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International raiders set to steal the show on Ascot’s opening day

FIVE days of quality racing gets underway this afternoon with arguably the race of the week, the Queen Anne Stakes. Last year’s winner Paco Boy meets multiple Group One winners GOLDIKOVA and Rip Van Winkle in a mouth-watering clash. My slight preference is for the French wonder mare who last month won the eighth Group One of her already glittering career. She is reportedly in the form of her life and will take plenty of catching.

Now, the only concern would be the fact that no filly or mare has won this contest since the Pattern was introduced in 1971 and she will have to be at her very best to re-write the record books. However, Paco Boy has been found wanting against the very best in the past and Rip Van Winkle may well need the run. Interestingly, fellow French raider DALGHAR may be an interesting one for the forecast and warrants each-way support at 14/1 with William Hill.

Only 12 runners go to post for the King’s Stand at 3.05pm, which is the smallest field that I can remember. Now, overseas raiders have won six of the last seven runnings of this race and Australian raider NICCONI looks the one to beat. He looks a true five furlong specialist and is best fresh (he comes here on the back of a break). Frankie Dettori rides him and he is preferred to home representative Kingsgate Native who often struggles to put two good runs together.

The first three home from last month’s 2000 Guineas meet again in the St James’s Palace Stakes at 3.50pm. French raider MAKFI emerged victorious at Newmarket, but third placed Canford Cliffs is favourite at just 6/4 with William Hill to gain revenge this afternoon after his scintillating win in Ireland last time. However, Makfi won with a fair bit in hand in the Guineas and I’d far rather take a chance on him confirming the form at 11/4 with Paddy Power.

We’ve already backed Richard Hannon’s Strong Suit for the ultra competitive Coventry Stakes and I certainly haven’t lost faith in him. He won really well at Newbury and he is reportedly the best of his stable’s strong two-year-old team. However, I’ll be having a few quid each-way on the Michael Jarvis trained ELZAAM who is expected to run our selection close.

The Ascot Stakes looks as impossible as ever, but I’m prepared to side with WOOLFALL TREASURE. It would mean a lot to Ryan Moore to ride a Royal Ascot winner for his father and our selection carries four pounds less than last year when he finished a creditable sixth.

American trainer Wesley Ward won last year’s Windsor Castle Stakes and can repeat the trick with speedball METROPOLITAN MAN. He looks sure to blaze the trail and was an impressive winner over four and a half furlongs on debut. The runner-up has since come out and won by 12 lengths so he could be very good. If he does open up at halfway, that may be the time to hit the escape button on Betdaq as there is a danger he might tie up late on.


POINTERS...
GOLDIKOVA 2.30pm Royal Ascot
DALGHAR e/w 2.30pm Royal Ascot
NICCONI 3.05pm Royal Ascot
MAKFI 3.50pm Royal Ascot
ELZAAM e/w 4.25pm Royal Ascot
WOOLFALL TREASURE e/w 5.00pm Royal Ascot
METROPOLITAN MAN 5.30pm Royal Ascot

TIPS FROM THE TOP WITH PADDY POWER

ROYAL ASCOT is here at last and I fancy Richard Hughes to be top jockey over the five days at around 11-4 – he certainly has a great book of rides.

Today’s opening Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot is ultra-competitive and while I'm a huge fan of Paco Boy, I’m going for RIP VAN WINKLE at about 5-2 with Paddy Power.

Rip was good enough to beat Paco Boy when only a three-year-old at Goodwood and I’m expecting him to be a monster now he’s a year older.

Richard Hannon won last year’s Coventry Stakes with Canford Cliffs and I think that he can repeat with STRONG SUIT. The vibes are that this is his best juvenile and he won going away on his debut.

POINTERS...
ROYAL ASCOT TOP JOCKEY: Richard Hughes
RIP VAN WINKLE 2.30pm Royal Ascot
STRONG SUIT 4.25pm Royal Ascot