Whilst most of the Flat calendar has been cancelled or rescheduled, Royal Ascot has remained in its traditional spot and offers sports fans one of the first global sporting events back post-lockdown.
The number of international runners will be lower than normal but we still have runners from America, France and Ireland to add to the best of British.
Day One gets us off to a flyer with some brilliant races. I have picked out a few potential betting options that stand out to offer potential value and can hopefully give us some winners at the start of a busy week.
Firmament - Each Way
Royal Ascot (13.15)
The first race on the card is the Buckingham Palace Handicap which returns after last being seen in 2014. A few familiar names in the line-up and there is one horse that plenty of you will have backed in the past.
Firmament has been one of those horses that wins rarely but often will at least run his race. His recent run at Newcastle should have him ripe for this test and he has plenty of experience in big field handicaps.
The final big plus is the booking of James Doyle. A talented rider, he has started the season well and won on the horse previously.
Plumatic - Each Way
Royal Ascot (13.50)
The Queen Anne follows next and the betting is headed by Circus Maximus. This race can throw up a shock or two so if you like one at a price, do not be afraid to back it each way.
There is an angle I have seen a few people talk about and it is worth repeating. Plumatic arrives here having been one of the few horses to have a prep run at an ideal time. The French raider can use that to his advantage and gets the services of champion jockey Osin Murphy which is a big plus. Looking at his form, a drop of rain won’t be an issue either.
Our each-way terms are paying the first 4 home in this race too, so worth hunting for one at a price if you are having a bet in the Queen Anne.
Passion - Each Way
Royal Ascot (14.25)
This renewal has me more puzzled than usual with many potential Oaks questions to be answered from the running of this year’s race. Frankly Darling is a warm order at the top of the betting for John Gosden who has hit the ground running this season.
She was not stopping when winning at Newcastle over one mile two earlier in the month and certainly looks a type to relish going further in trip. That said, I don’t want to be taking the 7/4 about her when we can take an each-way price on Passion of Aidan O’Brien.
She is turned out quickly again having finished fourth of six on her return to action in a listed race. Ideally, we would have a bit longer between the runs but I imagine that race has been used as a stepping stone to prepare her for this.
Her sire has produced so many good horses that love to go over this trip. Passion for me looks a classic improving type from two to three and will be my pick for small stakes to take on.
Royal Ascot (15.00)
Mogul arrives here with a fairly big reputation on the line. 7/1 for the Derby at Epsom later in the season, this colt is a very interesting runner in a sadly slightly depleted field.
By Galileo, Mogul is clear on ratings and goes up in trip from a mile for the first time today. His stable are experts at winning Derbies and the expectation is that he wins this today en route to Epsom.
For all he faces only five other runners, there is still some quality opposition in the race. Listed winner Mohican Heights and Mogal’s stablemate Arthur’s Kingdom can be expected to chase him home.
My prediction is not only that Mogul wins this race but that he will end up going favourite for the derby before he has even returned to the winners’ enclosure, having relished the one-mile, four-furlong trip.
Royal Ascot (15.35)
Another big race with a short-priced favourite. Battash, rated 126 on paper, looks a good thing to win this year’s renewal of the King’s Stand.
To my mind, the biggest danger defected to run in the Diamond Jubilee later in the week which means he really does lack someone to match up with him. Whilst Charlie Hill’s horse has the odd quirk, the ground should be perfect for him and with no crowd and no Blue Point, surely this will be his best ever chance of landing this race.
Royal Ascot (16.10)
Day one of Royal Ascot really does serve up quality racing and this group two is no different. The market has two heavyweight trainers clashing with Jubiloso representing Sir Michael Stoute and Nazeef from John Gosden.
Both popular choices have had different preps with Nazeef retuning recently at Kempton with a nice win in a listed race. As much as I respect Jubiloso, I think that run from Nazeef is certainly a big advantage. Provided the surface stays good, she will be getting my vote to win this contest.
Looking over the rest of the field, the only other horse which would be of interest is Miss O Connor. My slight worry is all her best form has come with plenty of cut in the ground. Should we get lots of rain, I would expect her price to contract.
Royal Ascot (16.40)
The final race of the day gives us some names more associated with Jumps racing, including our own Jamie Snowden who runs Carntop with Jack Mitchell taking the ride.
Elsewhere in the field, Verdana Blue can give the bookies a blue day by being another favourite to oblige in this closing race. A very smart jumps horse, she wouldn’t want to see too much rain. Nicky Henderson has enjoyed running his horses in these staying contests before and this race often ends up with a national hunt trainer landing the prize.
A mark of 100 looks to underestimate her flat capabilities in my book and given the owner, I can see her enjoying a tilt at a few other Flat meetings later on in the calendar.