Good evening from the Major who writes from a baking Worcestershire heat where the hazy beating of the sun abates little into the evening. The barbecue has been in action and now I have retired to the oldest part of the house whose ancient walls retain a coolness built with patience and preciously protected.
Newcomers for Royal Ascot week? The tips are free, I have absolutely no deals with any turf accountants, no links, no adverts (with the exception of those WordPress might provide which are unavoidable since, I have long resisted the urge to spend £150 on my blogging account). Yet there are some simple rules.
When we have winners (barely profitable), you owe me no thanks. Your agency is your own business, I choose how I shall spend my own capital, I shall not presume to tell you how to spend your money. Since I can neither take credit or blame for your choices, you should see this only as a portal of my dark and perverse thoughts. We also run a decent club here, no riff raff, collars, jackets and ties at all times.
Yet, I venture to break my own rules, well they are mine. Should you have strayed this way on Saturday, you might have read something you agreed with, I sincerely hope not. It was one of those weeks where I could not have picked my own nose. For this, I apologise. There, see, the proper order of society has me itching for politeness.
Now then, Ascot. I must confess that I do not feel the same aura of excitement building to this festival of flat racing as I do towards Cheltenham. Thankfully the two don’t compete and so flat aficionados will care little for my personal preference.
Royal Ascot is pretty special though. I have attended several times, although not this year. The atmosphere varies depending on the price of your ticket, as does the standard of dress! However the buzz and thrill is exceptional. The worlds well-to-do gather to compete amongst the elite through the exquisitely expensive bloodstock on show.
I am not one for the fashion and the people spotting but the racing quality is first rate.
I do hope you saw The Trainer and The Racehorse documentary on Channel 4 at the weekend. If not it is worth your time and is on 4 on demand. I will be lucky to see a Frankel again in my lifetime, a horse so spectacularly good he eclipsed all rivals. The programme fell short in a couple of areas, not mentioning the jockey was odd and there was an enormous leap in his race performances which mean that we skipped my favourite. The 2012 Queen Anne was his best performance in my view, eclipsing the Juddmonte, Guineas and his Royal Lodge which was like a bucket of ice water.
Excelebration was an excellent horse. He won 4 G1s in his career, each well deserved. His tally would have been 7 without Frankel and the manner in which his dismissed him in the Queen Anne was frankly inspiring. Racing can make your hairs stand on end, you know when you have witnessed something historic.
Royal Ascot – Opening Day Tips
Tuesday is also my favourite day of the meeting. I like the race profiles. I also dare to suggest it has been kind to me in the past. Let us see.
We start with the Queen Anne.
Toormore and the Godolphin representative (and last years 2,000 Guineas winner), Night of Thunder will have their supporters. The latter has always had the measure of the former and I do not see a reason for that changing.
Yet, the two global star raiders strike me as having superior quality and I would be surprised if the winner did not come from either Able Friend or Solow.
The latter has been visually highly impressive, beating the reliable and classy Grey Gatsby readily and dispatching a possibly deteriorating Cirrus des Aigles too this season. Clearly Solow has not been bottomed out and I think he is the more fashionable at the head of the market. However…..
I am drawn irresistibly to Able Friend who will attract a good bet from me on day one. There is plenty of substance to the form in Asia where he has been winning G1 after G1 in Hong Kong. Moreira is a star in the saddle and I have no fear that the switch to a straight track will bother him. Paddy Power are currently 3/1 but 5/2 is the more general price.
From the glorious opener we fall into the Coventry, a race always packed with pedigrees and potential.
Jim Bolger fields the favourite with Round Two, a Teofilo colt who looked the part at the Curragh latest, easily dealing with a listed class field. That looked good and the jungle drums are beating.
The Coventry has only had an SP greater than 10/1 twice, this century, a bit of a surprise given the nature of the race. I suppose, you could argue that at the top end, the true equine stars stand out. Both of those outsiders were 20/1 and both were saddled by O’Brien. He has a stellar record in the Coventry and so you have to take a good luck at debut winner, Air Force Blue, a War Front colt.
Wesley Ward is a trainer to follow at the Royal meeting, adding a splash of American glitz to proceedings. He brings serious horses over and has described Finnegan as his 2016 Kentucky Derby horse.
Finally, War Department might not be as sexily bred but Haggas unleashed a monster at Leicester and despite missing the break, he powered up in a style that had us all reaching for the Royal Ascot notebooks.
Such potential, so many possibilities. O’Brien is in scintillating form. He has won this race seven times in the last twenty runnings. Air Force Blue gets the nod for small stakes, 7/1.
Then it is time for the tempestuous muscular sprinters to strut down to the start for the Kings Stand. Sole Power has been a wonderful beast for connections and bids to win this for a record third time. That would be something incredible.
Jack Dexter needs the heavens to open, I like him but he has also probably never shown quite this level of form. G Force is a favourite of mine and I came close to giving him the nod, especially at 11/1.
Yet, the one I want is another raider, this time, Australian. The Aussies take great pride in their racing but they are somewhat specialists in my view. The Melbourne Cup, their best middle distance / staying race is a handicap and what our Australian friends produce best are sprinters, case in point, Black Caviar.
Shamal Wind can be backed at 8/1 in a few places, 7/1 in more. Ryan Moore is booked.
Fabre brings his Make Believe over for the St James Palace but I cannot see beyond Gleneagles. His Guineas win was authoritative and he added the Irish version in spite of hitting trouble. Could be a good day for Aidan. Skybet is 8/11, good sports.
The two and a half miler changes the beat a bit and it is worth noting the number and quality of national hunt trainers who have won this race. O’Neill, Mullins, Henderson and Pipe have all had winners in the last ten years.
I rely on Mullins who has Ryan Moore booked, the same combination that did the business with Simenon a few years prior. Clondaw Warrior is generally 8/1, have a slice.
In the last, the Windsor Stakes, we are back to reviewing sprinters. The Bolger colt out of Acclamation, Ard San Aer is one to note and I would not put you off at 12/1. Hannon fields three of which Hughes has gone for Orvar, interesting but his record in the race is not sensational.
I always want one of Wesley Wards on my side and 9/1 Ruby Notion will be on a slip as a saver. It is hard to know what to make of her dirt debut win but I have made the case for the Ward Ascot raiders already.
Soapy Aitken can be backed at 6/1 and having won twice over the minimum trip already has shown some good credentials.
No, I want one at a price in a wide open renewal and I think Areen gives me a chance at 16/1. That price is available only because he was unable to follow up his impressive debut win with another. His last run at Sandown can be dismissed though, he came out of the stalls to a violent roughing up and that seemed to be the catalyst for worse, hanging severely throughout, we did not get the normal run though Areen did stay on again at the finish.
May your Ascot dinner be paid with fine winners allowing you take friends in great state and entertain generously, sharing your wealth.
Courage, roll the dice.