Turf talking – Royal Ascot starts here...

It is that time of the year again! Royal Ascot opens up with a bang with three Group One races today. The opening race is a mouthwatering clash between the champion wonder mare GOLDIKOVA and last year’s champion three year old miler CANFORD CLIFFS in the Queen Anne Stakes. That is then followed up by some of the fastest horses in the world competing in the King Stand Stakes over five furlongs. The hot favourite here is top Australian sprinter Star Witness. The final Group One race of the day features the eagerly awaited reappearance of 2,000 Guineas winner FRANKEL, who looks set to maintain his unbeaten record in the St James Palace Stakes.

Goldikova has won the Breeders Cup Mile three consecutive times and also won this race last year, beating the Richard Ghannon trained Paco Boy. I can envisage a very similar scenario here, with Hughes likely to sit out at the back on Canford Cliffs, aiming to go from last to first in the twinkling of an eye. Goldikova looked like she had retained all of her class when taking the Prix D’Ispahan at Longchamp last month. Similarly, Canford Cliffs won the Group One Lockinge Stakes at Sandown with relative ease and both should come on for the run. Goldikova is a tried and tested yardstick, 13/8 is too big a price for such a quality mare and I expect her to narrowly hold the late charge of Canford Cliffs.

The Kings Stand Stakes this year looks a very open affair with Australian favourite Star Witness at the head of the market largely due to the lack of serious home-grown genuine Group One contenders in the race. There aare serious question marks against many of the runners here. Kingsgate Native prefers to run fresh for example, whereas Prohibit, Iver Bridge Lad, Rain Delayed and Rose Blossom are all exposed.

The only stand out in terms of value looks to be the Ed McMahon filly ASTROPHYSICAL JET. Fillies have a great record in this race and her form has been a revelation since dropping down to five furlongs from six. She has won three, and been third once and was unplaced on her seasonal reappearance, but was found to have had a small niggle afterwards. She goes on good or good to firm so the ground won’t be a problem as long as the rain doesn’t arrive in too large quantities.

Instead of tipping up the prohibitively priced Frankel in the St James Palace Stakes, I shall instead look to the Coventry Stakes for our third race. The race is over six furlongs, and can be and indicator of future champions. Previous winner Canford Cliffs went on to win four group ones, including the Irish 2000 Guineas and those with longer memories will recal Chief Singer’s famous win in the 1980’s.

Richard Hannon doesn’t seem to have a star performer this year, but a trainer who does is Aidan O’Brien in POWER. He looked very forward when staying on and battling well to win the Marble Hill Stakes at the Curragh over five furlongs at the Curragh, He looked beat 50 yards out, but showed real grit to fight back, and the fact he was coming away after the line indicates six furlongs is sure to suit. Another trainer in good form with his juveniles is Mick Channon, who has GATEPOST. I was fortunate to see him win a Class 3 Novice Stakes at York comfortably with Jamie Spencer on board, and the form has worked out well, with all horses coming back out and running with credit. He’s worth an interest.

Royal Ascot Tuesday

2.30 – Goldikova (Nap)

3.05 – Astrophysical Jet (EW)

4.25 – Power & Gatepost