At the risk of upsetting a few of the more religious readers, Christ on a bike that was a struggle. Day One of Royal Ascot 2019 was a wash out both literally and figuratively with some half decent runs from my suggestions without once hitting the bullseye and rain for half or more of the afternoon making the going considerably worse than the official description of Good (for races one to five), and far more tiring for the speed horses aimed here all season.
One winning favourite from the first six races sees the punters on the ropes awaiting a knockout blow from the bookmakers. Even though I was looking for each-way alternatives I still fell far short of my own lofty expectations and the wind has been taken out of my sails, sigh, again.
The fact that Circus Maximus took the St James’s Palace Stakes tells its own story as far as I am concerned with his two previous career wins a Gowran park maiden on heavy and the Dee Stakes at Chester on Good to Soft and it may well be even worse by today and that needs to be taken in to serious consideration.
Back to the business end and another six high class contests to try and predict starting with the Queen Mary Stakes over the fast five furlongs at 2.30pm.
“Just” the twenty-seven runners now that Good Vibes has been ruled out and luck in running will be needed for those attacking from the back of the field leading me to suggest the Saeed Bin Suroor trained Final Song. A daughter of Dark Angel she won her only start to date at over this course and distance - tick - on soft ground - tick - and better still after making all the running - big tick- and if she can either slip this field or at least sit near the pace, she should go well and allows us to start with what looks on paper to be a sensible bet.
From five furlongs to a mile and three-quarters next and quite a stamina test on this ground for these three-year-old's.
The Aidan O’Brien team head the market after their wins here yesterday and although they do not look bullet-proof, the stable have won this race in three of the last four years and know exactly the sort needed. Ryan Moore’s pick appears to be Norway who has form on a softer surface, unlike stable companion Western Australia and can easily be forgiven his last run when part of the tactical team in the Epsom Derby won by stablemate Anthony Van Dyck.
Second in the Chester Vase when looking as if he badly needed the run he may well be a better three-year-old than we have seen so far this season and could be too good for these if getting the extended trip.
The “race of the day” is the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at 3.40pm and it looks to be all about their relative fitnesses.
Magical is unbeaten this season after three starts and will be a tough nut to crack and has that all important fitness edge over Sea Of Class who I expect to be the better of the two by the end of the season. That said, her best form comes on a faster surface than she will meet here and she hasn’t been seen since last October. William Haggas does have his horses in good form and she was not easily overlooked but she needs to be spot on here and that may just be too much to ask of her.
Let the betting be our guide for the 4.20pm with the first five (or joint) in the betting winning all of the last ten renewals, though obviously the odds can all change by racetime.
If I am honest, and I am, I really do not like the look of this race at all and my suggestion is very much a throwaway comment with precious little confidence if any. At least Pretty Baby has a win last time out on soft ground to her name and every chance of getting the mile on breeding (by Orpen out of a Gold Away mare), and if she does, they might not see which way she went inside the final furlong.
Now, some people like the big field handicaps, and some do not, that would be me, with so many unknown factors and horses set up for today and today alone. Favourites have a shocking record which puts me off New Graduate even with Frankie Dettori in the saddle, and we may be better off looking each way to pennies at a bigger price.
It is a massive risk but the Charlie Hills trained Afaak will do for me at 20/1 or thereabouts. Word is he has been kept back for this contest all through the spring as he was before finishing second here last year. Hence his long absence and he has also been gelded since he was last seen in action which can be a positive with some and he has won on soft ground – no good thing but at least a horse to consider.
If we have any money left by the so called “lucky last” then we have a five furlong sprint for two-year-old's to look forward to. Just the two winning jollies in the last ten years has to be of some concern for favourite backers and good luck if you are following the money. Wesley Ward has a good record here but you have to wonder whether his runners will handle the softer going and I will be having my minimum bet on Iffraaz who won on debut for Mark Johnston at Carlisle and has the assistance of Frankie in the saddle. Better still, that victory was on heavy ground which is a bonus and at 12/1 he may even round he day off with the tiniest of profits.
Final Song 2.30pm Royal Ascot Wednesday
Norway 3.05pm Royal Ascot Wednesday
Magical 3.40pm Royal Ascot Wednesday
Pretty Baby each-way 4.20pm Royal Ascot Wednesday
Afaak each-way 5.00pm Royal Ascot Wednesday
Iffraaz each-way (NAP) 5.35pm Royal Ascot Wednesday
Good luck as always.
Royal Ascot, picture Sportpix.com.au