THE Royal Ascot ante-post markets are really starting to warm up and it’s going to be a fascinating first day with the likes of Canford Cliffs, Goldikova and Frankel all lining up.
All of the jockeys will be desperate to get a winner on the board early and RYAN MOORE will be trying to win back-to-back Ascot top jockey awards. He has a number of decent rides for his boss Sir Michael Stoute, but his armoury is that much stronger this time thanks to his association with Aidan O’Brien. He is scheduled to ride Power, So You Think and Await The Dawn, and will pick up a number of top mounts in the big handicaps, so he is simply unopposable at 4/5 with Victor Chandler to be crowned top jockey again.
Richard Hughes is likely to get off the mark in the first race with Canford Cliffs, but he doesn’t appear to have as strong a book of rides as 12 months ago. Kieren Fallon is always to be feared at the big meetings, as is Johnny Murtagh, while there has been plenty of interest in the new superstar Mickael Barzalona at 16/1 with William Hill. However, Moore will probably only need four winners to take the prize and that looks more than likely.
The Coventry Stakes has gone to Richard Hannon for the last two years, but his number one hope this time appears to be Trumpet Major and I don’t think he’s good enough. Ballydoyle are always to be feared in this race and Power must have a decent chance, but I was hugely impressed with Barry Hills’ MEZMAAR at Haydock last month. It was a hot maiden and I have rarely seen a Hills debutant as impressive first time out. He’s beautifully bred and is worth backing each-way at 6/1 with William Hill.
Frankel is going to start a very short price in the St James’s Palace on Tuesday and it’s going to take a very brave person to lay him on Betdaq. However, his presence makes for an interesting each-way market and EXCELEBRATION is excellent value at 14/1 with Paddy Power. He finished just four lengths behind Frankel in the Greenham on his seasonal reappearance, but then romped away with the German 2,000 Guineas last month. I’m not saying he’ll win, but I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t finish in the frame.
Wednesday’s Royal Hunt Cup is one of the biggest betting events of the week and Luca Cumani’s START RIGHT is only likely to get shorter than the current 8/1. He has been very unlucky with the draw in his last two runs at Epsom and Meydan, but he has still run cracking races. Obviously the draw can have a big effect at Ascot, but we can’t worry about that now and this race should be perfect for the four-year-old. Cumani is yet to win this race and it is long overdue.