Harry Allwood selects five horses who ought to go close on the first two days of the Royal Meeting, including two at double-figure odds.
It will be strange not to be attending at least one of the five days at Royal Ascot this year as racing behind closed doors continues in Britain.
Battaash will be one of the stars on show in the King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday and Charlie Hills provided a positive update (below) on his speedster plus a number of his other leading hopes during the week on Luck On Sunday at the weekend.
Stradivarius enjoyed an ideal prep run for the Gold Cup when third in the Coronation Cup and will surely prove hard to beat in the Group One feature on Thursday. Lets hope John Gosden's super stayer and Charlie Hills' speedster light up the racing world at a much-needed time.
There is a highly changeable forecast at Ascot throughout the week, so it would be no surprise if the going changes during racing.
Here are five horses who ought to go close on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Horse: CIRCUS MAXIMUS
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. General odds: 11-4.
Circus Maximus was narrowly denied by Too Darn Hot in the Sussex Stakes after winning the St James's Palace Stakes last year
Many punters will be siding with Battaash or Stradivarius when nominating their banker of the week at Royal Ascot, but if I had to nominate one available at odds-against, it would be Circus Maximus.
The son of Galileo showed strong form last year having landed the St James’s Palace Stakes and Prix du Moulin plus also finished a close second in the Sussex Stakes. His only blip came in the Juddmonte International where he tried to make all but failed to get home and a mile certainly looks his optimum trip.
Aidan O’Brien has got his season off to a flying start and the lack of a recent run has not been stopping his horses from producing their best form.
Surprisingly, Circus Maximus is not the highest rated in the field as last year’s Lockinge winner Mustashry has also been declared, but a rating of 121 probably flatters him a little. The others in the race will have to improve again to beat Circus Maximus who has the best form on offer and will prove hard to beat on Tuesday.
Horse: QUEEN POWER
Trainer: Sir Michael Stoute. General odds: 7-1.
Queen Power shaped with plenty of promise on her seasonal debut at Newmarket
Horses trained by Sir Michael Stoute generally improve with time and this four-year-old looks capable of taking her form to another level this season.
Although the daughter of Shamardal was successful over ten furlongs in a Listed contest, the form of which has worked out extremely well, at Newbury last year, it was a race which became a test of speed rather than stamina following a slow early gallop.
She tends to take a pull in her races and failed to stay a mile and a half in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot last year before being sent off the short-priced favourite for a Group Three at Windsor. However, she was beaten quickly on that occasion and did not run again until this season, so it is likely something was amiss.
A drop back to a mile here should hopefully help her settle better and middle-distance trips were never guaranteed to suit given there isn’t an abundance of stamina in her pedigree.
Queen Power showed a useful level of form when runner-up on her seasonal debut at Newmarket behind Terebellum - who runs in the Queen Anne Stakes on Tuesday - and ought to strip fitter for that run plus Sir Michael Stoute, who is seeking his fifth win in this contest, has been operating at a strike-rate of 21 per cent in the past fortnight.
The progressive Nazeem, who is seeking a five-timer, looks the main danger. John Gosden’s charge is likely to have plenty more to offer and impressed when winning a Listed contest at Kempton on her return.
Horse: SUMMER MOON
Trainer: Mark Johnston. General odds: 11-1.
Summer Moon ran a huge race in last year's Cesarewitch
This four-year-old gradually progressed last season before producing a career-best to finish third in the Cesarewitch when carrying a 4lb penalty and a repeat of that performance will see him go close here.
He was probably feeling the effects of his exertions at Newmarket when disappointing 13 days later in a conditions race at Newbury on heavy ground and has not been seen since.
His absence should not be too much of a concern as Mark Johnston’s gelding was successful after a 165-day break last year and his stable have been in great form since the resumption of racing.
A slight worry is that Summer Moon disappointed on his only start at Ascot when well beaten in the King George V Stakes in 2019. However, he never looked entirely comfortable during the race and quickly became outpaced. I am happy to put a line through that performance given he has shown improved form over further since and I expect him to relish two and a half miles here.
He remains on a career-high rating of 100 but ought to be on the premises with the likelihood of more to come over staying trips this season. He has proved he handles cut in the ground and rates a good each-way bet at 11-1 with Paddy Power and Betfair who are paying five places.
Classy hurdler Verdana Blue is sure to be popular in the betting with Ryan Moore on board. It is unlikely 2m4f on a stiff track will be right up her street though and any rain would be a hinderance to her chances.
Trainer: D J S Ffrench Davis. General odds: 16-1.
There are plenty of contenders you can make a case for in this competitive handicap, but one that makes plenty of appeal at 16-1 is Indeed.
The former French recruit looked a potential Group performer when landing two handicaps in succession last year and proved he was capable of remaining competitive at a higher level when second in a Group Three behind the exciting Feliciana De Vega at Newmarket. He was not beaten far by Lord North in a Listed contest, either, where ten furlongs on heavy ground probably stretched his stamina slightly.
His only below-par run last season was in the Golden Mile where he was found to have broken a blood vessel.
Connections will be delighted there is rain forecast as their five-year-old has shown his best form with cut in the ground and the gelding went close on his seasonal debut in 2019, so fitness should not be an issue.
A career best is needed to win this off a rating of 107, but Indeed is worth supporting each-way.
Alrajaa is the obvious main danger having looked a handicapper firmly on the upgrade when successful at Lingfield in November.
Horse: FUJAIRA PRINCE
Trainer: Roger Varian. General odds: 5-1.
Fujaira Prince has clearly had his problems during his career but is a useful individual when he does get to the race track and went close off a rating of 99 in the Duke Of Edinburgh at Royal Ascot last year.
The lightly-raced six-year-old has not run since but has been successful following 324 and 285-day breaks in the past, so should be fully tuned up for this contest.
The son of Pivotal races off the same rating here and the form of his run at the Royal meeting 12 months ago would see him be involved in the finish again on Wednesday.
Fujaira Prince would probably be contesting Group races by now had he not endured multiple lengthy absences and it is unlikely we have seen the best of him.
His stamina over this new trip is unproven, but he is a half-brother to 2017 Stayers’ Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon and an extra two furlongs may even bring out more improvement.
Roger Varian is another trainer who has enjoyed plenty of success since the resumption of racing – 31 of his 57 runners have finished in the first three – which is another positive.
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