After the opening two days at Royal Ascot, we have already refunded well over £100,000 as a result of our losses back if Richard Hughes finishes in the frame in any race and there is no question that punters have edged the opening couple of days although it could have been worse... I think!
When I spoke to champion jockey Hughes earlier in the week he was confident of a very big run from Midnite Angel in Friday's opener the Albany Stakes; few horses get beat at Warwick and then go on to win at Royal Ascot but Richard suggest we put a line through the form; Wonderfully has been well-backed in the office for next year's 1000 Guineas (33s from 50/1) but I have been looking forward to seeing Joyeuse (2.30) back on the track since she made a winning start for the late Sir Henry Cecil at Lingfield and as a half-sister to the mighty Frankel it would be a fitting tribute if she were to score for Lady Cecil.
Joyeuse is currently our 14/1 favourite at BetVictor for the 2014 Qipco 1000 Guineas next spring and there won't be a dry eye in the house if Tom Queally, in the famous Frankel colours of Prince Khalid Abdullah, can win the Albany. Frankie Dettori has been booked to ride the unbeaten Sandiva for Richard Fahey and connections won't hear of defeat for the filly but Joyeuse can hold her at bay.
If the opening race looks a top-class renewal the following King Edward VII Stakes doesn't look a vintage contest and almost by process of elimination Derby fourth Battle Of Marengo (3.05) gets the nod despite the fact that he must give up 3lbs to his rivals. The selection didn't look a strong stayer at Epsom when he faded to finish out of the frame having been ridden prominently in a slowly-run race but he has 11lbs and more in hand of his seven rivals on official ratings; whilst he is the most likely winner I certainly wouldn't be supporting him at odds on.
The Coronation Stakes has been turned on its head by the draw on the round mile which has given the two Guineas' winners Sky Lantern (Newmarket) and Just The Judge (Irish) the worst possible stalls in 16 and 17 (of 17) respectively.
In the Irish Guineas on a similar right-hand track Just The Judge had the plum draw in stall 2 whilst Dermot Weld's Big Break (3.45) came out of stall 16 on her seasonal debut; in the circumstances the Irish-trained filly ran a cracker to be beaten two lengths and the roles are reversed with regard to the draw tomorrow with Big Break coming out of stall 1. Big Break is currently 13/2 at BetVictor and she looks worth an each way interest with the classic winners having to overcome such modest draws.
The Wolferton Handicap is another possibly below average renewal with most of the field looking
exposed; Forgotten Voice is interesting for jumps' trainer Nicky Henderson and the booking of Jonny Murtagh suggests they mean business. John Gosden has won this corresponding race for the last two years and he is represented by Dick Doughtywylie who looks to have been laid out for the race by connections. He must go close but preference is for the unbeaten Albasharah (4.25).
The selection has only had three starts and is yet to encounter fast ground but she looked ready for a step up in grade when winning a little handicap at Doncaster in May by no less than 8 lengths; the handicapper has had his say but the filly is open to further improvement and gets the nod.
The Queen's Vase is now named in honour of the late Sir Henry Cecil a race the Newmarket trainer won no less than eight times amongst his 75 Royal Ascot career successes; Lady Cecil saddles Disclaimer and he must go close but Leading Light (5.00) is hard to get away from despite giving 3lbs to his 17 rivals.
A winner of three of his four starts he has never won beyond 10 furlongs and is not particularly bred to get this marathon trip, but he looks a class apart from his opposition, is well drawn and races as if he has every chance of seeing out the 2 miles especially if he is able to dictate the pace.
Enrol looked ready for a step up in trip when beaten a nose at Newbury earlier in the month over 6f but I am going to throw a couple of bob each way on Emilio Largo (5.35) from the yard of James Fanshawe; the gelding was formerly trained by Cecil but made a very pleasing comeback for Fanshawe over 6f here last month and the return to further will suit although it is possible that a mile is his optimum distance.
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