Top broadcaster Mike Cattermole previews day one of Royal Ascot and offers his Pick 7 selections for Tuesday’s £250,000 jackpot.
A cracking week gets under way as usual with the Queen Anne Stakes and at least we will know soon enough whether Ribchester is the banker of the week that some make him out to be.
One thing for sure is that Richard Fahey’s colt is a model of consistency and he looked in fine fettle when making all to thrash Lightning Spear by almost four lengths in the Lockinge Stakes on soft ground at Newbury last month.
How different the ground will be this time, though, not that it should hinder Ribchester whose only start to date on a fast surface was when a fast-finishing and close third in the Sussex Stakes behind The Gurkha and Galileo Gold last July.
Back in sixth was Lightning Spear who has since finished behind Ribchester on a further three occasions, including in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over course and distance last October.
The only sensible conclusion to draw is that he is not as talented and is likely to be beaten by Ribchester yet again, although he may have prospects of placing for the second year running after last year’s third behind Tepin.
Ribchester may well win but I have a feeling that Mutakayyef is poised to run a big one at a decent each-way price. He has certainly upped his game since being gelded at the end of 2015 and has developed into a tip-top performer.
He was especially impressive here when winning the Summer Mile on good to firm ground last July, admittedly on the round course. Beating a confirmed quick ground specialist like Dutch Connection with plenty in hand was a high-class effort.
Afterwards, he chased home Postponed and Highland Reel in the Juddmonte at York and was then beaten less than a length by the mighty Tepin in the Woodbine Mile (good ground) last October – undeniably two excellent runs. His below-par fifth in Dubai in March was the first time he had finished out of the first three but I am prepared to overlook that.
It is good to see two American entries in American Patriot and Miss Temple City and both have very smart form on a fast surface so the dry conditions lately should see them running with credit.
The Coventry Stakes is a race full of unknown talent and some are faced with tackling good to firm ground for the first time so who knows who will improve the most?
Wesley Ward has yet to win the Coventry and although Arawak was clearly way too good for the opposition at Belmont Park on his debut, that came on muddy dirt, although he did please his trainer when working on the track last week.
Aidan O’Brien has won it three times in the past ten years and Murillo has to be respected after beating a small field at Tipperary, giving Wolfofbaggotstreet a slightly bigger beating than Romanised had done at Navan. Stablemate US Navy Flag looks exposed and is held by Brother Bear.
Indeed, Brother Bear looks very solid for Jessie Harrington and has shown he can handle quick and soft ground.
Much as I also respect Richard Spencer’s Rajasinghe, who won so nicely at Newcastle, the best form shown in this country at least is probably from De Bruyne Horse whose win in the Woodcote at Epsom was boosted by the runner-up Cardsharp at Beverley last week.
De Bruyne Horse won well in spite of not appearing at ease on the track and there looks more to come. Stablemate Denaar has won both his starts in decent style.
However, Lady Aurelia’s huge reputation is based on that extraordinary runaway win in last year’s Queen Mary which was gained on soft ground and her form since has been nothing like as good on a quicker surface.
Marsha is going from strength to strength and put up some impressive performances last season, culminating in the Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly when beating Washington DC and several other of today’s rivals.
Sir Mark Prescott’s filly looked to have a tough task under a Group One penalty in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket last month, and being 8lb worse off with Washington DC. Yet she confirmed the form with arguably her best performance so far and her brilliant turn of foot can enable her to pick these off again.
Priceless was back in fifth at Newmarket and now reopposes on 7lb worse terms. She has since boosted the form by winning the Temple Stakes at Haydock on good to firm.
Her trainer, Clive Cox, also has last year’s winner Profitable in the field. Now owned by Godolphin, he was only seventh in the Abbaye behind Marsha and although probably handling any surface, is ideally suited by some give.
Fast ground specialist Muthmir is back in good heart and was third two years ago but his recent win at Chantilly was yet another boost to Marsha’s palace House form. Goldream, winner in 2015, has his conditions and should run well.
Certainly, Barney Roy didn’t handle The Dip at Newmarket and has been kept fresh for this, whereas Churchill has been kept going and since landed the Irish Guineas to take his record to a superb seven from eight. He is the ultimate professional.
Barney Roy, having had just three starts, surely has more to come, however and this is one tight call. I will stick with Churchill.
Ryan Moore and Willie Mullins have teamed up to win the Ascot Stakes twice in the past five years but surely there is a question mark over Thomas Hobson on quick ground? He has run on it once and was well beaten.
I have had my eye on Magic Circle for this ever since his fine fifth from a high draw in the Chester Cup. However, he has yet to race on a fast surface and yet again has had no luck with the draw here, either.
One place in front of him at the Roodeye was Who Dares Wins who had come into the race on the back of a third in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham. He is a seasoned pro, not bothered by the ground and ought to go well for Alan King.
In fact, King has a strong hand as Oceane, who loves fast ground, is coming into the race on a good second here last month and is another that makes the shortist.
But it is King’s Rainbow Dreamer who just gets the nod over all of them after his impressive win on good to firm at Newbury in April. Tackling two and a quarter miles and faced with a proper stamina test for the first time, he clearly relished it and a 5lb rise is reasonable.
Kept fresh for this and with the promise of more to come, he looks good value at around 14-1 and should give Andrea Atzeni a very nice ride.
It’s worth mentioning the 3.55 at Thirsk, too, as that’s the ‘away’ leg in the Sportinglife Pick 7 game which is free to play and carries a £250,000 jackpot on Tuesday.
Round The Island looks the one to be on, as he was hugely impressive at Pontefract last time and could be hard to beat under a penalty.
2.30 MUTAKKAYEF (EW), 3.05 DE BRUYNE HORSE, 3.40 MARSHA, 4.20 CHURCHILL, 5.00 RAINBOW DREAMER, 5.35 ELIZABETH DARCY
3.55 Thirsk – ROUND THE ISLAND