Royal Ascot 2017 - Day 1
Tepin was successful in this contest last year and the US are doubly represented by American Patriot and Miss Temple City this time around. The former may have the better chance of the two following on from his much-improved effort when winning a Grade 1 at Keeneland last time out. All eyes will be on the warm favourite Ribchester, who posted a career best when decisively winning the Lockinge last month. Old adversary Lightning Spear was back in second that day and his supporters will be hoping that the fast ground swings the balance in his favour.
The biggest danger to those two could be Mutakayyef, trained by William Haggas. He made light work of the opposition in the Summer Mile over this course and distance last season and then posted a career-best effort in the Juddmonte International, where he was arguably a bit unlucky not to finish slightly closer. He finished behind Ribchester in Dubai earlier this year but the quick ground will be much more to his liking.
The Coventry Stakes boasts an illustrious roll of honour, with Caravaggio, Dawn Approach and Canford Cliffs winning the race in recent years. Wesley Ward has a real affinity with Royal Ascot and has enjoyed some notable successes in recent years. The unknowns surrounding Ward’s colt Arawak adds another intriguing dimension to an already difficult puzzle to solve.
Aidan O’Brien has won this race eight times in the past twenty years and his best chance here would appear to be Murillo; a son of Scat Daddy, who also sired last year’s winner Caravaggio. The form horse coming in to the race is another Irish trained runner, Brother Bear. He looks the type of horse to be suited by this test and will be looking to give his trainer, Jessica Harrington, yet another high-profile victory.
Of the remainder of the field, Romanised was quietly fancied on debut when beating some subsequent winners. His inexperience is a slight concern and he will undoubtedly get further in time and continue to progress. Of the British trained runners, the Richard Hannon pair De Bruyne Horse and Denaar are very much respected but it would be great to see Prince Of The Dark provide Lethal Force with a big race success from his first crop of runners.
The inclusion of Lady Aurelia, trained by Wesley Ward, makes this race a fascinating contest. She was explosive at this meeting last year, but failed to match that performance in two subsequent runs despite bagging a Group 1 at Deauville. She returned with a facile victory at Keeneland in April and it will be interesting to see how she performs against older rivals.
Marsha enjoyed a productive campaign last year which culminated with a victory in the Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly. She took another step forward by defying a 7lb penalty on her seasonal reappearance at Newmarket, beating the re-opposing Washington DC. The latter is consistent but is still bidding to win a Group race for the first time.
It is a field full of quality and it would be dangerous to dismiss too many of the runners. The French challenger Signs Of Blessing put up a remarkable performance at Deauville last time but must prove his effectiveness on quick ground. Alpha Delphini continues to improve and would have gone closer to winning at Haydock last time if granted a clearer passage earlier on. Victorious in his only start at Ascot, he won’t be fazed by a big field and he will have a strong pace to aim at.
It would be unwise to dismiss Group One winners Rivet and Thunder Snow out of hand, but the finish should be fought out by Churchill and Barney Roy. Churchill beat Barney Roy in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas where the Ballydoyle contingent performed a tactical masterclass. Connections’ of Barney Roy will be excited for the re-match and will be hopeful they can exact revenge.
Churchill completed the Anglo-Irish 2000 Guineas double, whilst Barney Roy has been kept fresh in anticipation of this clash today. There are many questions that will be answered and it will be a race to savour.
The Ascot Stakes is a stamina-sapping contest run over 2m4f, with only 9lbs separating the whole field. The race has been dominated by National Hunt trainers more recently, with the likes of Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson both tasting success.
Mullins, who won the race with Clondaw Warrior in 2015, is solely represented by Thomas Hobson with Ryan Moore in the saddle and will no doubt be popular with punters. Thomas Hobson was last seen on the level when improving for John Gosden way back in 2013, before being snapped up by Mullins and owner Rich Ricci.
Nicky Henderson, who won this race in 2011 with Veiled, is represented by Beyond Conceit. He came back early this year to defy a mammoth absence, winning two Novice Hurdles before finishing an excellent second in a Grade 1 at Aintree over three miles.
Another trainer who is best known for National Hunt exploits, Alan King, is represented in this race by Who Dares Wins and Rainbow Dreamer. The former was a shade unfortunate in the Chester Cup, whilst the latter is an improving four-year-old who developed well over the winter and appreciated the step up beyond two miles when winning on his latest flat start at Leicester.
Wesley Ward is again represented here with two runners, Elizabeth Darcy and Nootka Sound. Both are Keeneland maiden winners and very much fall in to the ‘could be anything’ bracket. After all, Lady Aurelia had a similar profile going in to the Queen Mary last year.
The very well-bred Declarationofpeace is another who has strong claims for the all-conquering Ballydoyle supremo, Aidan O’Brien. He produced an impressive display when winning his maiden at the second time of asking at Dundalk, and, as a son of War Front, is sure to be suited by the quick underfoot conditions.
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