Royal Ascot is upon us. My favourite week of the year. Even this year. Sadly I won’t be able to visit the Queen’s garden this year. No chance to gaze out over the lush Berkshire countryside. No chance to take up the kind offer of a mini Union Flag on my way to the bandstand for the post-racing knees-up.
Regular readers will not be surprised by my flag-waving. Weak sales resistance strikes again. It’s all good sport. How many chances do you get to sing outside of the shower? Not many by jingo.
I also rarely get the chance to use the phrase “by jingo” at any other time.
The main draw is the racing of course. I’ll still be able to watch that. This piece will take a look at the Irish prospects. Realistically, with one glaring exception, that means looking at Aidan O’Brien’s prospects. The logistical challenge of sending a team to England seems to have put almost every other trainer off. For example, Willie Mullins won’t have a runner.
There is rain forecast. It looks ideal though. Fairly even amounts over the week. With high temperatures expected it will probably mean no watering is required to maintain good ground.
Let’s start with that glaring exception. Sceptical was bought for a song. He’s currently clearing his throat ahead of a command performance in the Diamond Jubilee on Saturday. Connections have swerved a clash with Battaash in the King’s Stand. That looks a wise move.
The Bat is the best horse in training after all.
Sceptical isn’t far off the highest-rated horse in the Diamond Jubilee, despite just five career starts. He made a seamless transition to stakes company in Naas last week. A couple of the fancied horses disappointed that day but the third is a useful yardstick. It’s rare to see a sprint race won in such dominant fashion.
There is no reason Sceptical won’t take another step forward on Saturday. Frankie Dettori taking over from an apprentice is another positive. I don’t see the stiff six furlongs in Ascot being an issue either. He was strong at the line over just a half-furlong shorter in Naas. He looks one of the bets of the week to me. Paddy are 5/2. It’s hard to believe the horse will be any shorter come Saturday. Back him then.
More Beautiful can emulate her mother by becoming a Royal Ascot winning juvenile. She made a winning debut on that same Naas card that saw Sceptical hose up. More Beautiful was almost as impressive. She looked a thorough professional in the early stages before powering home under considerate handling. We don’t know what she beat but it was encouraging that her market rivals filled the frame. The extra furlong she gets in the Albany Stakes on Friday has to be a positive. She’s a half-sister to Saxon Warrior. The bookies haven’t missed her. She currently heads the betting at 9/4. Again I’ll wait until the day of race market before backing her.
Chief Little Hawk is declared for the Windsor Castle on Wednesday. He showed particularly bright gate speed when winning in Navan last Wednesday. That early pace should prove very useful in keeping tabs on Wesley Ward’s charge Sunshine City. Ward is always to be feared when sending his juveniles across the pond. My sense is that his team may not quite have the strength of previous years though. I will take the Chief to rule the roost here.
My hunch is Admiral Nelson will run in the Coventry on Saturday. He’s also in the Norfolk on Friday. My thinking is that the Coventry is the more prestigious race and it’s an extra day to recover from his exertions in the Curragh last Friday.
He looks the best two-year-old colt Ballydoyle have sent to the track this year.
I say exertions. He barely came off the bridle in beating a well-touted stablemate.
It can be hard to get a proper perspective on the telly but he looked a big unit. That was confirmed by some commentators at the course. He will carry my cash wherever he shows up next. He will probably go off shorter than the 9/2 currently available. With doubts over running plans I will keep my powder dry though.
That’s your lot really. Plenty of Aidan’s horses are too short for my tastes. Mogul should win the King Edward VII Stakes. He’s a serious Derby prospect. Japan looks nailed on for the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. I’ll content myself with watching them win.
Brendan Duke’s Irish Runners Picks:
Sceptical – Diamond Jubilee Stakes @ 5/2
More Beautiful – Albany Stakes @ 9/4
Chief Little Hawk – Windsor Castle Stakes @ SP
Admiral Nelson – Coventry Stakes @ 9/2