Royal Ascot kicks-off tomorrow and BetVictor have a terrific incentive for punters out there; new customers that place a £10 bet on the first day of the royal meeting and receive a £1 free bet for every race at the five-day festival. Ribchester and Churchill have been odds-on favourites for their respective Gp 1 races heading into tomorrow’s opening day however, with fields of 16 and 8 runners for the Queen Anne and St James’s Palace Stakes respectively, it would be no surprise to see the pair a shade of odds-against for BetVictor.
It will be a big week for jockeys William Buick and Ryan Moore on those two respective hot pots, and it should likewise prove a pivotal one for pilot Martin Harley. Harley, winner of the King’s Stand Stakes in 2015 aboard Goldream (16/1 with BetVictor), will once again partner Robert Cowell’s gelding in the Gp 1 contest and should pick up plenty of rides for his burdening relationship with the respective yards of William Haggas and Ralph Beckett.
He rides Really Super (2.45) for the latter at Wetherby, who is chanced to appreciate this afternoon’s step up in trip when taking on the boys in the 1m 6f Handicap. The well-bred filly remains a maiden despite being well-punted on all four career outings thus far, and was a beaten favourite on her handicap debut last time out at Newmarket. She remains relatively unexposed and should improve for both the step up in trip, and first-time head-gear.
Harley can double-up aboard Cheerfilly (3.45) for Tom Dascombe in the Fillies’ Handicap over a mile. The daughter of Excelebration is another well-bred sort that remains a maiden after four starts but was only beaten a head last time out at Musselburgh when bumping into a smart filly from the Richard Fahey yard.
Elsewhere, I’m looking forward to seeing Socialites Red (7.00) up at Nottingham, bidding to follow her recent course success in the 5f Handicap. Scott Dixon’s filly showed a terrific attitude to win over 6f last time out, and should prove speedy enough to handle the drop back in trip. Despite being raised 4lb by the handicapper Ronan Walsh is an interesting jockey booking and looks good value for his 7lb claim.
Paul Cole’s Rotherwick (7.30) is another last time out winner that has caught the eye of the handicapper however, appears well-treated from just a 3lb rise. The selection was backed like a good thing on his seasonal reappearance at Leicester but never went a yard. He looked a transformed character when bolting-up last time out at Lingfield, and should follow suit up in trip.
Morris can double-up aboard Lugano (8.30) who has been well-placed by connections to win two handicaps already this month, and is a confident selection to give weight and a beating to his seven rivals. The well-bred son of Sea the Stars showed little in a trio of maidens last term but trainer Sir Mark Prescott has plotted him with aplomb thereafter, winning from an opening mark of 69 at Lingfield, and following-up under a penalty last week at Haydock. A revised mark of 77 sees him with plenty in hand, and should prove a likely pattern-class individual by the end of the campaign.
I’ve been really impressed at how well James Doyle is riding lately, and he can guide Percy B Shelley (8.15) to victory for trainer John Gosden down at Windsor. He shaped well when fifth on debut at Wolverhampton in December and, now tried in a first-time tongue-tie, can shed the maiden at the second time of asking in what looks a weak renewal.