royal Ascot specialist, Hughie Morrison, and he ran a fine race on ground too quick to finish fifth of eighteen in the King George V Stakes at last year's meeting. Hewie knows how to get the job done - as per this post - and, though Another Cocktail is stepping up a whopping mile in trip (!), Hewie knows how to get the job done. And did I mention that Hewie knows how to get the job done?
Ray Ward also ran a fine race in defeat here, when staying on over two miles in the Queen's Vase. This extra half mile must be in his favour, as is the descent from Group 3 there to Class 2 here. Nicely campaigned over a mile and a half this season to look after the handicap mark (dropped eight pounds, thank you very much), Ray Ward must have a good chance.
Oisin Murphy legs up on Andrew Balding's Ballinderry Boy, and this fellow looks a legitimate favourite. Winner on soft over two miles here last October, he may not be 'thrown in' off 94, but should be good enough to get involved, especially if there's rain. A wide draw is not ideal, but nor is it a huge hindrance as touched on in the trends section above.
Despite blinking and looking away, Brockwell keeps catching my eye. He's a regular in these staying handicaps, and has a number of placed efforts to show for it. That probably means he's not handicapped to win one, but he ought again to run his race.
Waterclock was second in the Cesarewitch over two and a quarter miles on good to soft two starts back, and is only two pounds higher here. He ran poorly on his seasonal bow, and got dropped a pound for it. He does have to prove he acts here, but conditions look otherwise favourable, and he's tempting at 33/1 generally.
There are, as always in the handicaps, lots of other that I probably haven't mentioned, but I'll be selecting from the above.
Ascot Stakes Tips
Tentative selection: Ray Ward 12/1 PP
Each way if he stays: Another Cocktail 25/1 Ladbrokes
Big'uns to consider: Brockwell 18/1 BetVictor / Waterclock 33/1 bet365
5.35 Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed) 5 Furlongs
Windsor Castle Stakes Trends
13/17 winners ran in the last month
15/17 winners had one or no wins at the distance
Windsor Castle Stakes form preview
This is a race where horses have stepped forward significantly on form in the book, and the same is likely to be true again this year. I'm really struggling to get a toehold in the race, and any comments which follow are offered in that context.
Wesley Ward loves to bring speedsters over from America, and he runs Hootenanny for 'The Lads' here. A winner on his first start, he ran only third last time out. Both those runs were on the dirt, and the defeat was on a muddy track which he may have not acted on (plenty don't). Given the trainer's record - won this with 33/1 Strike The Tiger in 2009 - Hootenanny is respected. One thing is for sure: there's unlikely to be a quicker horse from the starting stalls.
David Elsworth's Merdon Castle's form ties in closely with Kool Kompany, who may frank that form in the Coventry. Either way, Merdon Castle has been kept fresh for this and may well have improved since his last public airing 29 days ago.
He shares favouritism with Mind Of Madness, another looking for a form boost via the Coventry, this time on a line through Adaay. He looked smart at Newmarket when thumping Brocklesby winner, Abscent Friends, et al, and the drop back to five furlongs could see him make a bold bid.
Of the piggies, Commander Patten is remotely interesting. A maiden after two starts - four Windsor Castle winners since 1997 were maidens coming into the race, but none since 2008 - he steps back from six to five, having run out of puff both times in the last half furlong in Newmarket maidens. He could run better than a 50/1 shot.
Windsor Castle Stakes Tips
I'm loathe to 'tip' anthing in this race, and a most tentative pick is Hootenanny, who can be forgiven a flop in the slop last time.
Tentative suggestion: Hootenanny 7/1 Betfair sportsbook
Big priced pig in a poke: Commander Patten 40/1 BetVictor
bet365, SkyBet, Ladbrokes, SportingBet, PP, and Betfair Sportsbook all FOUR places on this race
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