There’s no doubt the opening day of this year’s Royal meeting is a massive one for me, with three well-fancied rides for the boss, Sheikh Hamdan, and a live outsider in the Ascot Stakes. For us flat jockeys this meeting is like the Cheltenham Festival is for the jumping lads, it’s hard enough to get one winner on the board, and if you’re lucky enough to do that at the start of the week, there’s no doubt it takes the pressure off a little bit.
2.30 – Queen Anne Stakes – Mustashry
There is more rain forecast for Ascot on Tuesday, but hopefully it won’t come in until later in the day, as good ground would be fine for Mustashry. I’m happy with his draw, in 8, Laurens is not far from us in 6, and I’m sure she’ll improve for her Lockinge run. I also think Barney Roy is a big danger, he’s a previous Group One winner at this meeting and if he retains that class he won’t be far away.
However, my fellow is so consistent, Sir Michael Stoute is a genius to keep finding improvement in these older horses, and his last bit of work was very good, so I’m hopeful of getting off to a good start. A few of these were behind us in the Lockinge, and while Laurens looks sure to improve and Aidan’s [Le Brivido] might have been a bit unlucky at Newbury, they’ve all got 2 ½ lengths to make up on us, that was a career best run from him, and if he reproduces that, then we’re the one they’ve all got to beat.
Bet on Mustashry with Coral here!
3.40 King’s Stand Stakes – Battaash
It goes without saying that I’ve been looking forward to riding Battaash here since his victory in the Temple Stakes last month! I’m not too worried that we’ve been drawn 12 of 12, we’re alongside the Aussie runner Houtzen, who can go forward early, and Soldier’s Call is not far away either. There’s no doubt my fellow is in better form going into this race than he was twelve months ago, and he seems to be settling better as well, so if the real Battaash turns up, he’s the one they’ve all got to beat.
Blue Point, who beat us here last year, is drawn right away from us in 1, so it won’t be easy for James [Doyle] to tag on to the back and follow me into the race like he did last year. He is a horse I hold in the very highest regard, I’ve seen plenty of the back of him here and in Dubai, but I could not be happier with Battaash, if it all goes right for us I think we’ll win.
Bet on Battaash with Coral here!
5.00 Ascot Stakes – Time To Study
I’ve picked up a nice ride on Time To Study in the Ascot Stakes. He switched from Mark Johnston to Ian Willams, and warmed up for this race with a run in the Chester Cup, where he finished mid-division. Ian is a shrewd trainer who wouldn’t be running here if he didn’t think he had a chance, and as an ex-jump jockey this 2 ½ mile trip won’t be a complete shock to me! I hope he’s a live outsider who could run a big race at decent odds.
Bet on Time To Study with Coral here!
5.35 Wolferton Stakes – Elarqam
My final ride on day one is on Elarqam for the boss. He’s always been held in high regard, as he showed when finishing fourth in last year’s 2,000 Guineas, and he got back to winning ways at Goodwood last time, a race that has already been franked with the fourth home that day, Vintager, winning a Group Three in France over the weekend.
All races at Royal Ascot are hard to win, and this is no exception, but he deserves to be vying for favouritism. We hope he can progress through the ranks this season, and this is a good next step for him, he looks tailor-made for the race, and he’s drawn OK as well. Hopefully the rain will stay away as he wouldn’t want it testing, but good, good to soft, would be fine.
Bet on Elarqam with Coral here!
3.40 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes – Desert Encounter
I’ve picked up a nice spare on Desert Encounter, in what promises to be one of the races of the week. He is a Group One winner, in last year’s Canadian International, this is over two furlongs shorter, but he’s a hold up horse so hopefully he might be able to pick up the pieces and pick up some prize money, although this is a big step up for him.
There’s no doubt it is a hot race, and I’d find it hard to split the big three at the head of the betting. Crystal Ocean is a tough, battle-hardened horse, and this may be his chance to win that first Group One, while Magical comes here off the back of three wins this season. By contrast, Sea Of Class has the best form in the book having finished second in the Arc, but this is a big ask first time up, although William Haggas wouldn’t be running her here if he wasn’t 100% happy with her, he could have gone down the Hardwicke route as they have with Masar.
Bet on Desert Encounter with Coral here!
5.00 Royal Hunt Cup – Afaak
Afaak was second in this race last year, and I think he’s got another great chance here. We’re better off at the weights with last year’s winner, Settle For Bay, he runs well fresh so we’ve come straight here, and we should be drawn well, in 21, so on the stands side.
Obviously in these big field handicaps you need a bit of luck in running, but he showed last year he can cope with it, he’s in good form, Charlie [Hills] has trained him for this, so it really wouldn’t be a surprise to see him run a big race here.
Bet on Afaak with Coral here!