Tag Archive for: Coventry Stakes 2022 tips

Royal Ascot 2022: Tuesday (Day 1) Preview, Tips

Barely has the dust settled on Desert Crown's Derby and racing's roadshow is hotfooting it thirty miles west northwest to Berkshire's jewel in the crown for day one of Royal Ascot 2022. Just ten days separate the fourth British Classic of the season and the Royal meeting this year, so it's a tight turnaround for those with intent to race at both fixtures. That means we won't see too many, outside of handicap and perhaps juvenile company, backing up.

To Tuesday, day one of the Royal Ascot meeting, and a sumptuous opening stanza which takes in a trio of Group 1's as well as the first two-year-old Group 2 of the season. And we get underway with an emerging superstar in the...

2.30 Queen Anne Stakes (1m, Group 1, 4yo+)

A straight track mile that takes a lot of getting. This year, the race is set to be blessed (and also kind of cursed) by the presence of Baaeed, unbeaten in seven, the last three of which have come in Group 1 races. He's a bona fide star turn and has been mentioned already in the same breath as the mighty Frankel. That champion, who is now marking the breed with his progeny, claimed Queen Anne glory ten years ago so how fitting it would be if another champion is crowned a decade later.

Baaeed's credentials are impeccable: unraced as a two-year-old, the William Haggas-trained son of Sea The Stars made his debut just a year and a week ago. Since then, he's stopped at most floors in the lift, from Leicester maiden winner via Newmarket novice and then Listed to a withering dismantling of a Group 3 field at Glorious Goodwood. Thereafter, it's been G1 scores all the way, first in the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp, then the QEII Stakes on Champions Day here at Ascot, and finally, on his seasonal bow this term, in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

Baaeed has progressed with every British start and is entitled to again step forward from his first spin of the year. For all that "it's a horse race and anything can happen", it seems incredibly likely that Baaeed will underline his global dominance in the mile division. There are many worse 2/7 shots than him.

The reference to Baaeed being a curse on the race is only insofar as he's scared off a lot of potential rivals; though, in truth, he doesn't really have any as far as I can see. If you don't fancy betting a near certainty (sooo much is implied in that little word, 'near') then how else to approach the puzzle?

It's worth knowing that tote World Pool is in play at Royal Ascot this week. That means there will be Hong Kong, US, and Australian dollars in the same pools as Blighty sterling (and Irish and French euros); what that means is massive liquidity and potentially tasty dividends. On a race like the Queen Anne, the swinger (predict two of the first three home) will have a huge pool with, unsurprisingly, a large majority going through Baaeed and a n other. Exactas are another play, though the quinella (equivalent of the old dual forecast - first and second in either order) will see a more liquid pool. Trifectas will be there for the emboldened, as will multi-race pools like the jackpot and placepot, where Baaeed looks 'single'/banker material.

An alternative to each way, which isn't too smart a play here if you - like me - think the jolly has every chance of winning, is betting without the favourite. That offers a win (and each way) market on the rest of the field. In that context, the most interesting horse may again be Real World. He progressed out of Ascot handicaps into Group races and was a course and distance winner in last year's Royal Hunt Cup; he also got closest to Baaeed last time. It's worth bearing in mind that Real World has actually had fewer turf races than Baaeed - just six to date - and his form on the lawn is 111112. He looks with the 'without' play for all that a shade better than evens is still unstimulating.

Order Of Australia and Chindit are not impossible for second: the former was a winner at the 2020 Breeders' Cup (mile, firm, turning track) and was second to Baaeed at Longchamp last September; the latter was behind Baaeed and Real World at Newbury but has winning straight track Pattern form. This looks a curious spot for the mare, Lights On, who had other - presumed (by me, at least) better - options during the week. Third place is Group 1 black type, I guess, and that's a compelling proposition for a well-bred Cheveley Park broodmare of the future. Old friends Accidental Agent and Sir Busker will have their supporters, too, but there would need to be some fairly serious under-performances for either to get closest to the favourite.

3.05 Coventry Stakes (6f, Group 2, 2yo)

The first juvenile race of the week is the six furlong Coventry Stakes, a Group 2. The Coventry has been an excellent race for the top of the market, with 21 favourites or joint-favourites taking the main honours in the 45-year history of the race; and that roughly 50% strike rate has been reflected in the recent past, too, with four jollies (2/1, 15/8, 13/8 and 5/1jf) interspersed with scorers at 11/1 twice, 6/1 and... 150/1! That Nando Parrado shocker aside, bombs are rare: the only other two to prevail at 20/1+ since the mighty Chief Singer stunned the establishment on debut in 1983 were both trained by Aidan O'Brien.

The market was shaken a touch when ante post favourite Noble Style was scratched at final declaration stage after "unsatisfactory blood results". That's a pity for the race, but a boon to those who have backed something else! Especially so if they have looked to Ballydoyle, who run Blackbeard,  the horse to inherit favouritism and now as short as 5/2 in a big field. His form in winning all three starts - a Dundalk maiden followed by Listed and then Group 3 scores at the Curragh - has been as progressive as it sounds and he is a very obvious contender with stamina assured. Indeed, the extra furlong of the 6f G3 Marble Hill last time saw Blackbeard run away from his field with more than three lengths to the second.

Aidan also saddles Age Of Kings, whose two runs to date - second on debut, four length winner 13 days ago - have less lustre to them at this stage; but he was mightily impressive when leading all the way before stretching clear by four lengths last time, and early trading implies he's going well at home since. Frankie picks up the ride.

The main market rival to Blackbeard is Persian Force, who was the first juvenile winner in Britain in 2022, winning the Brocklesby Stakes on the opening day of the season. That was impressive, and the form has more substance than is often the case; he went on to win a hot little three-runner event at Newbury over six and looks sure to step forward again. The second at Newbury, Holguin, re-opposes and may be better suited by rating behind horses than his from-the-front style there. Whether he's sufficiently better suited to reverse the form with Persian Force, still more beat the rest of this field, is another cauldron of kedgeree entirely.

Archie Watson introduced a smart colt by the name of Bradsell at York a little over three weeks ago. Sent off the 9/4 favourite, he won that eleven-runner Class 3 novice by nine lengths! The turf was easier than it will be in the Coventry and he's a little less experienced than most, but it was a visually stunning debut. Talking of stunning visuals, I thought Royal Scotsman's procession in a Goodwood novice was top class. It's difficult at this stage to know what he beat - though the 40/1 fourth has come out and won comfortably on his sole start since, from two in the race to go again - but he could not have done it better. That beaten 40/1 fourth was Show Respect, who was impressive enough in his own right on second start to earn a rematch. Royal Scotsman could be an each way play.

We're all guessing in races like these, though some of those lads and lasses with stopwatches are better guessers than many without. Blackbeard has shown comfortably the most to date, but he has also had more chances to express himself than his rivals. I backed him a while back at 5/1 (I know, yay, go me) and can't get excited about his current price when faced with so many primed to bound beyond their form in the book. Two worth a look each way - extra places if/where you can get them - are 8/1 Bradsell and 10/1 Royal Scotsman. Both were wide margin winners prior to turning up here, neither has run more than twice. A very interesting, if somewhat inscrutable, race in prospect.

3.40 King's Stand Stakes (5f, Group 1, 3yo+)

The second Group 1 of the day/week, this time featuring the fastest horses in Europe and a smattering of speedsters from across the globe. Fun fact: apparently, the original Queen's Stand Plate was run over two miles but, when rain rendered the round course unraceable in 1860, the event was run as a four-furlong dash up the straight. It was thereafter run as the five furlong contest we know now, and renamed the King's Stand Stakes upon King Edward VII's accession in 1901. Oddly, it did not revert to the Queen's Stand Stakes in 1952 when Her Majesty took on the big chair.

Since the turn of the century, the prize has gone abroad a whopping eleven times, only two of which were to Ireland - both to the little heralded stable of Edward Lynam (Sole Power). Other nations laying claim to King's Stand gongs are Australia (four times between 2003 and 2009), France (twice, 2000 and 2005), Spain (Equiano, 2008), Hong Kong (2012) and USA, courtesy, of course, of Wesley Ward (2017, Lady Aurelia).

Only two of the raiders - the second half of the Aussie quartet, when such runners were in high fashion - were sent off favourite. Indeed, the most recent Aus winner, Scenic Blast in 2009, was the second most recent obliging jolly, joined in 2020 by Battaash. Moreover, the rapid Bat and the two antipodean dashers aside, we must hark all the way back to lightning Lochsong in 1994 (ridden by a chap called Lanfranco Dettori, whatever happened to him?) to find the fourth most recent winning market leader. Quirky, or indicative of the depth of competition? A bit of both, probs.

And yet... only 20/1 Goldream in 2015 and the Hong Kong raider Little Bridge (12/1) returned a double figure price since 2003. Confused? Don't be, here's the summary: shocks are rare but be prepared to long beyond the bleedin' obvious; and don't overlook the less familiar names in the line up.

Overlaying that market-based stroll through history onto this term's entries points in the direction of Wesley's Golden Pal and aging Aussie rocker, Nature Strip. Golden Pal may be trained by Wes but he's owned by the Coolmore collective and he's licketty-quick. Chinned on the line in the 2020 Norfolk over this same five, he won three on the bounce around a bend Stateside (including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint) before returning for a more comprehensive straight track defeat in the Group 1 Nunthorpe of 2021. There have been a further three unbeaten starts back in the US of A, including the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, two of them over an extra half furlong, but all around a bend.

Golden Pal almost always leads and his speed from the gate in turning sprints is a massive asset. It is still an asset in straight track sprints but the absence of a bend requires a horse to maintain top gear throughout: hitherto, GP has not been able to win in such context and Ascot's stiff finishing drag will again test his mettle to the full.

So, too, will Nature Strip. He's a winner of 20 of his 37 races - according to Racing Post - and has accrued nigh on ten million of your British pounds during that time. Actually, it was probably more like twenty million of their Australian dollars, but you know what I mean. This is a first overseas jaunt, at the age of seven, which is a question mark for all that it failed to stop those earlier mentioned compatriots back yon.

In all, Nature Strip has won eight Group 1's as well as the ungraded Everest, worth a cool near-four million sterling to the winner. There is a lot to like about him, but there are also a couple of question marks, namely run style and trip. Let's take them in that order.

On run style, Chris Waller's charge likes to go forward, an approach that would potentially see him lock horns with Golden Pal. However, he's multi-dimensional - and has had to be, having missed the kick twice in his last three starts. His speed has got him out of jail in one of those slovenly beginnings but that was over six furlongs on heavy...

...which leads me onto trip. The form book suggests that as Nature Strip has aged he has appreciated that extra furlong increasingly. Since moving to Waller in 2019, he's run nine times at a flat five furlongs with the form string 4141212123. At five and a half furlongs, he's gone 1012; and at six panels he's 44114721111. Notice how in recent times there have been fewer 1's in the five furlong string and more in the six furlong array.

It's also worth noting that Nature Strip, who has a massive reputation, has been beaten three times at 6/5 or shorter in his last six races. My feeling is that Nature Strip won't be quite fast enough and that Golden Pal might be susceptible in the finish to a proper five furlong horse with a late rattle. At least, that's how I want to play it wager wise, fully appreciative that egg may finish on face. Let's consider who might fit the bill from the domestic ranks.

In that context, it might be worth taking a chance on Winter Power. Yes, she was whacked by King's Lynn et al in the G2 Temple Stakes last time; but that was unquestionably a prep race for this - connections related as much at the time. And yes, she was whacked in this a year ago when far too free-going in the early fractions. Still, she fits the prominent-but-not-in-the-white-heat-of-battle-confirmed-five-furlonger profile to a nicety - in fifteen starts, she's raced exclusively at the minimum - and, as a Group 1 winner last season (Nunthorpe, York, good to firm) she's a square price about which to take a small chance.

King's Lynn, winner of that Temple Stakes last time, was midfield in this a year ago and seems to have improved a fraction since though perhaps not quite enough to pass all-comers. The Temple has been a waypoint en route to King's Stand glory for seven winners since 1997, a possible further boon to King's Lynn and Winter Power, and also to Twilight Calls, and more speculatively Arecibo, Mondammej and Existent. King's Lynn, owned by The Queen, would be a Royal Group 1 winner in Platinum Jubilee year - ridden by a geegeez-sponsored jockey. Now wouldn't that be marvellous?

It is tricky, for me at least, to make much of a case for the last named trio but Twilight Calls would have beaten King's Lynn in another stride or two at Haydock and looks quietly progressive. A late runner, he'll be doing his best work in the final fifth of the race where the subtle elevation to the line will also suit. He does have a bit to find on ratings.

Khaadem may be worth more than a cursory squint, too. Trained by Charlie 'Battaash' Hills, this six-year-old is a veteran of 22 races. His age group have a terrific record in the race (more generally, five-year-olds and up have won 17 of the last 25 renewals at a 7.2% hit rate, compared with 3/4yo's who have won eight at a 4% strike rate), and in spite of his overall level of exposure he's a latecomer to the minimum trip. His five furlong debut was last September when he won the Listed Scarborough Stakes at Doncaster. That was followed by a very poor showing in a Newbury Group 3 on his eighth start of the year - over the top, maybe? - and another flat effort at Meydan (jockey said horse was fractious in the gate and never travelling). He put those disappointments behind him when running an unconventional pseudo-solo in the Palace House Stakes (G3) at Newmarket making it two from four at the trip.

Lots in with chances, so no more than a wild stab in the dark is Winter Power at 20/1 to come back to her Nunthorpe level of form. I can't resist a chip each way Khaadem at 20/1+ either.

4.20 St James's Palace Stakes (1m, Group 1, 3yo)

The third and final Group 1 on the opening day is a mile race on the round course for three-year-olds. It offers a chance to assess the collateral form of the various European Guineas as combatants from Newmarket, the Curragh, and often further afield, lock horns.

This year, Coroebus, the 2000 Guineas winner (Newmarket), is odds on to double up, as Poetic Flare did last year, and Frankel did a decade before him, along with 13 other horses going back to Tudor Minstrel in 1947. Is he as unopposable as Baaeed earlier in the day? Well, no, though he may very well still win. Where Baaeed has few unanswered questions, Coroebus leaves home turf for the first time, his quartet of runs hitherto all taking place on the Newmarket tracks alongside his stables. That means they've all been on straight tracks, too, and wide open ones at that; in his most recent pair of races, Coroebus has been waited with, a tactic that has frequently backfired down the short straight on Ascot's round course.

Naturally, none of this will be lost on his jockey, William Buick, who reunites after James Doyle piloted that 2000 Guineas triumph; but the fact that the St James's Palace Stakes can be a tactical race needs factoring into wagering considerations.

Against him are a couple of unexposed William Haggas-trained colts, between them unbeaten in five three-year-old spins. Shorter in the market is My Prospero, a big field Newbury maiden winner prior to notable progression when taking out the Listed Heron Stakes at Sandown four weeks ago. This is a big jump up in class again but market confidence suggests he is ready for it.

The second string to the Haggas bow is Maljoom, unbeaten in three career starts, all this season, and most recently seen taking out the Group 2 Mehl-Mulhens-Rennen, or German 2000 Guineas to you and me. That was a taking effort though a literal translation of the form is even more beyond my capabilities than a literal translation of the race title. Both are lightly raced and thus entitled to show us more than they have to date, a comment which applies to the favourite as well, although he's run once more than the Haggas pair.

There doesn't appear to be a huge amount of depth to the 2022 St James's Palace Stakes, though New Energy, second in the Irish 2000 Guineas, is a credible representative for that form line. That was a career best behind Native Trail, himself previously just behind Coroebus in the Newmarket version, but not obviously a fluke.

In the unlikely event that the heavens opened, Angel Bleu might come into each way (or without the favourite) calculations: since outclassing a novice field all of his four subsequent wins, including in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere and the Group 1 Criterium International last October, have been with plenty of juice in the turf. He's perfectly entitled to have needed his first run of the campaign, and this furlong longer range is also in his favour. As a dual G1 winner, he's not impossible for the frame, especially if it rains.

John & Thady train Mighty Ulysses, a son of - you know it - who is stepping out of handicap company into a Group 1. Not only that but he was beaten in the handicap. Connections are obviously respected but this seems a trifle ambitious, without knowing what MU may have been showing on the gallops. There has been a smidge of each way cash for the likes of Lusail (has he trained on?), Aikhal (is Aidan's sole dart remotely good enough?) and Mighty Ulysses (see above) but I'm struggling to see their cases aside from all being open to further progression.

Coroebus has been terribly weak in the betting for no obvious reason that I'm aware of. His uneasiness has seen cash for four or five of his rivals all bar one of whom need to find seven pounds and more, assuming the favourite doesn't improve again himself. The one exception is 40/1 Angel Bleu so, while he'd definitely be more playable on easier ground (my hope is Chris Stickels, clerk of the course, has put on plenty of water ahead of the first day), his price is attractive each way to some degree and especially in the without market, also each way, where he's a 16/1 chance.

5.00 Ascot Stakes (2m4f, Class 2, 4yo+ Handicap)

The race which brings jumps trainers out in their morning suits! In fairness, most winning trainers of recent years have been dual purpose rather than mainly National Hunt, with the dominant player over the past decade that man Mullins, WP. He's won four of the last ten, but none of the last three, during which time Ian Williams has won two! With Charles Byrnes and Jarlath Fahey also getting on the Ascot Stakes roll of honour in recent times, it's been a very good race for the Irish, prior to Williams' brace, which was itself interloped by a single for Alan King.

Last year's 66/1 bomb Reshoun is Williams' sole entry this year and the wily handler has managed this one's mark back to the same number it was twelve months prior. Nevertheless, he was a shock then - with a dream trip and a kind draw - and he's no bargain now, especially from trap 19.

Willie Mullins also relies on just the one, Bring On The Night. He did all his flat racing in France at up to a mile and a half but was classy enough to run fourth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, albeit in a different post code to Constitution Hill. Ryan Moore is booked - he's been on three of Willie's four Ascot Stakes winners, the pair's full record in the race reading 1171422 - and these facts make him one of the favourites and a very obvious win contender.

The 'other Irish' angle looks in play courtesy of John Queally's Arcadian Sunrise. Eight now, this hard knocker was fourth in the Chester Cup last time despite not getting the clearest of runs, and he won a valuable York handicap last summer, as well as handicap hurdles at Punchestown (non-Festival) and Galway (Festival). He looks well up to this task and 9/1 is a fair enough price especially with extra places for each way players. Promising apprentice Harry Davies takes off a welcome five pounds.

Gordon Elliott saddles the big steamer in the market in the form of Pied Piper who evolved into a smart juvenile hurdler this past spring. He may yet have more to offer on the flat, too, though Elliott's trio of prior runners in the Ascot Stakes finished no better than 8th, two of them at 8/1. From a poetic perspective, it's a pity that Pied Piper is not a front runner; alas, he was often a hold up horse over hurdles, and Jamie Spencer has been booked to ride. So if you fancy this one, you know the type of transit you'll be watching - caveat emptor and all that.

Pied Piper's former trainer, John (and Thady) Gosden, brings his Marshall Plan to the table. No, not the European Recovery Program but, rather, as you'd expect, a horse of the same name and, to be steered by Frankie, he's popular in the early betting. But most of his best form has come on artificial surfaces, where he was last seen running up to Earlofthecotswolds in the valuable All Weather Championships Marathon event. Three turf spins last year produced heavy defeats in the Melrose Handicap and the Old Rowley Cup either side of a more promising second at Yarmouth. Given his better form is on the all-weather and his propensity for finishing second - the position he's occupied in five of twelve career starts, compared with a solitary victory - he's not a win proposition, not for me, at any rate.

Gary Moore had Goshen entered up but instead relies on Make My Day, in the same ownership. He's run second in a couple of two mile Class 3 handicaps this season and wouldn't have to improve too much for the step up in trip to be competitive. Having incurred two absences of longer than a year apiece, however, he's clearly had some challenges along the way.

Seven hundred more with a chance!

I backed Arcadian Sunrise after I first looked at the race and I'm not inclined to change tack now. He is a hardy bloke, has form in similar races and his rider's allowance makes him fairly well handicapped. I never expect to back the winner of Royal Ascot handicaps, though it has very occasionally happened!

5.35 Wolferton Stakes (1m2f, Listed, 4yo+)

Inaugurated in 2002, the Wolferton was a handicap until 2017 since when it has become a conditions race. Its most notable winner in recent times was 2019 scorer Addeybb who, now eight years old, was entered once more. In fact, I played ante post on him as the conditions of the race set up so well for him but, annoyingly, William Haggas has sidestepped this engagement. Sigh. Still, there are 16 horses who did stand their ground so perhaps we ought to crack on with a few of those.

One thing I noticed was that in the four renewals since the Wolferton became a conditions race (tiny sample size alert), all four winners were geldings; and they also accounted for eight of the twelve placed positions. Although the placed component is only in line with numerical representation (67% of the places from 64% of the runners), I feel (questionable perception alert) that if you have a potential stallion prospect you probably want to point it at a different race: the Wolferton is not palmarès-enhancing in that respect.

Granted, this is a fairly tenuous - OK, extremely tenuous - going in position, but when I share that eleven of the 16 are rated between 109 and 111 - the other five being 103, 104, 107, 108 and 112 - it soon becomes evident that tenuous is as good as it gets hereabouts.

Last year's surprise 14/1 winner, Juan Elcano, is back to defend his crown after a pleasing enough seasonal introduction at Sandown in April. There, he was last of three in the G3 Gordon Richards Stakes; but this gig will have been front of mind that day. He clearly handles this setup and has run with merit in better class in between times.

Irish raider Cadillac was a striking winner last time in Listed grade over nine furlongs. The extra eighth allied to the extra three pounds he gets as a penalty are not certain to favour Jessica Harrington's runner though he did win a G3 over ten furlongs at the Curragh this time last year, for which he is unpenalised due to the specific conditions of this contest. He's a colt and, my quack argument goes, might have pointed at something more ambitious. As good as he looked last time, he'd looked less upwardly mobile a number of times prior.

Having made a case for geldings, the one I'd side with if I had to have a bet (I don't, obviously, but probably will anyway - cup of tea stakes, natch) is the sole filly in the field, Aristia. She's only the second filly to line up since the conditions change in 2018, the other one, Magic Wand, finishing second in 2019.

There's a little more to her case than that: if you buy into the purity of pounds and lengths, she comes out top after her five pound sex allowance is accommodated. Moreover, she won a Listed race over this trip last July (good to firm) just a month before she'd have been penalised 3lb for so doing. Put another way, three of her similarly rated rivals lug eight pounds more as a result of gender and more recent Listed success.

This is Aristia's second run of the season having opened with a fine half length second in the Group 2 Middleton at York: if she'd finished half a length further forward, she wouldn't even have qualified for the Wolferton, which is not open to G1 or G2 winners since the previous September. She's 25/1 and, while I don't especially love her double-digit stall - she has got tactical speed to get a position as she showed when leading in a smaller field in the Middleton - I think she's probably worth a tiny tenuous tickle with ten (or as many as you can locate) places.

It's a very open race and there's a better than 68.2% chance I haven't mentioned the winner.

6.10 Copper Horse Stakes (1m6f, Class 2 Handicap, 4yo+)

A late start and seven races means a late finish, especially given the extended race distance of the Copper Horse Stakes. The scheduled off time is ten past six, though with minor delays through the afternoon, this race is more likely to finish after twenty past six. Never mind. The first two renewals of the Copper Horse Handicap have elicited a winning favourite and a 33/1 score.

I haven't really got any idea here, as evidenced by the fact that neither of my two small stakes ante post flyers will line up.

Cleveland is a very obvious and plausible favourite for Aidan, Ryan and the lads. Beautifully bred and lightly raced, he improved plenty for a nine furlong (!) step up in trip in the Chester Cup. Dropping back three-eighths ought not to be an inconvenience and there's every likelihood we've yet to see his pinnacle.

I had a quick look at Class 2 flat turf handicaps over a trip (1m5f+) since 2018 and, of those trainers with more than ten such qualifiers, two to catch the eye (and with Copper Horse runners) were Charlie Appleby - shock, horror - and Hughie Morrison. Charlie saddles the punted Bandinelli, winner of four of his last six; the son of Dubawi out of a Singspiel mare - nice - has risen 13lb for that, and ran no race at all when last seen. But he stays well, handles fast ground, is/was progressive and is trained by one of the best on the planet.

Trained by one of the shrewdest on the planet is Not So Sleepy, a horse with plenty of characteristics, not all of them good. Hughie Morrison has campaigned the now ten-year-old phenomenally to win nine of his 56 starts including three two-mile handicap hurdles at Ascot (two of them Graded), a dead heat in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle last jumps season and, on the level, wins at the Chester May meeting (Dee Stakes, Listed), Epsom's Derby meeting and, erm, Ponte Carlo. I love this lad, plain and simple; the concern here - quite apart from whether he's good enough - is whether the ground is too firm: almost all Not So Sleepy's best efforts have come with give.

One more to mention, at a massive price, is Raymond Tusk. He, too, has been a bit of a legend for connections even if only winning four of 28 career starts. In that time, he's amassed £325,000 in prize money, and has been generally consistent across five seasons. He began his 2022 flat campaign with easy victory in a mile and a half conditions race at Doncaster before taking silver in the Group 3 John Porter. Upped to Group 2 on his subsequent and most recent outing, he clunked in a small field, a performance which - at the prices - I'm happy to overlook. I don't love his car park draw, for all that jockey Martin Harley will have plenty of time to get a position, but I think he's a bit of value without being anything remotely akin to the most likely winner. At 33/1, Raymond Tusk will do for me, each way, with a small win saver on 3/1 Cleveland.

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And so endeth a bumper yomp through the form of day one of Royal Ascot 2022. I'm playing mainly small on a number of big priced horses and fully expect to be below the line after the first seven races; if you feel inclined to follow my lead through any part, be mindful of those words! It's an opening day long on quality and, in the main, quantity, too. Should be a cracker. Hallelujah!

Be lucky.

Matt