Alex Hammond blog: Royal Ascot selections, stars, long shots and Stradivarius! | Racing News

Sky Sports Racing presenter Alex Hammond is gearing up for five spectacular days at Royal Ascot as she takes a look at the potential stories for the week ahead.

The most famous meeting of the year has came around again, and this year’s Royal Ascot should be more ‘normal’ after it was run behind closed doors in 2020 and with a restricted crowd in 2021.

Here are a handful of potential outcomes that will make the five days sensational for me in 2022.

Star of the week

Much like Desert Crown‘s demolition in the Derby, Ascot will be set alight if we see a superstar early on. Baaeed has the potential to be that star and Ascot won’t need a firework display to add atmosphere to the occasion if this lad does something spectacular in the Queen Anne.

He’s not an attractive betting proposition at 1/4 favourite with Sky Bet, but it’s not always about that.

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Baaeed, ridden by Jim Crowley, on his way to victory in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury

Hats off to The Queen

Her Majesty has several chances across the week and after the Jubilee celebrations it would cap off the year if The Queen had a winner at Royal Ascot. She has a few rolls of the dice.

King’s Lynn may have got his work cut out against the international challengers in the King’s Stand, whilst Perfect Alibi has the option of the Queen’s Vase on Wednesday or the Ribblesdale on Thursday.

Reach For The Moon and Frankie Dettori winning at Newbury last season
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Reach For The Moon and Frankie Dettori winning at Newbury last season

Naval College could make his handicap debut in the King George V Handicap on Thursday, course winner Saga and Kiteflyer are in the Britannia on Thursday.

Reach For The Moon is entered in the Hampton Court on Thursday and looks to be the best chance of the week in a bid to provide Her Majesty with a 25th winner at the meeting.

Best bet(s) of the week

I have more than one, but the first of them could also fall into the category of “long-term retrieval mission”.

Who can forget the pain of the narrow defeat of last year’s NAP MC Muldoon in last year’s Ascot Stakes? It’s etched in my memory but I’m hoping Willie Mullins can lift the prize in 2022 with Bring On The Night and gain some kind of compensation.

This race is usually won by a jumps trainer, but that won’t help as the main protagonists all hail from stables who are better known for their exploits in the winter game.

Pied Piped jumps across the path of Knight Salute at Aintree
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Pied Piper jumps across the path of Knight Salute at Aintree

Gordon Elliott is responsible for second-favourite Pied Piper and Nicky Henderson saddles another of the leading contenders in Ahorsewithnoname.

Bring On The Night looks well handicapped on the Flat, he’s bred for the game and started out in a Flat yard in France with Andre Fabre for whom he was a winner. Ryan Moore takes the ride.

Another horse that will be on my radar, given a favourable high draw, will be Lady Tilbury in Wednesday’s Queen Mary.

Gary Carroll rode Quick Suzy to win this race last year and he knows what it takes to win this fillies’ contest. The aforementioned duo may make up my (in)famous Sky Bet daily double given a favourable draw for the latter.

Aussies at the double

Thanks to a fun quiz from my Sky Sports Racing friend and colleague Jamie Lynch, I found out that Australia have had 37 runners at Royal Ascot over the years.

The country relies on three this time round, two of whom are trained by ace Chris Waller, Home Affairs in the Platinum Jubilee, and Nature Strip in the King’s Stand.

Tuesday’s King’s Stand promises to be a real thriller with the highest rated sprinter in the world, Nature Strip, taking on the fastest horse in the world in Wesley Ward’s Golden Pal who is rated 3lbs inferior to the Aussie sprinter.

Connections of both can be satisfied with the high draws they have been handed. I favour the horse who has travelled the furthest because the stiff five furlongs doesn’t look as suitable for the American speedster. Sky Bet can’t separate the pair who are 5/2 joint-favourites, but I know who my money is on!

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Australian trainer Chris Waller is raring to go as he prepared Platinum Jubilee Stakes favourite Home Affairs and stablemate Nature Strip for their Royal Ascot outing with a track gallop. Pictures: Sky Racing Australia

What about the down under double? Home Affairs is the new kid on the sprinting block in Australia but has already beaten his illustrious stablemate.

Having heard an interview with Chris Waller at the weekend and his measured and meticulous approach to his Ascot planning, I can see the likeable Kiwi heading back to his adopted home with a big sprint double.

Longshot of the week

Lady Tilbury almost falls into this category although I expect she will be shorter given a stands’ side draw. So, the horse that I’m hoping can give us something to cheer about at fair odds is Tasman Bay in Tuesday’s Wolferton Stakes.

If you’re so inclined, Sky Bet are paying five places and at 10/1 he offers some each-way value. He’s shorter than I’d hoped, but the booking of Australian star James McDonald to ride won’t have done his claims any harm.

He’s been gelded since we last saw him in action and his placed performances behind the likes of Hurricane Lane, John Leeper, Alenquer, Baaeed and Dubai Honour look strong.

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Trainer John Gosden says veteran staying star Stradivarius is still full of life as he prepares to bid for a record-equalling fourth Ascot Gold Cup victory

Heart ruling head

Stradivarius winning a record-equalling fourth Gold Cup would be the icing on the cake for this year’s Royal Ascot.

If the likeable cheeky chappy can emulate Yeats at the grand old age of eight it would be a remarkable feat for everyone involved with the horse.

He is remarkably resilient and a great character, and all credit to John and Thady Gosden for keeping his energy channelled in the right direction year after year.

Stradivarius wins the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot on Trials Day
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Stradivarius wins the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot on Trials Day

He’s off to stud at the end of this campaign and it would be heart warming to see him sent off in a blaze of glory. It would also advertise his soundness, constitution, and longevity which I hope would make breeders flock to use him next year.

I’ll see you there each day with our top team on Sky Sports Racing for a firecracker of a week – we’ll have tips aplenty from our shrewd team so let’s hope for a show-stopping week, peppered with an abundance of winners.