Here, Alex marks your card with five Royal Ascot tips that he’s hoping to tell the grandkids about!
GOLDIKOVA @ 6/4 – QUEEN ANNE STAKES
The Queen Anne is always a great way to set the tone and in recent years it has become the first meeting point for all the best older milers. Last year’s Irish 2000 Guineas, St James’ Palace and Sussex winner Canford Cliffs joins the party this year, while both Cape Blanco and Cityscape provide a fascinating alternate angle as they mix with the top milers for the first time, but the fact remains that they are all conceding weight to one of the greatest racemares of all time.
Now aged six and with a record of sixteen wins from twenty-two runs, Goldikova’s longevity and consistency are becoming almost as admirable as her high cruising speed and potent turn of foot.
Admittedly, she is going to have to up her game after a hard-fought success in a French Group 1 on her reappearance, but she did exactly that on her way to defeating Paco Boy in this race last year and a repeat of that form would demand improvement from any of her rivals.
GREEN DESTINY @ 8/1 – ROYAL HUNT CUP
The term progressive barely does Green Destiny justice, as he’s leapt from mid-field in a Kempton maiden to Royal Hunt Cup favourite in the space of just three runs, with his handicap wins at Leicester (in a race which has worked out very well) and Newmarket either side of the turn of the year earmarking him as a potential group performer in the making.
The ability to travel and stay well is extremely important in rough-and-tumble handicaps like the Hunt Cup, and Green Destiny seems to have both in abundance, his win at Newmarket last time over a stiff nine furlongs proof of that. As always with handicaps on the straight track at Ascot, the draw may prove crucial, but if he winds up on the perceived ‘right’ side, expect to see William Haggas’ gelding go off at much shorter than 8/1.
FAME AND GLORY @ 5/2 – GOLD CUP
To put it kindly, since the retirement of Yeats there has been a vacancy for a top-notch stayer to really invigorate the division; the fact that last year’s Ascot Gold Cup winner Rite Of Passage had run at the Cheltenham Festival just three months earlier should be all the illustration of that point that you need.
There are a few parallels between Fame And Glory and Yeats, besides the obvious: both are Coronation Cup winners who were arguably unlucky not to have won the Epsom Derby at three, but Fame And Glory’s form over middle-distances is the stronger and that’s the crux of this bet.
As a top-class twelve-furlong performer pitched in amongst a weak group of stayers, if Fame And Glory stays, he wins.
It’s because his staying power is unproven- and the fact that a couple of starts over slightly longer trips this season have been inconclusive- that Fame And Glory is 5/2 and not 5/4, but he’s always given the impression that stamina is his strong suit and Aidan O’Brien has plenty of previous form in getting horses bred for middle distances to stay that little bit further.
BATED BREATH @ 8/1 – GOLDEN JUBILEE STAKES
If the door is slightly ajar for a superstar stayer, then it’s wide open for a true champion in the sprinting division. Now five years old, sprinting newcomer and current Golden Jubilee favourite Delegator may be a contender for top honours in what is likely to be another lean year, but a superstar he is not. At the prices, I’m willing to give a chance to an improver in Roger Charlton’s Bated Breath.
An upwardly-mobile three-year-old, Bated Breath has picked up the thread again on his last two outings, impressive when winning a conditions stakes at Haydock and a listed race at Windsor. The second of those victories in particular made a lasting impression, and with the gap between listed and group races a relatively small one among the sprinters these days there’s no reason to think that Bated Breath can’t make the transition.
WAFFLE @ 20/1 – WOKINGHAM STAKES
The Wokingham is probably the one race at Royal Ascot that punters can’t wait to sink their teeth into, and this year’s renewal looks even more fiercely competitive than usual but my biggest tip for Royal Ascot is running in this very race. There will no doubt be theory after theory between now and then over which side is supposedly favoured in terms of the draw, but at this stage all I can tell you is that Waffle looks primed to run a big race if things fall right for him.
Having joined David Barron over the winter, Waffle has caught the eye on each run since, with interference scuppering his chances on each of his first two outings (finished runner-up both times nonetheless) before he looked to be just a little short of toe over five furlongs at York last month. Back up in trip and running off the same mark, everything looks in place for team Barron to take another valuable sprint handicap. Now, just pray for a good draw…