IF the opening two days are anything to go by, this year’s Royal Ascot is going to have record breaking field sizes. This afternoon’s feature race, the St James’s Palace Stakes (3.45pm), has 16 declared runners, the largest in over 60 years. It makes for fantastic racing, but finding winners is going to be even more difficult than usual.
Aidan O’Brien has won this race three times in the past five years and Power is his number one contender this time. Similarly to the yard’s 2008 winner, Henrythenavigator, Power comes into this race having won the Irish Guineas and the previous year’s Coventry Stakes. The worry is that he was very disappointing on good-to-soft ground in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas and it looks as though there will be some cut in the ground again today.
John Oxx won this prize in 2004 with Azamour and I think he can land it again with BORN TO SEA. Sea The Stars’ half-brother was hugely disappointing at Newmarket in the Guineas, running far too keenly and spoiling his chances. He was then tried in a hood in the Irish Guineas and that seemed to do the trick as he settled much better and came with a late run to finish fifth behind Power.
The hood stays on today and Johnny Murtagh takes over in the saddle which is a massive plus as he rides Ascot so well. I always take note when Oxx sends horses over to this meeting and with the stable in excellent form, Born To Sea rates a solid each-way bet at 9/1 with
The other one to throw a few quid each-way at is LUCAYAN, at 10/1 with Coral, who was a surprise winner of the French Guineas last month. That was a messy race, but he did really well to win and he looks to be an improving horse. My main worry is his draw in stall 14, but he likes to be handy, so I expect Stephane Pasquier to try to get his mount into a prominent position early on.
Richard Hannon won back-to-back Coventry Stakes (4.25pm) in 2009 and 2010 and he can make it three from four with SIR PRANCEALOT. There has been much debate as to whether the Andrew Tinkler-owned two-year-old would go for this or Thursday’s Norfolk, but connections have decided to go for glory.
I was hugely impressed with Sir Prancealot’s win in the National Stakes at Sandown last time, where absolutely everything that could have gone wrong did. He had to be switched right a furlong out when the gap in front closed, but Richard Hughes still managed to bring his mount home 4 ½ lengths clear. His draw in stall 21 could be perfect and he is a decent bet at 9/2 with Coral.
BORN TO SEA e/w 3.45pm Royal Ascot
LUCAYAN e/w 3.45pm Royal Ascot
SIR PRANCEALOT 4.25pm Royal Ascot