BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS THE QUEEN ANNE AND THE COVENTRY STAKES
LAST year we witnessed Frankel, the 2012 Royal Ascot banker, waltz away with the Queen Anne Stakes (2.30pm) and this year’s meeting again opens up with the shortest-priced favourite of the week.
American-raider Animal Kingdom will attempt to cement himself as an all-time great this afternoon by winning at the highest level on three different surfaces. Graham Motion’s five-year-old is as short as 8/11 with Coral to add a turf win to his victories at Group One level on the dirt (2011 Kentucky Derby) and on the all-weather surface known as Tapeta (2013 Dubai World Cup).
Those who follow trends will be quick to point out that eight of the last 10 winners had all won over a mile, a feat missing from Animal Kingdom’s CV. However, even though the trip is certainly on the short side, he was arguably an unlucky loser of last year’s Breeder’s Cup Mile.
He has a good temperament and travels well in his races which means he is without doubt the one they all have to beat. That said, I find it impossible to support any odds-on shot at Royal Ascot, let alone one that has travelled thousands of miles.
On the formbook, he is furlongs in front of the bulk of his opposition and Farhh, the horse set to give him the biggest test, has been sidelined by injury.
The market suggests that Coolmore’s Declaration Of War will now be the one to cause him most problems, but he has to bounce back from a really poor run at Newbury last month. He was backed as if defeat was out of the question that day and it’s interesting that connections are having another tilt at a mile when the drop in trip looked his undoing that day.
Yet, even if whatever troubled him at Newbury has been sorted, the ground will again be faster than he wants and he is very short at 6/1 with Ladbrokes.
Elusive Kate has won over a mile at Group One level, but is having her first run of the campaign and is also a single-figure price. While her stablemate Gregorian has to step up again after winning at Epsom last month.
That leaves SOVEREIGN DEBT and Aljamaaheer who finished second and third respectively to Farhh at Newbury as the two that make the most appeal. The former was sent off at a whopping 80/1 that day but ran the race off his life when chasing the easy winner home all the way to the line.
Michael Bell’s charge again finished second over course and distance on his previous start, but gave eventual winner Fencing too much rope that day. He travelled best throughout the race and will relish the strong pace this afternoon.
I expect him to sit out the back once again and to be delivered late by his jockey. He may not be quite good enough to win, but looks cracking each-way value at around 16/1.
As for Aljamaaheer, he often seems to find trouble in-running and I’m also a little bit concerned about his resolve in a fighting finish. However, I think he’s improving with age and certainly has the quality to take a hand in the finish.
SOVEREIGN DEBT e/w 2.30pm Ascot