Source: Ascot Racecourse via Facebook
With less than one month until the 2017 Royal Ascot meeting officially gets underway, the attention is now more or less entirely focused on the flat. Over the course of five fantastic days of high quality racing, the best sprinters and flat jockeys in the business will compete against each other in some of the most prestigious races in the industry.
Leading flat trainer Aidan O’Brien will send some of his strongest thoroughbreds to Ascot in a bid to claim a sixth champion trainer crown. After a positive start to the campaign, rivals will be doing their utmost to close the gap by beating the Irishman in the biggest events at the meeting. Here are three key races to keep an eye on ahead of June…
Queen Anne Stakes
On paper, Day One’s biggest race could be the highlight of this year’s meeting. RIBCHESTER, a dominant winner of the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, has leading claims ahead of the race and he will take some beating if he is on top form.
But plenty of punters will be backing O’Brien to get off to the perfect start with MINDING. A seven-time Group One winner already, this classy mare will be there or thereabouts and an industry best price of 10/1 is excellent if she goes for the Queen Anne.
Chances are that Minding will be targeted elsewhere so it may prove prudent to go with one of Ribchester’s regular rivals, GALILEO GOLD. The 2016 St James’ Palace Stakes winner has the potential but he will need a clear run to reverse recent running.
Ascot Gold Cup
ORDER OF ST GEORGE produced a dominant performance to win this race last season and it will come as no surprise to see him near the top of the betting markets again. He struggled to inspire confidence at Ascot back in October but he has the talent to bounce back on the big stage.
Meanwhile, VAZIRABAD has never finished outside the top two and the French horse may pose the biggest threat to Order of St George’s title. The 5-year-old is widely regarded as a supreme talent on the flat but he has never had the opportunity to prove his worth in Great Britain; what better event to win at than Royal Ascot?
There’s only one name on most lips right now for this race: CARAVAGGIO. Without a doubt, he is the class horse in the race and if he turns up, nobody will beat him. At 3/1, the value is there but O’Brien could aim him elsewhere if he sees an opportunity.
An interesting option to consider is 3-year-old BRIAN THE SNAIL. Most racing fans – including an Oddschecker writer – tipped the horse for success at York’s Dante Festival this month, but in a hugely disappointing run he finished fifth out of five. He is currently 20/1 to avenge that defeat at Ascot next month and he could feature prominently if the ground is in his favour.
Meanwhile, BLUE POINT is another leading candidate and he may go off second favourite behind Caravaggio. The Charlie Appleby-trained star has already won at Ascot this season and the jockey booking of William Buick could be significant.