SHAMROCK AT ROYAL ASCOT: SHAMROCK marks your card on the Irish challenge on the first day at Royal Ascot including the St James’s Palace Stakes with the clash of two Guineas winners Dawn Approach and Magician.

The big week has arrived and there are some really strong Irish challengers on the first day of Royal Ascot.

Here are my thoughts, race by race:

2:30 Queen Anne Stakes (British Champions Series) (Group 1) (Str) (4yo+, Class 1, 1m, 13 runners)

There was a telling stat on the Morning Line this morning which said that outside Animal Kingdom and Elusive Kate the rest of the field here are unproven at Group level. It’s great to see Animal Kingdom at Ascot but it’s debatable whether you want to take too short a price about the Kentucky Derby winner.  However, the fact he’s travelled shouldn’t prove too much of a negative given his early arrival in the UK and the fact he’s won the Dubai World Cup too. Good luck to their enterprising connections. Given his prowess I’m only going to play in the BETDAQ place market on Aidan O’Brien’s Declaration Of War (around 2.81) who was very disappointing in the Lockinge Stakess at Newbury. If he is to play a hand today that form has to be disregarded and he will have to do much better. There were excuses of him getting worked up in the stalls at Newbury.

SELECTION: Declaration Of War (PLACE)

3:05 King’s Stand Stakes (British Champions Series & Global Sprint Challenge) (Group 1) (3yo+, Class 1, 5f, 19 runners)

Another race with an engaging international angle. Home challenge comes from the Edward Lynam trained Sole Power who ran well in this to take third last year and is seldom far away. Was ridden too prominently last time out at Haydock in the Temple Stakes. A win and place bet for me.


3:45 St James’s Palace Stakes (British Champions Series) (Group 1) (Rnd) (3yo, Class 1, 1m, 9 runners)

Irish trained runners dominate numerically as well as in the betting for the race of the week in my opinion. The presence of Dawn Approach adds an unexpected twist to the betting. After his Derby flop he was widely expected to by-pass Royal Ascot but trainer Jim Bolger stated last week his intention to run. It comes down to a pretty simply but not easy to answer question. If you believe that the ONLY reason for Dawn Approach’s flop in the Derby was distance / not settling related then the odds today will appeal. He’s a better price today than he was in the Derby and we don’t have any stamina questions today as he returns to the one mile trip. He has his pacemaker here in Leitir Mor and Bolger has been pleased with his progress since Epsom where, lets face it, he didn’t have a hard task when his chance was gone. If he is back to his 2000 Guineas form then I think he wins – he already holds Glory Awaits, Toronado. Mars, Leitir Mor and George Vancouver on that form. There was a doubt about Magician running last week but Aidan O’Brien’s runner has been given the thumbs up. He won the Dee Stakes at Chester and the Irish 2000 Guineas both impressively but is still rated 3lb inferior to Dawn Approach who could have his measure here.

SELECTION: Dawn Approach (WIN, NAP)

4:25 Coventry Stakes (Group 2) (2yo, Class 1, 6f, 16 runners)

Dawn Approach won this very race last year but there is no runner from the Bolger stable this time. Aidan O’Brien launches a three-pronged attack on the race with Stubbs (ridden by Jospeh) the better fancied but it’s actually the outsider of his three runners that interests me most. War Command with super-sub Seamie Heffernan onboard looked useful over seven furlongs on debut at Leopardstown and could easily spring a surprise here, despite stepping back in trip.


5:00 Ascot Stakes (Handicap) (4yo+, Class 2, 2m 4f, 20 runners)

This looks tougher for the Irish runners – Marches Marconi let me down and was disappointing at Listowel last time and Aidan O’Brien’s other runner Justification has questions to answer after a disappointing run at Chester last time. The Willie Mullins trained Midnight Oil has been off the track for 627 days on the flat but has been in winning form over hurdles this year and the booking of Richard Hughes is of obvious interest for the stable that won this last year with Simenon.

SELECTION: Midnight Oil (WIN and PLACE)

5:35 Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed) (2yo, Class 1, 5f, 28 runners)

Our old friend Wilshire Boulevard (Aidan O’Brien) is racing again – his third race in 10 days. He let me down at Navan before returning to the track to win well (when I took him on) so goodness knows what he will do today. He steps back in trip to the minimum for this and I prefer Fountain Of Youth, also trained by Aidan O’Brien, who bolted home as his starting price indicated he should have, at Tipperary last time.

SELECTION: Fountain Of Youth (WIN and PLACE)

2.30 Declaration Of War (PLACE)
3.05 Sole Power (WIN and PLACE)
3.45 Dawn Approach (WIN, NAP)
4.25 War Command (PLACE)
5.00 Midnight Oil (WIN and PLACE)
5.35 Fountain Of Youth (WIN and PLACE)

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