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22 Jun 2018

Who will be the top trainer at Royal Ascot?

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 exclusive events in the flat racing calendar.

Here before we know it

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.

Aidan O’Brien

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 him?

John Gosden

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.

Nevertheless, his 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

Charlie Appleby has had a great start to the season. And while his Derby winner 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.