At Cheltenham, it was
the Nicky Henderson show as usual, while Gordon Elliot edged to glory
by the narrowest of margins at the Grand National. Now, the drama
moves to Ascot, for one of the most
in the flat racing calendar.
Here before we
It seems strange that
there was so much anticipation for the Cheltenham Festival and we
were discussing it weeks in advance, while Royal Ascot is on us
before we know it. In part, the lower profile this year is inevitable
with all the sporting focus being on the FIFA
World Cup 2018,
both in terms of the media in general and, of course, the bookmakers
who love the football almost as much as the horse racing.
There is also the
fact that once the flat racing season has started, it seems to be one
race meet after another, and there is barely chance to catch our
breath. However, for the trainers, Ascot is the place to really make
a name for yourself. Where else can you know with absolute certainty
that victory will make you the main topic of conversation when tea
and sandwiches are ordered at Buckingham Palace later that evening?
Let’s see who stands the best chance of being remembered in high
places this year.
O’Brien is to Ascot
what Henderson is to Cheltenham, and he aims to keep things that way
in 2018. The bookmakers have him odds on favourite to be top of the
pile for the fourth year in succession.
O’Brien has a host
of great horses that will be out to scoop the trophies for him,
including Order of St George, who came so close to winning the Gold
Cup last year and is again favourite. There’s also Sioux in the
Commonwealth Cup on Thursday, Rhododendron in the Queen Anne Stakes,
Gustav Klimt in the St James’s Palace Stakes and Merchant Navy in
the Diamond Jubilee, to name but a handful.
O’Brien is clearly
the man to beat. But does anyone else have the firepower to challenge
According to the
bookmakers, if anyone can knock O’Brien off his perch, it is
Gosden. If last year’s Cartier
Horse of the Year
Enable was coming to Ascot, the bookmakers would be offering even
shorter odds than the current 4/1, but she is still working her way
back from injury and has her sights set firmly on defending the Prix
de l’Arc de Triomphe in October.
Cracksman is looking in great form and will take some beating in the
Prince of Wales stakes, while many are very taken with Stradivarius
in the Gold Cup. With Stream of Stars highly fancied to take the
Queens Vase and Without Parole the new favourite for the St James’s
Palace Stakes, it will only take one or two upsets and Gosden could
easily come out on top.
Charlie Appleby has
had a great start to the season. And while his Derby
Maser will not be at Ascot, he has other contenders that could make
him an outside shot for the top trainer award. Keep a look our for
Wild Illusion in the Ribblesdale Stakes and Blue Point in the Kings
Stand Stakes. Meanwhile Hawkbill and Cross Counter are both well
capable of pulling off a surprise in the Prince of Wales Stakes and
the Queen’s Vase respectively. At 10/1, these are two horses that
are well worth considering if you are looking for a left-field
choice. And at 9/1, you could say the same for their trainer’s
outside shot at finishing top at Ascot.