Top tipster Simon Rowlands has four selections plus analysis for the opening day of Royal Ascot on Tuesday, live on Sky Sports Racing.
Royal Ascot 2022 promises to be as good, and as international as ever, and gets underway with a bang on Tuesday with the Queen Anne Stakes (2.30), featuring officially ‘The Best Horse in the World’ in Baaeed.
Baaeed’s status, though, is under threat following a weekend in which Jack Christopher and Flightline defended unbeaten records in spectacular fashion and Jackie’s Warrior won a Grade Two easily by five lengths, all at Belmont Park in the USA.
He also faces competition this week from Nature Strip, Bay Bridge, Coroebus and Golden Pal, all of whom are already snapping at his heels in the official rankings.
There is, then, perhaps a bit more than just a win on the line as Baaeed enters the stalls, live on Sky Sports Racing, faced with six rivals and already very long odds on.
The win should happen – not that you will find me backing him at such prohibitive odds – but a win with sufficient authority for him to remain as top dog on the world stage is a taller order.
He needs to beat the horses he has already beaten in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury – Real World, Chindit and Sir Busker – by even wider margins than the three-and-a-quarter, five and six-and-a-quarter lengths he managed that day, plus the others of course.
A strongly-run race might make that happen, with Ascot’s stiff straight course adding to the sorting of the wheat from the chaff, but such a scenario seems unlikely. Expect Baaeed to prevail, but for it perhaps to be a bit more workmanlike than what happened at Belmont. It should be a fascinating watch, however.
Taking on top two in King’s Stand
The Queen Anne is one of three Group One races on the card, the others being the King’s Stand Stakes (3.40) and the St James’s Palace Stakes (4.20).
The former features the brilliantly fast US raider Golden Pal and the slightly more measured, but similarly able, Australian challenger Nature Strip, plus runners from Ireland and the Czech Republic.
The others may struggle to get a look-in against those two named, but we have seen before how sprints at this course can fall into the laps of horses who play tortoises to the front-runners’ hares.
Last year’s King’s Stand resulted in a pace burn-up that did for Battaash and rewarded the more patiently ridden Oxted, while Golden Pal himself capitulated in last year’s Nunthorpe at York, won by Winter Power, after tearing through the opening stages.
It could be worth taking a chance with Mooneista, for whom a strongly run five furlongs may be ideal, and who comes here on the back of an encouraging second at six furlongs at the Curragh last time, a race she looked like winning until her effort petered out late on.
There is a doubt about how well she will cope with the ground at Ascot if it proves to be genuinely quick, so a win rather than an each-way bet is advised. But Mooneista does have what looks to be a good draw in stall 14 of 18 (Golden Pal is in 13 and Nature Strip in 10) and the cool-headed Colin Keane on top.
It should be quite a spectacle. Blinking is not recommended!
Lusail fancied if clear of traffic issues
The St James’s Palace Stakes revolves around what you make of Coroebus, winner of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. He looked good that day, sealing the deal with a fine turn of foot, but it can be questioned whether he truly deserves to be odds-on in a field of 13 that includes some accomplished and highly promising rivals.
Besides, I would be pretty confident that Lusail would have finished closer than sixth that day had he not missed the start slightly and met some traffic when attempting to come through. He had also shaped quite well when a never-nearer second to Perfect Power in the Greenham at Newbury.
Far from being a doubtful stayer, Lusail possibly needs a mile now, and the hold-up tactics employed on him should be easier to execute on this course, with its stiff finish.
The William Haggas-trained pair Maljoom (strong late run to win German 2000 Guineas last time) and My Prospero are promising but look to be taking up too much market share.
The Coventry Stakes (3.05) is a mere Group Two but one that has produced some very good two-year-olds over the years (if rather less often recently).
The Aidan O’Brien-trained pair of Blackbeard and Age of Kings have shown useful form already, and are understandably popular in the betting, but I would have Persian Force ahead of them and the others.
He was an impressive winner of the Brocklesby at Doncaster in March, when sectionals show he was value for an extra length or two over his four and three quarters margin, and he got the job done nicely against just two rivals at Newbury last month.
Importantly, Persian Force has already demonstrated tactical versatility, close up at Doncaster then held up at Newbury, and that looks an advantage in a race in which some of the others have looked “point and shoot” types to date.
The two staying handicaps late on the card – the Ascot Stakes (5.00) and Copper Horse Stakes (6.10) – look tricky (Rock Eagle and Stowell may go well), but the Wolferton Stakes (5.35) tickles my fancy.
Aristia has form as good as any but receives weight off her 15 rivals by virtue of being a filly and not having won a listed/Group Three recently.
She might have been a touch flattered in beating a non-staying Alpine Star at York last year but duly ran the smart Lilac Road to half a length in a Group Two on the same course on her reappearance last month.
Aristia may not get things her way so much in a field of this size, but she is very useful and yet largely ignored in the market. A small bet looks worthwhile.
Simon Rowland’s selections…
3.05 Royal Ascot – Persian Force (1pt win)
3.40 Royal Ascot – Mooneista (0.5pt win)
4.20 Royal Ascot – Lusail (0.5pt each-way)
5.35 Royal Ascot – Aristia (0.5pt win)