The opening day of Royal Ascot is upon us and of the six favourites, only Battaash in the King's Stand Stakes (15:40) and Phoenix Of Spain in the St James's Palace (16:20) look likely to start at under 3.55/2.
A large percentage of private layers only look at the 1.11/10-3.55/2 zone for their lays to keep their risks to a minimum. Using that parameter, you are likely to find that you are confined to place lays in the majority of the races at Europe's No1 five-day extravaganza.
Barney Roy fans won't like me putting the five-year-old course winner up in the first race on the card (14:30) but he does tick a few boxes as a place lay.
Not as good as he was
He has contested two Listed races since returning from a year off and has yet to run to the level of form he showed in 2017 when he won the St James's Palace Stakes on today's card.
After that race, he was placed twice in Group One company over 10 furlongs in the Coral-Eclipse and Juddmonte International. That is arguably his best distance, yet he faces the first five home in the Lockinge at Newbury - one of the most valuable races over a mile in the calendar.
Mustashry, Laurens, Accidental Agent, Romanised and Le Brivido bring recent Group One form to the track from that race.
With 15 in all on our side, I am happy to lay Barney Roy for a place at 3.55/2 or under. He is currently 2.568/5 in the Queen Anne Stakes place market
I will give the Coventry a miss (15:05) as the three market leaders are fully entitled to be as short as they are on form.
Arizona and Guildsman won fast-run six-furlong races by wide margins at The Curragh and Goodwood respectively. Threat won his maiden over five, but was well on top at the finish and looked as if another furlong would suit him. With his trainer Richard Hannon saying after the race that the Coventry would be his colt's Royal Ascot target, Threat would be too risky a place lay.
And so to the King's Stand Stakes (15:40) over the minimum trip and some of our fastest horses over five furlongs.
The favourite 12 months ago, Lady Aurelia, was unplaced behind Blue Point and Battaash who head the market for this Group One.
Yet to win a Group One
Battaash has been a good earner for those that have been laying him in his Group One races in this country as he has yet to win one. He was fourth in the 2017 Coolmore Nunthorpe at York, second to Blue Point in this last June and fourth (behind Alpha Delphini, Blue Point and Mabs Cross) when returning to York as odds-on favourite for the Nunthorpe last August.
A regular winner of Group Two sprints since winning the 2017 Group One Prix l'Abbaye convincingly, he needs everything to go his way and come out on top.
He is currently 3.02/1 in the King's Stand Stakes win market and that's a price worth laying.
The betting for the St James's Palace Stakes (16:20) is dominated by Phoenix Of Spain, and the John Gosden stablemates Too Darn Hot and King Of Comedy.
Some on Twitter appear convinced that Too Darn Hot has not trained on because he hasn't lived up to the high expectations of him. He has finished runner-up in two Guineas, though, so has trained on in my opinion. He should be in the 1-2-3 again, as should Phoenix Of Spain who beat Too Darn Hot at the Curragh. King Of Comedy is improving with every race, so I will pass on this Group One.
Exception to the rule
I tend to duck handicaps for place lays and rarely lay Willie Mullins' runners. I will make an exception, though, with his ante-post favourite for the Ascot Stakes (17:00).
Buildmeupbettercup will be around 2.56/4 for a place but has no recent form - either on the Flat for Mick Channon or over hurdles for Mullins - to support her position at the head of the market.
Since narrowly winning a maiden hurdle at Navan in December she has been beaten 30 lengths, 11 lengths, 35 lengths and, most recently, failed to finish in a handicap off a mark of 128.
To put that into perspective, Snow Falcon is rated 157, Mengli Khan 150, Coeur De Lion 137 and others like The Cashel Man and Not Never around the 130 mark.
Buildmeupbuttercup failed to make the first three in her three starts on the level for Channon over 12 furlongs this time last year and has done nothing since to suggest she will stay two and a half miles on the Flat.
Mullins and Ryan Moore have an exceptional record in this contest. However,
laying Buildmeupbettercup for a Place will not break the bank. I do not see her finishing in the first four unless she has improved dramatically since the spring.
It's around 9/2 the field for the closing Listed race over 10 furlongs - the Wolferton Stakes (17:35).
I am more than happy to sit this one out while hoping Riven Light makes up for his desperately unlucky second at The Curragh last time out.