Royal Ascot got under way on Tuesday with great races in prospect every day this week. Here is your guide to the second day of one of flat racing’s finest meetings.
2.30pm Queen Mary Stakes
Competitive renewal of the Queen Mary, and a big field to go with it. The pace looks to be among the high draws, headed by TWILIGHT GLEAMING, whose trainer Wesley Ward enjoys an enviable record in this race, having won the Queen Mary four times and finished runner-up on a further three occasions since his first foray to the UK back in 2009. He brings over a strong-looking team of juveniles this year and, with Twilight Gleaming reportedly his strongest chance, she commands the upmost respect. Quick Suzy can give her the most to think about now dropped back to five furlongs and rates a solid each-way chance.
3.05pm Queen’s Vase
An admittedly below-par renewal of the Queen’s Vase, with none of the 15 runners yet to tackle Group 2 company. Moreover, many of the field are trying this distance for the first time and, in quite a puzzling event, WORDSWORTH rates the most solid option for the trainer/jockey combination of Aidan O’Brien & Ryan Moore that have captured three of the past six runnings of this race. Stowell rates an interesting contender now stepping out of maiden company and tackling 1m6f for the first time for the Gosden/Dettori combination; he can take a sizeable step up here and give the favourite the most to think about.
3.40pm Duke Of Cambridge Stakes
Superior straight course form can count in the favour of ONASSIS, who book-ended her 2020 campaign with two excellent runs down Ascot’s straight course. Making her seasonal reappearance here, Onassis was last seen finishing strongly in the Group 1 QIPCO British Champions Sprint last October, where she finished in among genuine Group 1 performers. The prospect of better ground should hold few fears and, with the promise of more to come as a four-year-old, she can get her season off to a flyer here. Lady Bowthorpe has a 3lb penalty to shoulder but is entitled to be bang there and can go chase the selection home.
4.20pm Prince Of Wales’s Stakes
A race to savour. Having not been seen since last August, the fitness and wellbeing of Aidan O’Brien’s stable star Love is sure to have a sizeable bearing on this race, but perhaps not as much as the pace of the race itself; with no confirmed front-runners in the line-up, this could prove a tactical affair. In a tricky race to call, ARMORY’s fitness edge over Love and Lord North could prove the decisive factor: it was hard not to be impressed with his Chester reappearance and, with the promise of more to come, he can take this over stablemate Love.
Armory: Consistent high-class performer who reappeared with an excellent victory in the Huxley Stakes at Chester. This is his toughest assignment to date, but he promises to have much more to offer as a 4-year-old.
Desert Encounter: Course winner back in 2017 but has failed to place in 6 subsequent visits to Ascot. Lack of pace a further worry; hard to fancy in a warm heat.
Lord North: High-class, consistent performer who bled last time out when an impressive winner of the Dubai Turf back in March. Taking winner of this race last year and greatly respected in defence of his title.
My Oberon: Good 3rd last time out in an admittedly lesser Group 1 event than this. Has work to do to figure here, but gets first-time cheekpieces and the ground is in his favour; squeak.
Sangarius: More than useful horse on his day, but his best form invariably coincides with soft ground. Unlikely to get it here. Potential place angle but playing for minor honours at best.
Audarya: Made giant strides as a 4-year-old, culminating in two Group 1 victories, the latter coming in the Breeders’ Cup Fillies & Mares Turf. Tough task on seasonal reappearance; best watched.
Love: Looked a world beater in three imperious wide-margin victories last year. Taking on colts for the first time and looks to have a tough task on her seasonal reappearance; the one to beat nevertheless.
5.00pm Royal Hunt Cup
In a typically competitive renewal of the Royal Hunt Cup, ASTRO KING rates a very solid contender: he can have his run from last month’s Thirsk Hunt Cup upgraded as he had a wide draw and a tough position towards the rear. With his mark having been protected for this race, and with a record over a mile that reads 1113 (including a narrow beating of market rival Finest Sound), he can go take the beating as he bids to reward Sir Michael Stoute’s patience, having been brought along gently so far through his career. Irish Admiral can chase the selection home back on a more conventional track, having struggled around Epsom’s camber last time, with better ground a further bonus.
5.35pm Windsor Castle Stakes
Aidan O’Brien’s record in the Windsor Castle bodes very well for the chances of AMALFI COAST, with his 5 runners in the last 10 runnings of this race yielding two winners, a 3rd and a 4th placing. The return to faster ground is a minor concern, otherwise the selection looks to have plenty going for him this afternoon, having improved with each of his 3 career starts. Wesley Ward holds a strong hand, headed by wide-margin debut winner Ruthin, who is greatly respected in this context. Armor had two subsequent winners behind him when a taking winner of his only start; he completes the shortlist.
6.10pm Kensington Palace Stakes
Roger Varian is more than capable of producing a horse for a big race off a long break and it is interesting to see him bring a fresh horse forward in WALIYAK (NAP), who ran a huge race in defeat to finish 2nd on her seasonal reappearance in last year’s Sandringham Handicap, where she arguably lacked horses around her to take her further into the race. The fact that she has been sent off market leader on 3 of her 4 subsequent starts suggests there is a degree of unfinished business about her and, with a strong pace looking likely, Waliyak can go very close on her first run of the season.
2.30 Beautiful Sunshine
3.40 Lady Bowthorpe
5.00 Finest Sound
5.35 Spring Is Sprung NAP