Mystic Journey is going to be awfully hard to beat this preparation based on her first-up performance at Caulfield on Saturday, but I wouldn’t be rushing in to back her in any futures markets.
If Day 1 was any guide to our fortunes for the rest of the week, then it could be a long Royal Ascot carnival for us.
Animal Kingdom beaten in the Queen Anne Stakes after he wouldn’t settle, Shea Shea nosed out in the King’s Stand Stakes (at least by our second pick!), Championship facing trouble in the ruck in the Coventry Stakes.
It wasn’t a good first day!
At least Dawn Approach was able to salvage something for us in the St James’s Palace Stakes, but he appears to be less tractable and harder to handle at every start, so I’m not sure he’ll be on a racetrack for much longer. (Unless he’s gelded, which isn’t an option!)
For the Australian contingent, there was only disappointment as Shamexpress finished ninth behind Sole Power.
I actually think Shamexpress didn’t run too badly, and I wish he was backing up on Saturday because I think he’d be suited by a stiff straight six.
Alas, it is not to be.
So we look forward to Day 2, highlighted by the Prince of Wales’ Stakes which has again attracted a quality field.
There are also a couple of large handicaps which make for spectacular viewing and betting, but are an obstacle when it comes to confidence!
Jersey Stakes – Group 3, 7f (a1400m), 3yo
A race for the lesser three year olds, although it has been known to throw up a late maturer or two who go on to further success around this trip.
Gale Force Ten has been a bit of a bridesmaid compared to some of his more high-profile stablemates – none more so than last start when he finished second in the Irish 2000 Guineas to Magician.
He looks the class runner of this field and I wouldn’t be surprised if seven furlongs turns out to be his best trip. Could just blow them away.
Qatar Racing’s Pearl Flute and Sheikh Hamdan’s second stringer Ajraam also caught the eye, while Mutin brings different formlines across from France. All three look to have more to give, and these three may be fighting out the minors behind Gale Force Ten.
1. Gale Force Ten
2. Pearl Flute
Duke of Cambridge Stakes – Group 2, 1m (a1600m), 4yo+ mares
This race has been renamed for Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge this year, having been formerly named the Windsor Forest Stakes.
On exposed form, Duntle looks the one to beat. She won the Sandringham on this day last year, and she is incredibly consistent and quite classy. Looks the winner on paper.
The most interesting runner is Roger Varian’s Dancewiththedevil, a Group 1 winning mare from South Africa.
She has not raced in over a year, but her South African form is good enough to see her more than competitive here. The price on offer reflects the queries about her, but I think she can win if on song.
Next best is Thistle Bird, quite a consistent mare, while Chigun also rates a mention.
3. Thistle Bird
Prince of Wales’s Stakes – Group 1, 1m 2f (a2000m), 4yo+
This race has been of great interest to Australian punters the last two years with So You Think an odds on favourite the last two years.
In 2011, he was surprisingly beaten by Godolphin’s Rewilding, his first European defeat, but he was able to atone last year when overcoming Carlton House and Farhh.
This year, there’s no So You Think, with Aidan O’Brien instead represented by Epsom Derby, Irish Derby and 2000 Guineas winner Camelot and likely pacemaker Windsor Palace.
They’ll take on nine rivals, including Camelot’s last start conqueror Al Kazeem, the ultra-consistent Red Cadeaux, French Group 1 winner Maxios, top filly The Fugue and Afsare, who arrived in Melbourne to contest last year’s Cox Plate only to injure himself in quarantine at Werribee.
The top form race does appear to be last month’s Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh, where Al Kazeem got the better of Camelot.
The first time Al Kazeem really caught my eye was in last year’s Jockey Club Stakes, when he beat My Quest for Peace by almost five lengths.
Unfortunately, injury ruled him out for the rest of the season. He has still looked like he’d take improvement from his runs so far this season, so it will be interesting to see how fit he is now. If he’s near his best, I think we could see something special from him here.
Camelot hasn’t looked the same horse since his St Leger defeat, and I think the Arc flattened him even further. An injury post-preparation made things worse, and I’m not convinced he’s the horse we thought he may be.
In fact, I’m willing to put Red Cadeaux ahead of him. Forget his last run in Singapore where nothing went right – he’s world class and although the 1m 2f is well below his best, I think he’ll be more suited here and he can be the surprise packet.
Next best is Maxios, while The Fugue also can’t be discounted.
1. Al Kazeem
2. Red Cadeaux
Royal Hunt Cup – Heritage Handicap, 1m (a1600m), 3yo+
This race is one of the better handicaps of the festival, always attracting a large field. This year is no different, with 30 runners to take to the mile-long straight.
It is nothing more than a lottery and if you are having a bet in the race, it would probably be better throwing a dart at the formguide.
That said, I did manage to tip the winner of this race in 2011 with a horse that has since become quite familiar to Australians in Julienas, now with Gai Waterhouse.
This is the sort of race that can throw up a shock result, and so I’ve looked for horses who are not among the favourites but who look to have good form.
The two I’ve ended up with are Global Village, who is yet to win over the mile journey but has caught the eye at his last two runs over the trip, and Spa’s Dancer, who went hurdling last October after losing his form on the flat but has seemed to recapture some of that old form again against much weaker company.
Both are around 25-1 in the UK, and I’d be happy to have a wager on both of them.
Another one at odds who should be competitive is Dictatorship, who has won his last two (including a victory over Spa’s Dancer two back). He’s another one who mixes his form but I think he can give this a shake.
Next best, Fury and Two for Two.
1. Global Village
2. Spa’s Dancer
Queen Mary Stakes – Group 2, 5f (a1000m), 2yo fillies
Another tough two year old race with a lot of good fillies stepping out here.
Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum has two runners here, and although the bookies have Rizeena the fancy of the two, I think Reroute is the one to beat.
She was very impressive on debut in winning and if she takes improvement, she’ll prove hard to beat.
I do think it is worth sticking with the market in these instances, and there is a clear reason Beldale Memory is the favourite.
She’s unbeaten in two starts for Qatar Racing and, looking at her victories, she may simply be too speedy for her rivals.
One I’ll be keeping a very close eye on is Oriel, a daughter of Fastnet Rock who races for Highclere Racing.
She’s out of a High Chaparral mare so may appreciate further in time, and she is yet to pass the post in front, but she’s been impressive despite not winning and she’ll go well here.
Next best are Rizeena and Godolphin’s Fire Blaze.
2. Beldale Memory
Sandringham Handicap – Listed, 1m (a1600m), 3yo fillies
Another big field to close the day, and quite a tough race to figure out with many of these having some claims.
Many of these are lightly raced and still rather unexposed, so it is a race where I won’t be betting.
If I was to have a wager, though, I’d probably have something on Mango Diva, who is one filly who looks to have plenty of scope.
I’d also consider small each way bets on Annie’s Fortune, who is a bit inconsistent but can win this at her best, and Fleeting Smile.
But this is one of the races I’m least interested in across the carnival.
1. Mango Diva
2. Annie’s Fortune
3. Fleeting Smile
Best of the day: Gale Force Ten
Most interesting runner: Dancewiththedevil
Horse to watch for the Melbourne spring: Red Cadeaux