Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot 2024 Tips: Tony Calvin's antepost preview of next week's festival

Betfair horse racing tipster Tony Calvin
TC is keeping his Royal Ascot powder dry for now

The five day Royal Ascot Festival starts on Tuesday 18 June so Tony Calvin tees up next week's action with his antepost preview that includes advice for bettors as well as the latest on the ground and weather forecast...

If Cheltenham were a steak, it'd be served burnt to a crisp, but Royal Ascot is more akin to a tartare offering, such is the undercooked lead-up to the meeting.

Cheltenham is blanket media over-kill from about six months out, and I much prefer the way Royal Ascot creeps up on us unawares and allows us to start the five-day meeting with a blank slate and without long-held positions, which are often hard to shake for many, even in the face of changing evidence.

I don't know the actual figures but I imagine the money changing hands on Royal Ascot's ante-post markets are not even a tenth of those of Cheltenham - that's probably a very conservative figure - but I was asked to take a look at them, so I duly did so, being the obedient soul I am.

The start of Royal Ascot coverage is usually signalled by the first Wesley Ward interview, though I sense even the media are shying away from his over-confident, under-delivering schtick these days.

He was mustard in the early years - Strike The Tiger set the tone with a 33/134.00 win in the Windsor Castle in 2009 - but his walk hasn't matched the talk in recent years.

The US love-in by the UK press has always puzzled me given their struggles with medication (last year's winning US-trainer George Weaver, trainer of Queen Mary scorer Crimson Advocate, is currently appealing a two-year Metformin suspension), but I won't labour that tangent.

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I imagine the ante-post trade on the meeting isn't plentiful because there are quite a few races that aren't early-closers, so we only get to see the initial entries at the five-day stage.

So, up until that point, punters and bookmakers are betting in the dark on those contests.

For example, the likes of the Coventry Stakes has been priced up by all the firms - and, speaking of that race, I saw a video of Chief Singer (the subject of a recent book by John O'Connell, so check that out if you are so minded) winning it on his debut in spectacular fashion on Monday morning on X, and what a horse he was - without anyone knowing for sure what is going to be entered.

We only get a first look at those 2yo entries on Wednesday, I think.

Using the Racing Post site as a guide, 14 Royal Ascot races currently have entries, so they are surely the ones to concentrate on for punters.

Explosive start to five day festival

There is always a brilliant start to the meeting on Tuesday, with four Group 1s and the aforementioned Coventry Stakes sandwiched among them.

It is a real explosion of intent from the course executive.

I am not going to get bogged down by a race-by-race analysis though, but I went through all the 14 contests we currently have entries for in the last 24 hours - Sunday night is rock and roll in my house - and below is what I came up with.

It is brief - for the main reason I will shortly come to - because I only tip what I bet myself, and I don't think many people would argue that you aren't better off waiting until the day-of-race markets at this late stage.

You will get enhanced place terms on the day, as well as hugely competitively-priced markets, when the Betfair Sportsbook odds-compilers can trade their opinion with confidence and certainty around running plans.

And the latter point is crucial. Because there is less media chat around the meeting, getting a handle on what horses go where - and how Aidan O'Brien will shuffle his large juvenile pack for example - is very difficult.

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I remember there being a plunge, in a very short period of time, one morning last year when it was revealed Little Big Bear was going for the Windsor Castle (which he won at 6/52.20) instead of a Group race, and he was in double-figures at the time.

Royal Ascot ground and weather forecast

Oh, and I am forgetting the obvious. What's the current situation with the ground and weather forecast, albeit eight days out?

Unbelievably, there are actually no details about the ground on the BHA site as this column goes live - it is blank - so I have no idea what the current starting point is.

This is surely ludicrous.

For what it is worth, the long-range weather forecast is for a pretty wet seven days from Thursday onwards (20mm+) but what ground that will be landing on is currently a mystery, it seems.

I am sure backers of the fast ground-loving Queen Anne favourite, Inspiral, would like to know.

So, until we know the current state of the going, I am not sure how you can bet at the moment, so I fell at the first.

I'll have to revisit once we know what ground we are dealing with - I think the official going is given six days out but why we can't have a daily update for such a huge meeting, with ante-post betting, is beyond me - as I wouldn't dream about having a bet without that information.

So powder dry until I get an update.

I will be back, maybe Wednesday afternoon, as someone may have once said. Arnie didn't mention the midweek bit, admittedly.

In the meantime, I'll focus on the weekend races when the entries for those start to appear around 1.30pm on Monday.

The ground, and current weather forecasts for ITV's three Saturday, are listed below.

Just before this column went live, Will Aitkenhead, Ascot's head of Corporate and Industry affairs, got in touch with me to say the first official going report will be on Tuesday, but it is "largely good ground at the moment". Thank you.

Good luck.

Going and weather for Saturday ITV racing

York: Good to soft - 16mm or so perhaps up to and including Saturday

Sandown: Good to firm 10mm or so perhaps up to and including Saturday, and they had 2.6mm on Monday morning (course put on two 7.5mm cycles of watering last week, finishing on Friday)

Chester: Good, good to soft in places - 10mm or so perhaps up to and including Saturday

Now read more Royal Ascot 2024 previews

Listen to Racing Only Bettor's Royal Ascot 2024 Preview...


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