Monday, 13 June 2011

Wet blanket


Royal Ascot. Where the fashion pantomime and society mash up all but swamps the finest five days of flat racing in the land. Insufferably posh debs, nobs and freeloaders in rented finery crammed into the Royal Enclosure, jostling for vacuous attention with 27,000 other mates of Her Maj. The rest of the stands rammed with tacky bling and tattoo encrusted imitators, hell-bent on early oblivion courtesy of crap, expensive champagne. Or a refined symbol of what Britain does best. A chance to show off and glow at an occasion given dignity by the daily attendance of The Queen. As a punter, and having been to Royal Ascot only once before, I know which camp I am in. On the other hand, racing is absolutely dependent on such showpieces. These stunning races would be watched from half-empty stands were it not for the toff-inspired glamour and gaudiness that underpins the event. (But they might at least recognise what they were looking at…)

Sorry. I’ll put my wet blanket away and focus on the racing. I know my place. And what racing it is. The pick of tomorrow’s action is probably the first race on the card, the Queen Anne Stakes at 2.30pm. Canford Cliffs versus Goldikova.  Chuck in Cape Blanco as a wild card and it’s a mouth-watering festival opener.  Goldikova is the record-breaking winner of 13 Group 1 races, mostly at a mile. The six year old filly from France is a sensation. Canford Cliffs burst on to the scene as a precocious two-year-old before warming to his task beautifully last year, landing three Group 1s, the latter at Goodwood in brilliant style. Both have had winning Group 1 debuts this season and come here ready and ripe. Delicious. Cape Blanco is capable of a surprise, but this is arguably not his best trip (1m2f would be that). He blows hot and cold – pretty chilly so far this year. But in the Irish Champion and Irish Derby last season, he was blisteringly hot.  So my dodgy logic says it’s the improving Canford Cliffs to get the better of Goldikova who may just have peaked in a close run thing. Cape Blanco? Who knows? I’ll back him as the outsider, though!

And then, breathlessly, it is the Kings Stand Stakes. 5f of multi-national sprinting excellence. I am compelled to back my 20-to-follow horse, Rose Blossom at 33-1 and bigger, but more in hope that she rediscovers some of her three-year-old form than expectation. On the book this year, she has no right to be in the mix. Australia, USA, Canada, Hungary, France, Ireland and Great Britain are represented. A lot of the foreign form is hard to decipher, but this is an event that has regularly been cleaned up by raiders. Closer to home, I’ve been most impressed with Sole Power who ran cracker at Haydock last time after winning the Nunthorpe last year at 100-1.

Blimey, another contender for race of the meeting next. St James’s Palace Stakes. Another mile race, this time for three-year-olds and featuring newly knighted Sir Henry Cecil’s wonder horse, Frankel. He’ll be short odds-on. This is a decent enough field with the likes of Excelebration, Dream Ahead and Wootton Bassett in opposition. But if Frankel is in anything like the frightening form of his 2,000 guineas win, he will massacre this lot. Wootton Bassett, who should be at home on the ground and give a better show than his last outing in France, is my each way shout.

Of the remainer, I’ll merely be watching with interest the two-year old races. But I’ll have dabble in the Ascot Stakes at 5pm with Veiled, Junior and Ermyn Lodge on the shortlist. 

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