The rain fell heavily on Day 1 of Royal Ascot, with the ground now reduced to Soft across the whole course. We’re set for another top day of Flat Racing action however despite conditions, with the feature race being the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at an earlier time than normal of 15:40. I’ll be following the action over @JakePriceRacing throughout the Day as usual, so fingers crossed we can get a bit more luck on Day 2…
15:05 – Queen’s Vase (Group 2) 3yo – 1m6f
It could be Deja-vu twelve months on in the Queen’s Vase, with two Aidan O’Brien horses at the top of the market despite very different preparations. Last year beaten Derby hope (9th) Kew Gardens took on Listed Yeats Stakes winner Southern France, with Ryan Moore choosing the Derby runner and bolting up by four-and-a-half lengths. This year the race looks very similar, with beaten Derby runner Norway (8th) taking on Western Australia – winner of the Yeats Stakes last time out. Ryan Moore has chosen to ride Norway here which for many is a tip in itself, and I’m strongly of the opinion that stepping up in trip to 1m6f should suit this son Galileo. Second behind Sir Dragonet in the Group 3 Chester Vase Stakes on seasonal reappearance last month, Norway ran well for a long way on the soft ground and stayed on to the line – despite being no match for his stablemate. His last run of course came in the Derby at Epsom, where he didn’t disgrace himself – finishing only seven-lengths back in eighth place. Despite finishing down the field compared to his stablemates, Norway actually ran pretty well, finishing closer behind Sir Dragonet – suggesting he had improved from his run at Chester. The extra two-furlongs here should help Norway improve again, and this looks an extremely weak renewal of the Queen’s Vase – where our selection is joint highest rated (107). The soft ground shouldn’t be a problem for this stayer.
Norway @ 3/1
15:40 – Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (Group 1) 4yo+ – 1m2f
This looks a very classy renewal of the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, but one horse who I’ve had my eye on in this for a while is Zabeel Prince. This six-year-old doesn’t have the same sexy profile as some of his rivals here, but he comes into this race in the form of his life. Roger Varian’s charge won the Group 3 Earl Of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket on seasonal reappearance in April, with the form has being well documented as fantastic (the likes of Forest Ranger – Group 2 Huxley Stakes, Mustashry – Group 1 Lockinge Stakes, Elarqam – Listed Stakes all in behind). His next start came in the Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan at Longchamp last month, where he impressively beat Study Of Man (115) by a three-quarters of a length, despite being slowly away from the stalls. With all the rainfall on Tuesday softening the ground up and raising question marks over some rivals, Zabeel Prince has a fantastic record when ‘Soft’ has been in the going description – his form figures reading 211011. With conditions set to suit this Son of Lope De Vega who is clearly on the upgrade, Andrea Atzeni looks to have a fantastic each/way chance here.
Zabeel Prince Each/Way @ 12/1
16:20 – Duke Of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2) Fillies & Mares 4yo+ – 1m
Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore racked up a double on Day 1 of Royal Ascot, and if the trick hasn’t been repeated by this stage in the day then I Can Fly looks set to put that right. Although this Filly does have a 3lbs penalty to carry, she holds by far the best piece of form in the book when a neck second to Roaring Lion in the Group 1 QEII here at Ascot on Champions Day last season. Although she has only added an all-weather victory at Dundalk to her CV since, there is every reason to believe I Can Fly can win here having finished a good sixth in the Group 1 Lockinge at Newbury last month. Her last start came in the Group 2 Lanwades Stud Stakes at the Curragh, where she was expected to win (sent off the 11/8 favourite). She was beaten one-and-a-half lengths back in second that day by Beshaayir, but the form has worked out favourably with the fourth placed One Master finishing third in the Queen Anne Stakes on Tuesday. The soft ground here should be no problem for this Fastnet Rock four-year-old, and a reproduction of her QEII run would clearly have her leaps and bounds ahead of these rivals.
I Can Fly @ 5/1
17:35 – Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed) 2yo – 5f
On a day which looks fairly tricky, one of my best bets comes in the last race thanks to Temple Of Heaven. This two-year-old son of Iffraaj won on his debut at Nottingham in April in a Novice event, beating subsequent winner and one of today’s rivals in Dylan De Vega. This Richard Hannon horse stepped forward even further at Newbury last month, when contesting a Class 2 Conditions Stakes on Locking Day. This race looked a particularly strong one, but under Sean Levey the pair stormed through to lead inside the final furlong and hang on. The second that day was Aidan O’Brien’s Fort Myers, who gave the form a massive boost when finishing a close up fourth in Tuesday’s Group 2 Coventry Stakes – so Temple Of Heaven clearly deserves to be toward the head of the market in the Windsor Castle Stakes. This horse is the highest rated on Timeform and Racing Post Ratings, and Richard Hannon is among the top five winning-most trainers at Ascot over the past five seasons. Having shown such a good attitude at Newbury last time, I’m confident this lad will feature in the finish here and prove to be an above average Juvenile.
Temple Of Heaven @ 6/1
Good luck! – Jake Price