Alex Hammond brings you her tips and predictions for Tuesday and Wednesday at Royal Ascot.
Last Updated: 18/06/12 2:01pm
Frankel and Black Caviar are topping the bill at Royal Ascot this week in what should be a fantastic few days of racing.
Here Sky Sports News presenter Alex Hammond takes a look at the first two days of racing and makes her selections.
You can read her preview for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday here.
The Royal meeting gets underway with a bang on Tuesday with no less than three Group Ones and with the Frankel factor it's set to be an outstanding day of sport. You don't need me to tell you how wet the weather has been in the run up to the meeting and it's likely the five day fixture will kick off on softish ground - at the time of writing it was described as good on the straight course and good to soft, good in places on the round course with some showers forecast.
So, what a start, and all eyes will be on the world's highest rated horse, Frankel, when he lines up in the Queen Anne Stakes. It's just a shame that there appears to be nothing to give him a race. Still, it's a privilege to have a horse like him around and the Royal meeting is blessed with the two best racehorses in the world top and tailing (no pun intended) the meeting. Sky Bet have Frankel 1/6 favourite for the race with Excelebration 6/1 although that horse has seen the back of Frankel a few times and barring drama or incident that shouldn't change on Tuesday. Richard Hannon's Strong Suit (11/1) has a good record at the Royal meeting having won the Coventry and Jersey in the last two years. He hasn't run since the Breeders' Cup meeting last November but looks the each way bet to me at the prices. This is a race to savour and I certainly wouldn't back anything against Frankel.
Selection: Strong Suit (each way)
The King's Stand is another of the Group Ones. This five furlong sprint is missing one or two of its protagonists and we won't know until nearer the time (possibly raceday) if Bated Breath (11/2 co-favourite) will run. His trainer Roger Charlton dropped him back to the minimum trip at Haydock in the Temple Stakes last time out and he wasn't inconvenienced by it (all his best form had been over 6 furlongs prior to that run). That was on firm ground and he is more effective on top of the ground, so it could be that they wait for the Golden Jubilee on Saturday where he will have to take on Black Caviar over what was always considered his preferred trip of six furlongs. So, if he does run and the ground is on the easy side, that would be a negative. Ortensia and Wizz Kid are also 11/2. This is a race that has been poached by overseas raiders on numerous occasions (Australia have won it four times in the past nine years) Ortensia is trained in Australia and Wizz Kid in France. Ortensia won the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan in March, that was her last outing. Wizz Kid won't mind cut in the ground and was a winner of a Group Two in Chantilly last time out. There is plenty of confidence behind Ortensia and she looks to have outstanding claims and shouldn't mind some cut in the ground. At a bigger price Tangerine Trees can't be ruled out. Bryan Smart's horse is 20/1 so could be each way value. He won the Prix de l'Abbaye last October and ran a respectable race on his reappearance behind Bated Breath in the Temple Stakes carrying a penalty. It's also worth remembering that Margot Did (20/1) is a Group One winner and although she has to improve on her recent form the old saying 'form is temporary, class is permanent' is in the back of my mind.
The St James's Palace Stakes is the other Group One and it sees the best milers from the Classic generation taking each other on. Power is Sky Bet's clear favourite at 7/2 after his win in the Irish Guineas (interestingly he is also entered in the Golden Jubilee on Saturday). He has Royal Ascot form as he won the Coventry here last season. Hermival and Most Improved are next in the betting at 8/1. The former is trained in France and he was behind Power in the Irish Guineas. Brian Meehan's Most Improved had a belated start to his season after missing the Guineas. He reappeared in the French Derby and didn't get any luck and deserves another chance. You may remember he was being hyped up before the Guineas so it will be interesting to see if he can prove himself dropping back to a mile. Fencing is a 12/1 chance for John Gosden and I think he's one to keep on the right side of. He didn't appear to quite stay in the Dante and the drop in trip should suit. Born to Sea is closely related to superstar Sea The Stars. Although he isn't as good as his brother (could Pavarotti's brother sing?) he is very smart. John Oxx's colt is an 9/1 chance to better his efforts in the English and Irish Guineas and he could well do. He wore a hood at the Curragh and probably settled a bit too well and stayed on strongly. It could be a different story on Tuesday and I think he could offer each way value. Richard Fahey has supplemented Gabrial for this race and he is 14s so I hope he repays their faith in him.
Selection: Born to Sea
There was a significant market mover in the week for Cristoforo Colombo to give Aidan O'Brien a winner in the Coventry Stakes. He is the winner of his only start in a six furlong Navan maiden, but would be a bit concerned that Joseph O'Brien felt he would be suited by faster ground. I was impressed with Sir Prancealot at Sandown in the five furlong National Stakes. He had the option of the Norfolk or this race and his trainer Richard Hannon hasn't shirked the tougher challenge with this colt. He won his maiden over six furlongs so the trip should be fine. He looks the best of British in this race and has been described as top class by his connections. Dawn Approach is another leading contender for Jim Bolger, the colt has won all three of his starts and his trainer seems to rate him very very highly. He had the option of the Chesham this week too. I'm with Sir Prancealot who oozed class at Sandown.
Selection: Sir Prancealot
The Group Two Windsor Forest is for fillies and mares over a mile. Emulous is one of the leading contenders for Dermot Weld and she comes here having won a Group Three at the Curragh on her only start this season. She won the Group One Matron Stakes on her final start last term. Nahrain represents Roger Varian and like Emulous she has a 5lb Group One penalty to carry in this race. Her penalty was for winning the Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp, she was then just touched off in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. She looks to me like the type of filly who can do even better as a four year-old. Chachamaidee would be a popular winner for Sir Henry Cecil. She is a consistent filly and won on the all weather at Lingfield over seven furlongs last time out. The trip suits and she's a major player. Andrew Balding's Lay Time disappointed at Epsom, but she can be forgiven that run on a track that doesn't suit every horse and is another in with a shout.
The Group One Prince of Wales's Stakes looks top class and highly competitive. So You Think runs his last race here before heading back to Australia to begin his career as a stallion. He is bidding to go one better than last year when narrowly losing out to Rewilding. French trainer Corine Barande-Barbe won't make a decision until Monday as to whether her top class gelding Cirrus des Aigles runs as he also has the option of running in France. So You Think wasn't far behind Cirrus des Aigles in the Champion Stakes. The Queen's horse Carlton House comes here having won the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown on his seasonal reappearance and he was expected to come on for that outing. This mile and a quarter trip looks ideal and providing his Sandown efforts haven't left their mark he could be worth a punt against the favourite who is sure to be a pretty short price.
Selection: Carlton House
The Royal Hunt Cup is the big betting race on Wednesday and it looks tough trying to find the winner. It's particularly difficult at this stage as we don't know which stalls these horses will be coming out of, but here are some of the horses to watch out for. Dimension is Sky Bet's 10/1 favourite for James Fanshawe who also has Primaeval (12/1) in the race. Dimension has been a bit frustrating, but he is gelded now and looks the type of horse that his trainer aims at a big heritage handicap like this. Primaeval is part owned by Ant & Dec along with our own Georgie Thompson but there is the chance he could run in the Buckingham Palace on Friday rather than this race as Fanshawe feels he is better at that trip of seven furlongs (I'd strongly fancy him if he were to run there). Andrew Balding's Arabian Star (14s) will appreciate the drying ground at Ascot and he's got a handy weight, David Probert takes the ride. Although David Elsworth has booked Ryan Moore for Bonnie Brae (16/1) I worry that he may not have the stamina for a cavalry charge like this. The Charlie Hills trained Captain Bertie (12/1) put some ordinary runs behind him to win the Spring Cup at Newbury last time out. I'm not convinced by him and he will need luck. Edinburgh Knight (12/1) was fourth in the Lincoln on his only start this season and his trainer Paul D'Arcy put him away after that race with the Hunt Cup in mind. He must have a very good chance off his mark of 105 (just 1lb higher than his Lincoln rating). The horse who beat him at Doncaster, Brae Hill, is a 25/1 shot in this race for Richard Fahey. Lincoln second Mull Of Killough is also in the race for trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam and is currently 20s. Invisible Man has top weight for Godolphin/Frankie Dettori and is a 25/1 chance. Belgian Bill is another for your shortlist. He is trained by George Baker and significantly Kieren Fallon has been booked to ride. He was fourth in the Britannia last season and is rated just 2lbs higher here. As much as I'd love to unearth a big priced one here I think James Fanshawe is the trainer to follow with Dimension although I respect the chances of Edinburgh Knight particularly.
Alex's Best Bet
I'll be watching from afar this year as I'm just down the road at Hickstead for their famous Jumping Derby meeting, but my best bet of the five days at Ascot is The Fugue in the Ribblesdale. Good luck and have a great week.