1.15 Buckingham Palace Handicap
It’s easy to see why Daarik has cemented his place at the top of the market for this having bolted up in a decent race at Newcastle 10 days ago. He could well be a group horse masquerading as a handicapper, but his only turf race resulted in a heavy defeat and though Ascot tends to suit all-weather performers it remains a concern. There is plenty of early pace drawn on the far side and my eye was drawn to two outsiders who look set to benefit. Firmament might be a veteran, but he is a consistent, classy operator and travelled beautifully on his Newcastle reappearance, preference goes to Ebury however, a lightly raced horse who has caught my eye the last twice, staying on from a horrendous track position in the autumn and most recently missing the start and racing miles too freely at the Guineas meeting. He looks to have more than enough speed for the drop to 7 furlongs and was a tidy winner here last summer, he looks a big price.
Selection: Ebury, Saver: Firmament each-way.
1.50 Queen Anne Stakes
The Queen Anne hasn’t been a particularly strong affair for the past few years and once again looks an uninspiring contest given its rich history. Circus Maximus took this race last year and a similar effort could easily be enough to repeat that win but having improved significantly for the application of blinkers there must be a concern they will lose their effect. Terebellum looks a potent danger and remains unexposed after just a handful of starts, she has never raced at less than 10 furlongs but doesn’t look short of speed and has the fitness benefit of a nice comeback win. Another mare with a fitness edge is Billesdon Brook, she continues to be underrated despite being a 1000 Guineas winner at 3 and the Falmouth victor last season. Her stable are in better form now than when she ran at Kempton.
Selection: Terebellum, Saver: Billesdon Brook
2.25 Ribblesdale Stakes
There doesn’t look to be a huge weight of class in here for a Group 2, but it is a competitive contest and might throw up an Oaks contender rather than providing a consolation for a loser. John Gosden has a strong hand here and favourite Frankly Darling caught the eye when hosing up at Newcastle in her prep for this. She looks capable of making the step up, but second-string Miss Yoda has more exposure at pattern level, winning the Lingfield Oaks trial last time. She is reopposed here by the 2nd and 3rd and at the prices West End Girl makes plenty of appeal. The Mark Johnston filly appeared utterly ill at ease on the undulations in the home straight, only getting going far too late and could reverse the placings – her trainer has won with many longshots at this meeting down the years.
Selection: West End Girl each-way
3.00 King Edward VII Stakes
A small field and a gilt-edged opportunity for Mogul to emulate the victory of his brother Japan in last year’s contest. He ran better than his 4th place finish suggests in last year’s futurity stakes behind subsequent Guineas winner Kameko, missing the break and hastily pushed through the field to race prominently. He looks a class apart on known form and promises to improve significantly this year. There should be plenty of pace on despite the small field and class can out. He might be a restrictive price but represents banker material to my eyes. Sound Of Cannons was badly hampered just as he was making his challenge at Lingfield, he could chase home Mogul with the benefit of that run under his belt.
3:35 King’s Stand
Battaash might be a public favourite, but his win record at Group 1 level is actually a shade disappointing. That said, he would have won the last 2 renewals of this but for the presence of Blue Point. The opposition has evaporated through retirements, injuries and defections and he finds himself as odds on favourite. Though much the likeliest winner I couldn’t touch him at the price and would rather take a flier on stablemate Equilateral having looked an improved horse during his winter stint in Dubai. Horses returning from the middle east have done very well since the resumption and his short priced stablemate will provide the relentless gallop he requires to show his best. Glass Slippers improved markedly last autumn and there might be a drop of rain around to keep conditions suitable, but she has run poor races fresh for the last two terms.
Selection: Equilateral each-way
4.10 Duke of Cambridge Stakes
Probably the most interesting contest of the day, with the unexposed and lightly raced pair Miss O’Connor & Nazeef likely to attract market interest. Jubiloso has long been highly regarded by the powerful Michael Stoute yard and could start belatedly justifying the hype and completes a trio of exciting fillies hailing from powerful Newmarket yards. I’m going to take the on with Lavender’s Blue though, another unexposed filly but one with proven class as a Group 3 winner and unlucky not to finish much closer in the Group 1 Falmouth stakes on her final start in 2019. It’s been more than 3 decades since the mighty Dancing Brave was sharing the same stable block, but Amanda Perrett is no stranger to class and has a nice horse on her hands.
Selection: Lavender’s Blue
4.40 Ascot Stakes
I haven’t found the winner of this contest since the days of Martin Pipe, so either I’m to be ignored or I’m overdue! A jumps trainer is responsible for the market leader this year with Nicky Henderson sending out Verdana Blue in what looks a long-established plan since a change of ownership. I think she’d be much happier over a shorter trip and might be found wanting late on. Front runners have done pretty well in this contest down the years and I prefer the claims of Land Of Oz, a horse who seems certain to relish the most severe stamina test he’s faced to date. He ran a fine race on his reappearance at Chelmsford, mastered only by a very smart horse and showed last year he can handle a quick reappearance. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.
Selection: Land Of Oz