Royal Ascot Day 1 Tips and Race-by-Race Selections
Guide to the first day of the 2019 Royal Ascot Festival meeting, and race-by-race selections and best bets for a top-class afternoon.
The opening day of the 2019 Royal Ascot Festival meeting gets underway on Tuesday, and a top-class six-race card features no less than three Group One contests with the Queen Anne Stakes joined on the agenda by both the King’s Stand Stakes and the St James’s Palace Stakes.
2:30 – Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series)
Original selection Zabeel Prince misses out, so the pick for the Royal Ascot opener switches to Karl Burke’s LAURENS who should strip fitter for her recent defeat behind the reopposing Mustashry in the Lockinge Stakes. The Siyouni filly progressed at a rate of knots last campaign, winning four Group Ones which included defeats of Alpha Centauri and Happily to win the Matron Stakes and Sun Chariot Stakes respectively prior to finishing down the field in the QEII Stakes over course and distance on Champions Day. That run might have been a case of one run too many, while the soft ground wouldn’t have been to her liking and she can be excused that outing. She travelled powerfully for a long way at Newbury on her reappearance, but lack of a previous run told towards the end and she couldn’t match the winner who had had the benefit of an earlier outing. She kept on well though to hold off Accidental Agent – who won this race twelve months ago – and she ought be much sharper now with a run under her belt. The drying ground will be in her favour, and she has won on good-to-soft ground previously so there ought not to be any concerns over the ground; she can build on her reappearance to get back on the scoresheet here.
It was hard not to have been impressed by the way GUILDSMAN travelled through his debut outing at Goodwood earlier in the month, overcoming a slow start to win impressively having put the race to bed in a matter of strides when going to the front two furlongs out. Archie Watson’s charge pulled readily clear of Dark Kris, scoring by six lengths, and the runner-up had five lengths between him and the third but he in turn proved no match for a very impressive winner. The form of course perhaps isn’t particularly strong compared to that of some of his rivals, but he could only beat what was put up against him and the Wootton Bassett colt did the job in decisive fashion. Likely to improve markedly for that initial experience, he can step up here taking a marked rise in class, and he looks a good prospect who can go close for his shrewd yard and title-chasing Oisin Murphy who takes the ride.
The first three horses home in the 2018 renewal could all square off again, and BLUE POINT is taken to successfully defend the crown he won twelve months ago, beating Battash and Mabs Cross for top honours. Godolphin’s Shamardal entire ran out a two lengths winner on his first start following a short break, having failed to fire when contesting the Group One Chairman’s Sprint at Sha Tin in April; he had finished runner-up the time before behind Ertijaal in the Meydan Sprint back in February prior to that Royal Ascot success. Things didn’t go to plan in two subsequent outings for Charlie Appleby’s star sprinter, and he could only finish seventh in that season’s July Cup behind US Navy Flag, and third to Alpha Delfini and Mabs Cross in the Nunthorpe although perhaps being drawn away from the pace didn’t help his cause on that occasion. He went 3-3 at Meydan Having wintered in Dubai, culminating in a defeat of Belvoir Bay to win the Al Quoz Sprint, and he will return to Royal Ascot to defend his crown as a fresh horse having not been seen since. He has a very decent record when fresh, and he is 3-4 at Ascot with his sole defeat at the Berkshire venue coming behind Caravaggio in the 2017 Commonwealth Cup. The drying ground will be in his favour and it isn’t hard to see him posting a big effort in defence of his crown; he can confirm last season’s winning run with Battash and Mabs Cross who can follow him home again.
The John Gosden yard has won two of the last five renewals of this race, and while Too Darn Hot is the stable’s main hope to win this prize, it could transpire than another of the stable’s runners in KING OF COMEDY could have the last laugh on his Classic rivals. The Kingman colt is 3-4 in his career, winning on debut at Sandown and then finding only one too strong next time at Redcar where he might have been inconvenienced by the soft ground behind I Could Do Better in the Two-year Old Trophy. A winner at Yarmouth on his reappearance, beating Land Of Legends, he improved for the run to win a Sandown Listed contest in good fashion from Roseman although he still looked to be in need of the experience given how he carried his head under pressure and he looked awkward. That field also included the likes of the well-regarded Sangarius from Sir Michael Stoute’s yard, and Walkinthesand from the Richard Hannon camp so while the form may not quite prove up to Classic standard, it was nontheless a strong performance from the three-year old given he still looked very immature. He can only continue to improve for more experience, and he could prove to be a potentially top-class prospect in time. Of course, he has to raise his game again stepping up from a Listed contest to a white-hot Group One contest against his stablemate and the likes of Phoenix Of Spain; but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him find more for his top yard and further progression could well see him firmly in the mix for this top prize.
A competitive long-distance handicap contest for punters to mull over, and COEUR DE LION earns the vote to better his sixth place finish in the race twelve months ago. Alan King’s Pour Moi gelding was a dual-winning hurdler during the 2016/17 jumps season; but he has proven himself a useful stayer on the flat, winning at Nottingham and finishing runner-up to Who Dares Wins in the 2017 Cesarewitch Trial. Winless in 2018 aside from a victory at Southwell in February, he finished sixth in this race twelve months ago having found only one too good the time before in starts at Newbury and Chester; subsequently third back at Newbury, he ran better than the result behind runaway winner Lil Rockerfeller at Goodwood although later runs in both the Cesarewitch Trial and Cesarewitch proper were a shade disappointing. Given a break, he has returned in good heart with another silver medal finish at Newbury on his return prior to going one better with an impressive defeat of Suegioo at Chester under this rider to take the Chester Plate, scoring by five lengths. 2lbs higher here than when finishing sixth in the race twelve months ago, he has the services of a very good 5lbs claimer whose allowance could prove crucial to his chances, and he ought not to be inconvenienced by the drying ground although the more testing the better it would be for him. He can go well nonetheless, and no surprise to see him getting involved for all he may just need a shade more.
MOUNTAIN ANGEL continued his progression and love affair with Epsom when making it 2-2 for the season with a win at the Surrey track on Derby Day, beating Jazeel. Roger Varian’s charge can find another jolt of improvement to extend his unbeaten run to three. The Dark Angel gelding boasts winning form at this venue also, taking an apprentices’ handicap over one mile here last May, after which he made the frame in four of his next five starts which include runner-up efforts at Sandown and Newbury respectively. Given six months off after disappointing on his final outing at York in October, he has returned in rude health to readily see off Aquarium at Epsom in April prior to that latest success. A further 5lbs rise in the weights makes like tougher, and while regular rider Andrea Atzeni has been claimed by his retained owner to partner Willie John in the race, trainer Roger Varian has wasted no time in snapping up title-chasing Oisin Murphy to deputise. With the potential for further improvement to come, he looks worth chancing to continue his progression and he can strike again here with the conditions of the race likely to suit.