THE Prince of Wales’s Stakes (3.45pm) is often one of the most thrilling spectacles during Royal Ascot, none more so than last year when Frankie Dettori produced the ill-fated Rewilding to collar So You Think in the final strides. That defeat was a big blow to Ballydoyle who had marked down the son of High Chaparral as one of their bankers of the meeting.
So You Think went on to win the Coral-Eclipse and Irish Champion Stakes, but again found one too good in the QIPCO Champion Stakes back at this venue in October. Cirrus Des Aigles outpointed him that day and it’s a great shame that Corine Barande-Barbe pulled her stable star out of this race earlier in the week, as I think he would have won.
Aidan O’Brien ended his Emirates amnesty back in March, but So You Think could only finish fourth in the Dubai World Cup. However, he bounced back to take the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh for the second year running and he is 10/11 with Star Sports to win this afternoon.
The former Australian-trained horse is undoubtedly the most likely winner in the field, but I wouldn’t want to be taking odds-on about him – he was turned over at 4/11 in this race 12 months ago. He is also now a six-year-old and only one horse older than five has won this race since 1979.
So, who can beat him? The obvious place to start is the Queen’s Carlton House, who looked back to his best in the Brigadier Gerard at Sandown last month. He was a hugely impressive winner of the Dante last season, but just didn’t look suited to 1m4f in the Investec Derby.
I have no doubt that this is his best trip, but he’s short enough at 3/1 with Coral and I can see that price getting even shorter as everyone will want to be on a Royal winner. I’m still not entirely convinced by the form of Sir Michael Stoute’s stable and the yard actually has a pretty poor record in this race, winning it just the once with Stagecraft in 1991.
Marco Botti received a big boost when PLANTEUR was sent to him earlier this year and the former Ellie Lellouche-trained son of Danehill Dancer looks a knocking each-way bet at 9/1 with Star Sports. He finished half a length in front of So You Think in the Dubai World Cup, and actually ran well in the Prix D’Ispahan at Longchamp last time, where he was unsuited by the steady pace.
He came home a slightly disappointing fourth in this race last year, but it doesn’t look a particularly strong contest and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t in the first three this time.
Another one who interests me is Godolphin’s FARHH, who annihilated his rivals in the Thirsk Gold Cup last month. Not many horses would have come into this Group One contest having previously contested a handicap at the North Yorkshire track, but the manner in which he put the race to bed was stunning and he is unbeaten in three career starts.
This is obviously a huge step up, but he has clearly always been well regarded by Saeed Bin Suroor, and if he handles the extra two furlongs he could go very close. Frankie Dettori takes the ride and there isn’t a better jockey around this course, so Farhh is also worth backing each-way at 10/1 with Coral.
The second day kicks off with the Group Three Jersey Stakes (2.30pm) and an astonishing 26 runners line-up. There were only nine contenders when Strong Suit won last year, but this year’s field can be narrowed with plenty looking out of their depth.
Fillies have a decent record in this contest and William Haggas saddles the likely favourite, Sentaril. She has won both her career starts in impressive fashion and should go close. However, she might struggle to beat Roger Varian’s ALJAMAAHEER, who easily won a Listed race at Newmarket last time. That form was boosted yesterday when The Nile was behind him that day and he was running a big race in yesterday’s St James’s Palace before tragically breaking his leg. The 11/2 available with Coral is worth taking.
You can never rule out Aidan O’Brien at this meeting, so Reply has to be respected, while Jeremy Noseda’s Valbchek also looks progressive. But I’m going to take Aljamaaheer to give Varian his first Royal Ascot winner.
The Windsor Forest Stakes (3.05pm) looks a straight shootout between the front three in the betting and I fancy Dermot Weld’s EMULOUS to come out on top. She, along with Nahrain, has to carry a Group One penalty, but she has won her last four and I just can’t get out of my mind the way she beat Together in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown last September.
Nahrain is respected following her win in the Prix De L’Opera, but I’m not entirely convinced she will have the speed to cope with Emulous. Sir Henry Cecil’s Chachamaidee was second in this race last year, and I think she’ll definitely get placed again, but this looks a hotter race and seven furlongs might just suit her better.
Dermot Weld doesn’t normally send many over to this meeting, so that’s a hint in itself and Emulous is a solid bet at 11/4.
You can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my views from the track.
ALJAMAAHEER e/w 2.30pm Royal Ascot
EMULOUS 2.30pm Royal Ascot
PLANTEUR e/w 2.30pm Royal Ascot
FARHH e/w 2.30pm Royal Ascot