Racing / Royal Ascot: Challenge to Turtle sets the standard: Fine weather, fast ground and a hot betting heat bring the meeting to an early boiling point for St James's Palace showdown

WITH temperatures expected to climb into the high 70s, punters in morning suits may find the going a little sticky at Ascot this afternoon. Unfortunately for those who have also backed Turtle Island in the St James's Palace Stakes, however, out where it matters the ground will be getting firmer by the minute.

Followers of other sports might find it strange that the Royal meeting's most compelling contest should depend so heavily on the weather. Were it not for the doubts about Turtle Island's ability to act on fast ground, however, today's feature would be only half a race, without the ferocious betting which even a Group One contest demands. Figures released by Ladbrokes show that last year, when Kingmambo took the St James's Palace at odds-on after the late defection of Zafonic, it generated the lowest betting turnover of any of the meeting's 24 races. Twelve months on, it could be the punting event of the week.

Turtle Island will be a short price, but not so short as to be unbackable, while a nine-runner field ensures that each-way punters will have three places to aim at (and all but Clive Brittain's Czarna must have a fair chance of filling one). From a less avaricious point of view, the race brings together three 2,000 Guineas winners, Turtle Island (Irish), Green Tune (French) and Royal Abjar (German), and the short-head runner-up in the original at Newmarket, Grand Lodge. Ascot also marks the time when three- year-olds who have had an early preparation for the Classics start to go off the boil, allowing less race- weary runners to take their measure. If so, Darnay and First Trump would have a serious chance.

It will be enthralling, the best race of an exceptional week, but one of Royal Ascot's triumphs is that while the top contest is often run early on the first afternoon, neither the day nor the meeting lose their momentum. The money helps - there is more than pounds 400,000 in added prize money on today's card alone - but above all there is the belief of owners, trainers, jockeys and punters that any winner at Royal Ascot is something to be treasured.

The two-year-old events provide a strong foundation for the week, particularly today's Coventry Stakes in which the focus will be on Rambrino and Silca Blanka, a smooth winner on Derby day. The Derby form receives its first serious test in the King Edward VII Stakes, in which tradition dictates that an Epsom also-ran starts favourite, only to be beaten before the turn for home. Pencader (sixth behind Erhaab), Golden Ball (seventh, but still very lightly raced) and Foyer (who unseated Willie Ryan) have the best chance of justifying the general opinion that this year's Derby was a good one, while Opera Score and Moonax will be running for anyone who disagrees.

Khamaseen, who gave Lester Piggott an excellent ride in the Epsom Classic, has been withdrawn from the King Edward VII, leaving the ageing ex-champion with just two mounts on today's card. He may also reflect that one of those, Star Player in the Ascot Stakes, became available only when the young rider of the moment, Jason Weaver, was claimed for Mark Johnston's Argyle Cavalier. The odds that this Royal Ascot will be Piggott's last must be shrinking.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future