First post is 8:50 a.m. EDT.
We’re heading across the pond Tuesday, where one of the world’s great race meetings, perhaps the very best all year, kicks off: it’s Royal Ascot week at Ascot Racecourse in England. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the course is closed to the public, and the festivities will be light on pageantry, but the racing looks as good as ever.
The going on the Ascot turf course -- all races are on grass -- figures to be good, perhaps even good to firm. It should be ideal conditions for these championship races. We’ve doped out four races, all graded stakes, that we like, and the listed post times are Eastern time in the U.S. Let’s go.
Ascot, Race 2, 8:50 am EDT
Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 4 & Up
Big fields are the norm at Royal Ascot, and the first Group race of the meeting, the Queen Anne, fits the bill, with 16 going to the gate. They will traverse a mile on grass, which at Ascot is run down a long straightaway, with no turns.
We like 4-Duke of Hazzard. He’s a 4-year-old who has turned into a mile specialist, with nine of his fifteen career starts at the distance, and he’s thrived at the middle distance, winning five of them, including a couple of Group wins at Goodwood last year. He’s coming into this race fresh, having last run in August, and he has presumably matured physically quite a bit the last nine months, as horses usually do between summer as a three-year-old and spring or early summer at 4. He has a forwardly-placed running style that we like, as the pace will probably be slow, which will give horses near the lead a tactical advantage. We think Duke of Hazzard is sitting on a big one, and at 8-1, we will bet him to win and to place. The bets: Ascot, Race 2, $25 to win/$15 to place on 4-Duke of Hazzard.
Ascot, Race 3, 9:25 am EDT
Group 2 Ribbesdale Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies
The Ribbesdale has twelve lightly-raced sophomore fillies entered. The pick is 8-Miss Yoda, a John Gosden trainee and daughter of superstar turf sire Sea the Stars. She has three wins in four career starts, and she also has a recent race, which we like, a win in a 1 7/16 mile prep at Lingfield on June 5. She’s fit, she’s sharp, she’s headed in the right direction, and we think she takes the trophy here. We will bet her to win at 5-1. The bet: Ascot, Race 3, $35 to win on 8-Miss Yoda.
Ascot, Race 5, 10:35 am EDT
Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes, 5 furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up
Eleven go in the King’s Stand, but all eyes will be on 1-Battaash, who at 2/5 is the shortest-priced favorite on the card. He’s a world-class sprinter when he’s in form, but there is no guarantee that will be in form today, as his last race was in October, and he ran very poorly in it. He may win, but at miserly odds, he’s a play-against.
We are going with 8-Glass Slippers. She’s a filly running against the boys, but she showed last fall that she is truly elite, winning three consecutive races to close her season, with the last a very impressive win in the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamps in Paris. She beat 15 other horses that day, boys and girls, and as a 4-year-old, she should have physically matured, and improved, since her fall campaign. We think she has a big shot to upset the favorite here, so we will bet her to win at 5-1. The bet: Ascot, Race 5, $35 to win on 8-Glass Slippers.
Ascot, Race 6, 11:10 am EDT
Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
The nightcap at Ascot is the Duke of Cambridge stakes, which will have eleven older females going a mile. The pick is 8-Nazeef, a 4-year-old filly who lost her career debut, but has since won four consecutive races, the last couple of them in very fast time. She has yet to win a Group race, and that is a concern, but we like the way she’s coming into this, with a win over a synthetic surface at Kempton Park on June 5. That effort should have her razor-sharp for this, and we think that level of fitness gives her the edge in a pretty tough race. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Ascot, Race 6, $40 to win on 8-Nazeef.
That’s all for now. Enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.