TOP TEAMS HAVE VASE SEWN UP
Top Teams Have Vase Sewn Up
Top Teams Have Vase Sewn Up
By Richard Dunwoody
With the biggest week on the flat racing calendar upon us then it goes without saying it's all about Royal Ascot for the next five days, and with the meeting being bookended with Frankel on the opening day and then Black Caviar on Saturday there's plenty to look forward to.
Here are my pointers ahead of the action......
As always we start the meeting with a bang with three Group One contests and although many people feel these should be mixed up a bit through the week I personally feel it's a great way to start the fixture, while it will hopefully attract the crowds on what can sometimes be the hardest day for race goers to get to the track.
No surprises in the opener as the unbeaten Frankel will have no trouble making it 11-from-11 in the Queen Anne Stakes. Like most of his races Aidan O'Brien's Excelebration can follow him home for the fifth time.
The King's Stand Stakes will see a big challenge from sprinters around the globe and with 6 of the last 10 going to an offshore raider then there's a good chance the UK-based speedsters will struggle again.
Eight of the last 10 finished in the top two last time out, while 70% returned 8/1 or shorter in the betting. With that in mind, and the fact he ran second to Deacon Blues here on Champions Day, then the French 4 year-old Whizz Kid can go close.
This year's'St James's Palace Stakes looks a competitive affair but with Aidan O'Brien having won the race 3 times in the past 5 years then last year's Coventry Stakes winner and recent Irish 2,000 Guineas victor, Power, looks the obvious call. Foxtrot Romeo, who chased him home at the Curragh looks best of the rest with Richard Hughes booked.
One horse I have been taken with this season is Richard Hannon's unbeaten Sir Prancealot, and with the yard also having won the Coventry Stakes twice in the last three years then he could be the answer here (he's also entered in Thursday's Norfolk Stakes).
We get underway with the Jersey Stakes on the second day and the two that caught my eye here are Valbchek, who hails from the Noseda yard that have won this race in 2002 and 2005, while another stable who are no strangers to landing this prize is William Haggas (won in 2008).
Their unbeaten Sentaril, with Johnny Murtagh booked, has looked impressive in his two runs to date and will be popular, but It is also worth pointing out that we've not had a favourite take this race for the last 10 years - with the average winning SP 10/1.
Four year-olds have dominated the Winsdor Forest Stakes in recent years with 6 of the last 8 going to that age group. With that in mind Nahrain, who grabbed trainer Roger Varian his first Group One race last season, is sure to be in the mix.
So You Think, who was chinned on the line in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes 12 months ago, can make amends this time. An impressive winner at the Curragh last time out and despite not quite living up to his tall reputation since coming over from Australia he's still a class act and looks to have the Queen's Carlton House to beat with French raider Cirrus Des Aigles looking unlikely to make the race. Godolphin have won this race 5 times in the past too, so anything they send to post is also naturally respected.
It's 'get your pin out time' for the Royal Hunt Cup with a big field charging over a mile, but we've only seen 1 winning favourite in the last 10 years, with 7 in that same period returning a double-figure price. James Fanshawe, who always seems to have at least one winner at this meeting, has taken the prize in 2003 and 2006 and is set to run Dimension.
Moving on and anything trainer Mick Channon sends to post in the Queen Mary Stakes should be noted - he's won the race three times and also had two placed from just 12 runners.
Ladies Day and it's the fillies that take centre stage in the day's second race - the Ribblesdale Stakes. Epsom Oaks third, The Fugue, who was very unlucky in running that day, will be a popular choice, but I'm always a bit wary of Epsom form here at Royal Ascot, and with Godolphin having landed the spoils five times from their last 11 sent to post then anything they run should be respected.
As we all know Aidan O'Brien has won the Gold Cup five times in the last 6 years and his victor 12 months ago, Fame and Glory, will be hard to beat again. It will be great to see the front running Overturn take his chance and he looks an attractive each-way option if he does run, but this could very easily be a repeat of last year's race with Opinion Poll following Fame and Glory home.
The day ends with the King George'V Stakes and this contest has been all about trainers Sir Michael Stoute and Mark Johnston in recent years - they've won the race three times each since 2001.
We start with the Albany Stakes and it's interesting that Frankie Dettori has already been booked to ride Jeremy Noseda's The Gold Cheongsam. The yard won this race in 2005 and 2006 and after a promising debut third at Goodwood last month she's bound to have come on for that experience.
Most of the talk in the King Edward VII Stakes will revolve around Noble Mission, who is Frankel's full brother. He will need to improve a bit on his recent second at HQ, but he looks a horse who will be even better now stepped up in trip. The yard took this race in 2009, while it's generally been one for the punters with 5 of the last 10 favourites going in, and all 10 recent winners returning 9/1 or shorter.
The Coronation Stakes is a race to look forward to this year and with the Mick Channon team having already booked Frankie for Laugh Out Loud, then this improving 3 year-old could be the call here. It's been another good race for the market leaders with 5 of the last 10 going to the favourite with the average winning SP in the last 10 years just 9/2.
The Queen's Vase, run over 2m, is another for the stayers, but if recent years are to be repeated then simply look no further than a Mark Johnston, Aidan O'Brien or Godolphin-trained runner - between them they won 9 of the last 10 renewals!
It's all about one horse here and that's the unbeaten super-mare Black Caviar in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Yes, the winner of her all of her 21 races and at around 1/3 in the betting then many feel all she needs to do is turn up. A big pat on the back needs to go to her connections who didn't really need to send her all this way when she could have won more money running in races at home, but it certainly adds something special to this year's meeting and I'm sure most of the crowd (Aussie or not) will love to see her make it 22.
Many have said the ground will be an issue, but she's won on good-to-soft back home and from what I've heard their biggest worry was the trip over and that's behind them now. This will certainly be her biggest test, but this huge mare, who is said weigh more than Denman, looks a class above and it will be a huge shock if she's beaten.
The Wokingham Stakes is always a tricky race to unravel and this year's contest looks no different. At this stage, with the final field not confirmed, it could pay to take these early trends into account. All of the last 11 winners finished in the top 6 last time out, while they'd all also won over either 6 or 7f. Add in that all 11 had no more than 4 runs that same season, and that 10 of the last 11 carried 8-11 or less and were aged 4 or 5 years-old then hopefully you can use these key stats to narrow the big field down.
Follow Richard here:
View the original article over at Sporting Life