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2.30 - Queen Mary Stakes (Fillies' Group 2, 5f)
Wesley Ward has strong hopes of winning a fifth Queen Mary with TWILIGHT GLEAMING. The National Defense filly really stepped up on her debut second last month when she routed her rivals at Belmont to win a 5f maiden in facile fashion. She will sport blinkers here but looks a potential star in the making for her US trainer. She may simply have too many guns for these European opponents and Ward is so adept at handling such a precious filly.
This is one of few decent targets to have thus far eluded Aidan O'Brien but the Ballydoyle supremo tries again with another fine prospect in Yet. A filly by War Front, she was determined when fending off Donnacha O'Brien's Orinoco River at Dundalk on debut five weeks ago. Both Irish contenders are likely to come forward for that initial run.
Curragh maiden winner Quick Suzy is another of the Irish fillies with a chance. Gavin Cromwell's runner has since finished second in a Naas Group 3 over 6f and should have no worries dropping back in trip.
Clive Cox and Adam Kirby team up with Get Ahead, a debut winner over C&D last month. She was green in parts of that race and is very likely to improve significantly for the experience. Choux was backed on debut at Thirsk and obliged in fine style, Shane Kelly's mount has more to offer as does another once-raced winner, Illustrating for Karl Burke. They are open to plenty of progress.
3.05 - Queen's Vase (Group 2, 1m6f)
Wordsworth heads the betting for Aidan O'Brien and Ryan Moore and the Galileo colt is progressing quickly. He won a Curragh maiden (1m2f) on seasonal bow/second start and then went very close when odds-on behind stablemate Sir Lucan in a Navan Listed event upped to 1m5f last month. There's scope for better things now and he's a leading contender for a yard that has won four of the last six renewals.
The Irish challenge is a strong one, with six runners in the field. Jessica Harrington's Taipan could improve in first-time blinkers upped to this distance and is considered but Joseph O'Brien might be the one to thwart his father here.
Oisin Murphy partners thrice-raced Ruling in the Qatar Racing silks, he's twice run well this season at Leopardstown including when placed in a Listed event over 1m4f this month and should have more to offer again up in distance. His stablemate BENAUD is some value in the market under Colin Keane.
He swept from last-to-first Naas (1m2f, soft) last month on his seasonal reappearance having been gelded over the winter and looks sure to improve again over this distance. He's unexposed as a stayer and will don the famous JP McManus hoops for the first time here having been snapped up on the back of that success last time. A big challenge looms under Ireland's champion pilot.
Law Of The Sea flopped in last month's Chester Vase but reports since suggest he can be forgiven that run, the son of Golden Horn was promising previously and can bounce back for John & Thady Gosden under James Doyle in Godolphin blue.
Mark Johnston's Dancing King is 4-4 since moving into handicaps, his latest success coming this month at Doncaster over a similar trip to this one. He can have a major say too, while Kemari easily bagged a Yarmouth maiden (1m3½f, good) on his second start recently and is an interesting second string to the Godolphin bow here for Charlie Appleby with William Buick on top in what looks a really competitive Group 2 on paper.
3.40 - Duke Of Cambridge Stakes (Fillies' & Mares' Group 2, 1m)
The top three on the racecard are all conceding penalties - Champers Elysees (5lb), Lady Bowthorpe and Queen Power (both 3lb). Of that trio, it's the latter, Sir Michael Stoute's Shamardal mare, that makes most appeal. She was third in this race a year ago and returned to action at Newmarket last month when denied by Lady Bowthorpe in a head-bobber. Queen Power has since won a York Group 2 by eight lengths, while William Jarvis' charge finished second to the mighty miler Palace Pier in the Lockinge at Newbury.
Big runs are expected from both, whereas Champers Elysees has not fired in two runs this season and comes into this with something to prove for Johnny Murtagh as such.
Last year's Sandringham winner (C&D) Onassis has since added two wins at Listed level and should run a good race for Charlie Fellowes and Hayley Turner, though a clear personal best would be needed to pocket this prize.
Lavender's Blue is closely matched with Lady Bowthorpe and Queen Power on Newmarket form and is a factor again, while Foorat was second to that rival in a Listed Kempton race in April and could be one to go well at decent odds for Roger Varian back on the grass.
Jessica Harrington and Shane Foley will be confident that VALERIA MESSALINA can leave behind a tame comeback on heavy ground at the Curragh last month. She was entitled to need that run and conditions were no help to her. Edged out in a Glorious Goodwood Group 3 last summer by One Master, she may still have more improvement to come as a miler and the market appears to have overlooked her chance.
4.20 - Prince Of Wales's Stakes (Group 1, 1m2f)
Lord North won this race a year ago with an impressive turn of foot and he comes back to defend his crown having added another Group 1 in Dubai this spring. Frankie Dettori remains on board and no doubting he's a key player for Team Gosden.
He's got a double-barrel Ballydoyle attack to fend off however. Armory won the Huxley Stakes at Chester last month in straightforward fashion and Seamie Heffernan's mount is a key player here. He's a reliable conveyance, though perhaps he might prefer some give underfoot. That's a small enough quibble to label at him, however.
On ratings, LOVE is the answer. The Galileo filly swept all before her as a three-year-old - winning the Guineas at Newmarket, The Oaks at Epsom and the Yorkshire Oaks in dominant fashion. That we've not seen her since last August is some source of concern but it's improbable she'll travel over from Ballydoyle undercooked. She has the potential to be too good for these rivals and so her master-trainer has got to be trusted in having her ready for this return to action. Love conquers all remains the mantra.
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5.00 - Royal Hunt Cup (Heritage Handicap, 1m)
Amongst the most fiercely testing puzzles punters will face across five days of Royal Ascot, the Hunt Cup doesn't disappoint.
Finest Sound was runner-up in a soft-ground Britannia over C&D at this meeting last year and should be better suited by these conditions. Simon & Ed Crisford's charge is a key player with scope for better things still.
Magical Morning rates as an unexposed contender for the Gosdens with Dettori on board, while the likes of Astro King for Sir Michael Stoute and Cliffs Of Capri for Jamie Osborne are others worth noting.
Two against the field are EASTERN WORLD and Lucander. Charlie Appleby's gelding was favourite for the Lincoln at Doncaster in March on the back of his earlier Meydan win. He did plenty in front however at Doncaster and was no better than midfield by the end. He was a disappointing favourite at Newmarket (7f, good) in April - finished fourth - but did not get the clearest of runs that day.
A stiff mile here should play to his strengths and, with those spring defeats in mind - he's set to be a fairly generous price here, especially if William Buick can get him to latch onto runners and conserve his powder.
Lucander stays further than this and as such should be doing his best work at the finish for Ralph Beckett and Rob Hornby. He handles all ground equally and was a good second on comeback at Newmarket last month (1m2f, soft). Last season's Cambridgeshire second can give a solid account for each-way punters.
5.35 - Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed, 5f)
Wesley Ward's RUTHIN was aimed at this race ahead of the Queen Mary and the American trainer is confident she's got the tools to go and win the Windsor Castle. She sports blinkers/tongue-tie and has 'Mr Ascot' Frankie Dettori on board for this assignment.
A daughter of Ribchester, she won on debut at Keeneland in facile fashion despite racing a bit green late on. She's sure to have learned from that outing and left quite an impression in how she went about it. The form has been franked and Ward suggests dropping to 5f is ideal now. She can burn off a big field in colours famed for doing just such things at this meeting. The trainer also runs Golden Bell, she too being a once-raced Keeneland winner (4½f) with a precocious look about her.
The home team may be spearheaded by Tipperary Sunset for trainer John Quinn. The Ardad colt has won both starts at Hamilton and Beverley, showing lots of pace from the get-go, and will be a contender here if proving at home on this faster surface.
Hugo Palmer's Dig Two, Ernie's Valentine for the Cole team and Eve Johnston-Houghton's Chipotle are other shortlisted runners in a big field, while Amalfi Coast may be the top Irish player. A Royal winner at this meeting always enhances the experience and Michael Bell's Windsor winner Spring Is Sprung is open to plenty of progress under Oisin Murphy with that form having a solid look about it.
6.10 - Kensington Palace Stakes (Fillies' & Mares' Handicap, 1m)
Sir Michael Stoute endured a rare blank at this meeting last year. The improving Lights On stands a fine chance of ensuring he's on the scoresheet now. Wins at Nottingham and over C&D (soft) this season have been excellent efforts. She just got the measure of re-opposing Dreamloper last month and both are expected to be in the firing line again now.
Stunning Beauty is a contender for Godolphin, while Joseph O'Brien's So I Told You has won her last two and could have a big say under a talented claimer.
Mostly was a bit too keen in a Listed race at Nottingham last time out. She could do much better if Dettori can get her settled in this field but maybe there's plenty more to come from CASPIAN QUEEN.
The Sepoy filly is back on track after leaving Richard Hughes last year and she impressed in a 7f success at Kempton last month. James Doyle partnered for the first time there and if she sees the mile out, this four-year-old could have a big say from only 2lb higher.