It's day one of Royal Ascot, and Timeform's Keith Melrose is dreaming of a monster payout from the Placepot pool...
Last year’s winner Veiled looks to have sound claims for a place again, still fairly treated regardless of her mid-field run in the Cesarewitch...
14:30 - There's been plenty of eulogising elsewhere on these pages, so it suffices to say this: Frankel will win the Queen Anne and rates as a straightforward banker. Normally, he'd have provided a prime opportunity to double up with the 'unnamed' favourite, but with lines so precious on a card like this we'll settle on just the one in the first leg.
15:05 - Of the three currently vying for favouritism in the King's Stand, the one who strikes as by far the most appealing for Placepot purposes is Bated Breath. His reliability is as good as you could wish for in a high-level sprinter, having plausible excuses on each occasion he's failed to reach the frame in the last 12 months and clearly bang in form following a recent win in the Temple Stakes, which he took by a neck from Sole Power. The two will meet again today and, with Sole Power now starting to establish himself as a regular challenger in high-level sprints, he makes as strong a case as any to be our second pick. He also covers more bases in terms of the draw, in stall 22 and well separated from Bated Breath in eight.
15:45 - The fact that this is the biggest field for the St James's Palace for however many years may strike as a bit inconsequential, but it is probably a symptom of an open division among the three-year-old milers - Camelot aside - and that, by definition, makes our task more difficult. Mercifully, Camelot's stablemate and Irish Guineas winner Power is a solid option, winner of the Coventry Stakes last year and generally reliable in his career to date. The Nile is making a big step up in class, but he surely warrants it, beaten only by Aljamaaheer last time and sure to benefit for the return to a mile. The fact William Buick has chosen to desert the hitherto well-regarded Fencing in favour of The Nile can be taken only as a further positive.
16:25 - Of all the big-field races on the card, the Coventry Stakes is probably the one you'd like to see a standout candidate in, an open renewal like this throwing up a dozen or more with realistic chances. Respected though market leaders Sir Prancealot and Dawn Approach are, we're going to look elsewhere. Aidan O'Brien likes to target the race, and there was more than enough in the debut wins of his two representatives (Lines of Battle and Cristoforo Colombo) to think they'll be up to competing at this higher level right away. Arguably the strongest debut form from a British challenger belongs to Englishman, who had no less than five subsequent winners behind him at Newbury back in April. He'll relish six furlongs and probably doesn't have to improve as much as some to get in the mix.
17:00 - Plenty of guesswork is normally required in the Ascot Stakes, populated to a significant degree by jumpers returning to the level. That said, there are four places available in this race and we have something of a dream Placepot selection in the form of Dark Ranger. A run of twos and threes beside his name stretching back seven races is bound to make him popular in the pool, but it's worth stressing that he's been steadily progressive all the while and his strong-travelling style should take him into the thick of it again. Last year's winner Veiled looks to have sound claims for a place again, still fairly treated regardless of her mid-field run in the Cesarewitch in the autumn and putting up a couple of good efforts over hurdles during the winter.
17:35 - It's starting to feel like the twelve labours of Hercules as we move on to the Windsor Castle Stakes. Therefore it's probably best to keep it simple with speedy sorts who've shown strong form. Lyric Ace (beat a subsequent listed winner comfortably last time) and, to a lesser extent, Smoothtalkinrascal (second in that excellent maiden won by Englishman) pick themselves in that regard, while we'll also include Hototo in the hope of a bit of a shock result. Not that it would be a total surprise for Hototo to get involved: he's improved by the run, finishing clear second-best to Cay Verde in a good maiden over this course and distance before winning with a bit more in hand than the bare margin at Ayr last time.
14:30 - 3
15:05 - 2, 12
15:45 - 13, 15
16:25 - 3, 6, 13
17:00 - 3, 14
17:35 - 8, 10, 18
= 72 lines
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