Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot 2023: Vauban 2/1 brings the thrill factor

Daryl Carter
Daryl highlights five runners he can't wait to see at Royal Ascot next week.

We're just days away from the start of the 2023 Royal Ascot meeting, and Daryl Carter has highlighted five horses he is excited to see...

  • Daryl can't wait to see 2/13.00 Vauban on the flat

  • Says Al Asifah 4/51.80 could be the best filly of the lot

  • Backs River Tiber at 7/42.75 to get off to a good start

With ante-post rules still in play, a shed load amount of entries and the prospect of critical unknown factors such as the draw, headgear and handicap marks, I thought it best just to highlight five horses I am excited to see run instead of throw out a windy tip without those aspects. If the conditions are correct, then keep these onside.

Tuesday - 15:05 Coventry Stakes - River Tiber 7/4

Aidan O'Brien's River Tiber 7/42.75 is not the most exciting horse I look forward to on day one, but he comes damn close, and if the market is right about the possible defection of rival Asadna, he could end up being.

He left a deep impression with his finishing kick at Naas. The time of that race married up well with the following Listed winner, and although it didn't see him eclipse what ante-post market rival Asadna did on the clock at Ripon, it wasn't far away.

He shot right to the top of the list of horses to keep on side for the Royal meeting, and with the market suggesting the participation of Asadna is in doubt, he is miles clear, on the clock at least. Up to six furlongs, improvement is surely forthcoming, and he looks like a solid proposition to kick off the meeting and get punters in front.

Tuesday - 18:10 Copper Horse Handicap - Vauban 2/1

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Willie Mullins is a master in these staying events, and Vauban 2/13.00 is easily the most exciting horse on day one for me despite the Group 1 action. He boasted some smart form on the flat in France before heading to Willie Mullins, scoring in his final two outings, including an impressive departing display in the Listed Prix Frederic de Lagrange over 1m4f.

He mocked the Juvenile Hurdle Division, scoring in three consecutive Grade 1 events, and although he failed to get his head in front in open company last season, he had improved his RPRs into the 160s. He only found State Man, Honeysuckle, and the outstanding Constitution Hill too good (and a strange run from Zanahyir). Still, he clocked some excellent time figures, and connections mentioned the Melbourne Cup for him after his victory in the Triumph Hurdle, so this is no last-minute decision to run him on the flat.

Any Melbourne Cup hope will need to have a rating in the mid-110s on the flat to stand a chance, so the fact he runs here off a handicap rating of 101 means he should hold a big chance. I like National Hunt horses in these types of races at the best of times. The two milers on the flat are typically slow old boats - no one wants their horse to end up over this distance - and Vauban is like lining up a Ferrari next to a Fiat.

Wednesday - Queen Mary - Beautiful Diamond 5/1

Karl Burke's Beautiful Diamond 5/16.00 popped my eyes with a dominant display at Nottingham on debut despite looking green under pressure and not doing much in front. Comments from her trainer, such as, "I said whatever she did today she'll improve on, and we had to train her with the handbrake on leading into the race", back up the visual impression.

The time of the race was no more than ok, but she had a hell of a lot left in the tank, and she looked every inch a Queen Mary horse to my eye.

Thursday 14:30 Norfolk - Elite Status 7/4

Elite Status 7/42.75 blew apart what looked like a deep renewal of the National Stakes at Sandown on paper, and he still showed signs of greenness under pressure, meaning he could have a tonne more to offer. The National Stakes clocked good sectionals, and he was the only horse not just to be able to live with the strong pace but quicken off of it.

That run marked him down as the best two-year-old sprinter we have seen thus far, and although his price is short for some, it's generous for me.

Thursday 15:40 Ribblesdale Stakes - Al Asifah 4/5

She won't be many people's type of price, but Al Asifah 4/51.80 clocked such good closing sectionals at Goodwood that she must be a Group 1 winner in waiting, and this race is always a soft Group 2.

She cantered her final two furlongs with such finesse and moved through the gears so stylish it brought back memories of a certain Baaeed. It must be remembered that the second and third at Goodwood had each chased home Soul Sister and Running Lion in previous races, and Al Asifah made them look like run-of-the-mill handicappers.

The fillies division this season hasn't set the world alight. Savethelastdance and winner Soul Sister dominated the Oaks market, but the latter may not even be the best horse in her yard as the Gosden's unleash this beautiful best. I expect her to finish the season in the pole position of the three-year-old fillies. She's smart, very smart.

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