Favourites to watch at Ascot
Royal Ascot takes place this week and it will be exciting to watch many of the world’s finest sprinters and stayers battle it out for glory. It is the richest and most prestigious meeting in the calendar and it is sure to generate tremendous attention from punters. The temptation is always to lump on the favourite, but it is worth noting that just 22 out of 90 favourites have won at Royal Ascot over the past three years, so you have to pick carefully. These favourites look like they could actually justify that status in the famous meeting this week:
Last year Stradivarius won the Yorkshire Cup, the Ascot Gold Cup, the Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale to earn owner Bjorn Nielsen a £1 million bonus. He cemented his status as the best stayer in the business by landing the British Champions Long Distance Cup and ended the season unbeaten. He looks to be in formidable form once again this year, as he successfully defended the Yorkshire Cup in emphatic fashion. Now he will aim to win a second consecutive Ascot Gold Cup and the top betting sites make him the 6/4 favourite to pull it off. That looks like a very tempting price indeed. Rivals like Dee Ex Bee and Cross Counter should make life difficult for him, but once Starivarius gets going he is unstoppable. Frankie Dettori has already said this is the ride he is most excited about at the meeting and it will be fascinating to see if he can win once more.
Aidan O’Brien is bidding to be named top trainer at Ascot for the fifth year in a row and he has an extremely strong contingent heading to the meeting. Hermosa could well be the pick of the bunch after her superb 1000 Guineas win at Newmarket earlier this year. This filly is by Galileo and she is blessed with bags of stamina and a great turn of pace. She made most of the running to land the 1000 Guineas and then doubled up by seizing the Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh with another commanding performance. She is the 5/4 favourite to romp to victory in the Coronation Stakes and it is hard to see any of her rivals usurping her.
The 7/4 favourite for the Commonwealth Cup is also from the O’Brien stable and the Ballydoyle maestro hopes he will enjoy a step down in trip. He was unbeaten as a two-year-old and he went off as the favourite to win the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket earlier this year, but his stamina ultimately failed him. He finished fifth and stablemate Magna Grecia saluted for O’Brien instead. Yet Ten Sovereigns should enjoy the shorter distance at the Commonwealth Cup and he could return to winning ways in style. “We’ve been delighted with him since Newmarket and we’re looking forward to getting him back over six furlongs,” said O’Brien. “He travelled so well in the Guineas – he ran a great race – but this was the trip he was very comfortable at last year, so you’d imagine he’ll be happy.”
This five-year-old sprinter is the most temperamental of all the favourites at Royal Ascot this week and backing him is certainly risky. When he is on song he is invincible, as he showed with back-to-back victories in the Temple Stakes and the King George Stakes. He has won a number of big races, but he has also been found wanting at times due to trouble in the stalls and general fractiousness. Yet trainer Charlie Hills said he is now a different beast to the one we saw for large parts of 2018 and that bodes well for his chances at Ascot. He is the 9/4 favourite for the King’s Stand Stakes and that might well make him the most attractive favourite of the day on Tuesday. Phoenix Of Spain heads the betting in the St James’s Palace Stakes, but faces stiff competition from Too Darn Hot and King Of Comedy, whereas the field in the King’s Stand does not look quite so fearsome.