14:30 Queen Anne Stakes
The experts tell us that the Lockinge is the strongest trial for this, but it looked a ropey affair beforehand, and I’m unwilling to overrate Rhododendron that highly on the back of it. She produced a very gutsy performance, but just fended off an unlucky looking Lightning Spear, and the latter has every chance of turning the tables.
The fact that Lightning Spear, who goes well here, is more than twice her price shows that punters don’t really rate him as a potential champion, and we ought to view Rhododendron in the same light, at least as a miler.
Her versatility means she will win more races at the top level, but she’s opposable in a very tight contest, especially with a draw on the wing almost certainly a disadvantage.
Recommended: Lay Rhododendron @ 4.4 or shorter
15:05 Coventry Stakes
Calyx was very impressive when making a winning debut at Newmarket, but it’s a big surprise to me that the normally patient John Gosden is pitching him into the Coventry just 10 days later. Gosden won this a few years ago with Iceman, who looked a top-class prospect, but that colt went the wrong way after winning at Ascot and never won another race. Gosden now tends to take a softly-softly approach with his best juveniles unless they are simply precocious types, and that wasn’t the impression the son of Kingman made.
I think the quick turnaround makes the prospect of Calyx running below his debut form a real possibility, and he’s drawn very high in a huge field, which could easily scupper his chances if the race unfolds away from him.
If he progresses immediately and isn’t undone by the occasion, then he could be a class apart, but those are pretty significant ‘ifs’, and there is value in laying him for a place, with limited damage if he is the reincarnation of his sire.
Recommended: Lay Calyx for a place @ 1.75 or shorter
15:40 King’s Stand Stakes
There is a temptation to take on one of the favourites, and plenty will oppose Battaash on the basis of his volatile temperament. I can see that angle, but the most striking thing about this race is how much better than the rest the front two are, and I fully expect them to occupy two of the three podium positions. In effect, the place market then has the look of a win-only book without the front two, and there are one or two I’d be keen to oppose in what would look an open race for the final place.
Top of that list is the speedy Kachy, who is a smashing horse, but not a Group 1 winner in waiting, and is probably dependant on getting his own way to show his best. He will have his work cut out getting loose against Lady Aurelia, and that will compromise his chances.
I suspect that whoever finishes third, assuming the top two dominate, will come from off the pace having not been forced to mix it with the big guns. Kachy won’t have that luxury and would be the most confident place lay of the day as a result.
Recommended: Lay Kachy for a place @ 2.9 or shorter
16:20 St James’s Palace Stakes
One of my favourite angles through the week at Ascot is the draw – there is plenty of talk about whether stands side or far side is faster on the straight track, but the round course is where the money is to be made, with a bias against those drawn low, and a strong bias at certain trips to those drawn very high, which is at odds with common logic, and has plenty to do with the importance of horses not being compromised in their run – this aspect of analysis is still criminally underused, but will benefit us if we pick and choose correctly.
The St James’s Palace traditionally confers an advantage to the middle-drawn runners, and it’s a regular feature that those drawn very low struggle to obtain advantageous track position. That counts against the much-hyped Without Parole, who owes his position in the market to a win at Yarmouth of all places. He has looked high class in winning there and at Sandown, but the form is hardly rock-solid at this level, and he is facing a very different task than when beating Gabr in the Heron Stakes.
He could well be top-class when tackling ten furlongs down the line, but he’s easy enough to oppose against the underrated Tip Two Win, Irish Guineas 1-2 Romanised and U S Navy Flag and Wootton, who beat French Guineas winner Olmedo in their prep and was much better than the result in the Poulains. There’s perhaps not enough depth beneath that quartet to make the Gosden horse a place lay, but he looks ripe to oppose in the win market.
Recommended: Lay Without Parole @ 4.5 or shorter