The ITV cameras head to Ascot this week for a Royal meeting, and Kevin Blake has lined up a trio of chances on day one.
"Order Of Australia has been trained as a miler from the outset of this campaign and with this being just his third start at that trip since his debut, there could well be scope for him to improve."
It's here! Royal Ascot is finally here. Everyone will have their favourites, but for me this really is one of the very best meetings in all of horse racing. Ultra-competitive, top-class racing in a world-class setting with pageantry that is off the scale. Royal Ascot has it all.
Most relevantly for this column, Royal Ascot is a tremendous meeting for punters. Winners are hard to find, but the markets are very strong and the rewards for solving the puzzles are great. Hopefully I'll be able to point you towards a few winners during the week, starting off on Tuesday.
Take on the fav
The opening 14:30 Queen Anne Stakes centres on Palace Pier. He is clear of the field on ratings and may well be the good thing that many consider him, but I have a few niggling doubts.
Firstly, this will be the firmest ground he has encountered at the highest level. Even more significantly, there is precious little pace in this race on paper. With Palace Pier being a habitual slow starter, the chances of him being held up in a poor position off a steady pace are clear.
With all that in mind, I'm happy to take him on with one that may well be more favourably positioned in the shape of Order Of Australia. It took his connections some time to find out that a mile was his best trip, but he proved it in no uncertain terms when winning the Breeders' Cup Mile at Keeneland at a big price last November.
Order Of Australia has been trained as a miler from the outset of this campaign and with this being just his third start at that trip since his debut, there could well be scope for him to improve.
This race has been his target all season and with him likely to sit in a handy position, it would be no surprise to see him go close.
Lucky Deal suited by stamina test
The 17:00 Ascot Stakes is an extreme test of stamina and while many like to side with unexposed runners that could potentially prove suited to it, I'm siding with a confirmed stayer in the shape of the Mark Johnston-trained Lucky Deal.
The six-year-old is a very tough campaigner that stands up to a lot of racing. He proved his stamina for this sort of test when finishing fourth in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at this meeting two years ago, sticking to his task well after getting held up in his run.
The key to his chance here is the application of first-time blinkers, as he has long shaped as though his lazy style of racing would be sharpened up by headgear. This course, distance and ground will suit him well and with his last win having come off just a 2lb lower mark, he is selected to outrun his big price.
Storm to relish longer trip
The first day will be rounded off by the 18:10 Copper Horse Stakes and the one I like is the Charlie Appleby-trained Global Storm. Those with long memories (or that hold grudges) may remember that I was very sweet on him for the Golden Gates Handicap at this meeting last year, but the mile-and-a-quarter trip proved a bit sharp for him and he could only finish a never-nearer third.
He has been increasingly crying out for longer trips since then and has started to deliver, being unlucky not to win over a mile-and-a-half at Newmarket in May and returning to that track to win cosily when stepped up to a mile-and-three-quarters three weeks later.
He appeals as still being well handicapped off 98 and a more strongly-run race, which this promises to be, could well help draw that improvement out of him. He looks to have a big chance.