Throughout Lockdown, all of us were dreaming that the big days like this would return. Well, it is Royal Ascot week and even though it won’t be the normal, at least the show is going ahead. There won’t be the huge crowds, the fashion, the champagne, or any of the noise. In fact, there won’t be anyone. It will just be the horses, us jockeys and those who train and handle the horses. Not even the owners are allowed in. It will be strange and now that there are 36 races it will have a totally different feel. I’m certainly not complaining though, and all those involved in getting the show on have to be congratulated.
Premier League football returns this week too, but we have a couple of days before that to showcase our great sport in front of so many. I am personally very excited about the five days ahead and look forward to updating you each day on my rides and thoughts on all the races. I’m also planning on doing a bit of a Zoom preview each night post racing if the technology works – check out the first one below. Anyway, here are my thoughts on my opening day chances where I ride five for King Power Racing and one for Mark Johnston.
STRAIGHT RIGHT (1.15pm Buckingham Palace Handicap)
We normally open up with the Queen Anne Stakes, but this year we get things started with the Buckingham Palace Handicap run over seven furlongs. I ride Straight Right for Andrew Balding and King Power racing. He is a horse we know has plenty of ability but doesn’t always show it on the track. He completely fluffed his lines last time at Wolverhampton when missing the break and is definitely better than that. A fast run seven furlongs with a big field should be bang up his street, and hopefully we can see the real Straight Right here. He will relish having a strong pace to chase and I’m hopeful he will out-run his odds. And, looking at the others, there seem to be plenty of unexposed types including John Gosden’s lightly raced Daarik. He bolted up on the all-weather at Newcastle last time and could well be a lot better than his current handicap mark.
FOX CHAIRMAN (1.50pm Queen Anne Stakes)
Another for Andrew Balding, this time Fox Chairman (pictured below) in the Queen Anne Stakes. He was one of my big fancies at last year’s meeting but ran into traffic problems and probably bumped into a good horse in the shape of Sangarius. We always felt he would benefit from another year on his back and are really excited about the potential he could show as a four-year-old. We are dropping him back to this one mile trip for his seasonal reappearance and it looks the ideal starting point for him. The recent rain that fell at the track last week will only help his chances. Obviously, the likes of Circus Maximus and the filly Terebellum, will be tough nuts to crack, but we go there with a sporting chance with a very exciting horse.
PAPA POWER (3.00pm King Edward VII Stakes)
Only a small field for the King Edward VII Stakes where I ride Papa Power. He takes a massive jump up in class here having won a couple of times on the all-weather but is a three-year-old who has delighted us in recent months. He showed a really good attitude when winning from the front last time and deserves a crack at a race like this. Mogul sets the bar pretty high, but we’ll give it a shot.
WELL DONE FOX (3.35pm King’s Stand Stakes)
I was delighted with the way that Well Done Fox ran at Newmarket on his reappearance and that was a huge step up from what he showed last year. On paper that won’t be good enough to win a race of this nature. However, as I said, it was a step forward and hopefully he can be competitive. With no Blue Point in the field this year, the stage could be set for Battaash to win at the Royal meeting. He is a really fast horse on his day and the fact that there is no crowd will help him as he should be on his best behaviour.
QUEEN POWER (4.10pm Duke Of Cambridge Stakes)
Another one who made a really pleasing reappearance at Newmarket, Queen Power (pictured) drops back to a mile here in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes. I think a fast run mile will play to her strengths and I’m hoping she can build on last time. The filly that beat her at Newmarket takes her chance in the Queen Anne Stakes suggesting we may have bumped into a smart one. John Gosden saddles Nazeef who won well at Kempton while Queen Power’s stablemate Jubiloso is another to respect.
ROCHESTER HOUSE (4.40pm Ascot Stakes)
My last ride of the day is Rochester House for Mark Johnston in the Ascot Stakes over 2 ½ miles. I’ve never ridden him before, but he had a nice prep for this when not beaten far behind Moon King at Haydock. That was a big step up on his form of last season and the history books show how it is foolish to dismiss one of Mark Johnston’s in a handicap at this meeting. Ryan Moore rides the top weight Verdana Blue for Nicky Henderson and she looks the one to beat.
Enjoy the action.