Royal Ascot 2018 is here and a star-studded five days begins on Tuesday with a quality renewal of the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes (2.30), traditionally the opening race of the fixture.
Aidan O’Brien’s tremendous filly Rhododendron has been favourite for this race since her brave last-gasp success over Lightning Spear in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury last month, and she heads the market at 3/1 with Bet365. Ryan Moore is on board once again, and with the mounts of the world’s top jockey nearly always attracting support at this fixture it is possible she may go off even shorter.
Connections of the Lockinge runner-up Lightning Spear are hopeful they can reverse that short-head defeat, with their horse reportedly in rude health.
“We were delighted with him in the Lockinge, but frustrated at the same time,” admitted trainer David Simcock. “We are looking forward to running him in the Queen Anne. We have freshened him up, he has trained really well, and I think he will go there in good shape. He has been a model of consistency and we are probably in the most open year he has ever been in regarding the top milers so we are hoping we get our day in the sun.”
The seven-year-old has won the last two renewals of the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood and been runner-up in the last two Group 1 Lockinge Stakes, so wouldn’t be winning out of turn at the top level if he does produce the goods. He is a top price 8/1 shot with Bet Bright.
Another leading candidate is Godolphin’s Benbatl, trained by Saeed Bin Suroor and ridden by French ace Christophe Soumillon. He won the 10 furlong Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes at last year’s meeting, and was successful last time out at Meydan in Dubai in the hugely valuable Group 1 Dubai Turf over nine furlongs. He is available at 5/1 with Unibet.
“We gave him a break after [Dubai], but he is back now and ready to go again. This will be another very tough race for him as he is taking on some top milers, but he has been working well and I have been happy with his preparation. Dropping back to a mile will be fine, especially the stiff mile at Ascot, and we are looking for another good result.”
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.