Ryan Moore, Frankie Dettori and Richard Hughes, champion jockeys three times apiece, will be the go-to men for Royal Ascot punters this week – especially Moore, who will be attempting to become the leading rider at racing’s summer spectacular for the fifth time in the past six years.
Moore opens with a full book of rides and, with Coolmore’s powerful backing throughout the week, the jockey considered by many to be the best in the world is understandably at short odds (4-9) to claim the Ascot title yet again ahead of Dettori (8-1) and Hughes (10-1).
Royal Ascot, apart from everything else, is an annual five-day war between backers and bookies – and no prizes for guessing who normally comes out on top. But if there is a banker on this opening day, it is surely Moore’s mount Gleneagles in the St James’s Palace Stakes.
A decisive winner of the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, Aidan O’Brien’s colt was then less commanding in the Irish equivalent, but he showed a neat turn of foot to get himself out of a pocket and it was still an impressive performance in its own way. Now he meets the French Guineas winner, Make Believe.
Dettori, just one winner short of 50 Royal Ascot triumphs, would seem likely to play second fiddle, at best, here on the progressive Consort, but the Italian veteran, ebullient anyway, is bursting with confidence following his Derby victory. Past deeds show just what he can do when he gets on a roll.
Hughes, meanwhile, would love to go out at Royal Ascot on a high before he retires at the end of the season to take up training and one of his best chances is aboard Sole Power, favourite to win a third King’s Stand Stakes in a row.
Some of Hughes’ finest displays have been when partnering Sole Power, a sprinter who needs to be held up for a late run; indeed, the reigning champion positively revels in the challenge of leaving it as late as possible.
A third King’s Stand victory would bring the house down and, even at eight years of age, Edward Lynam’s speedster is showing no real signs of slowing down. But he will meet his match at Ascot one day and the exciting younger gun, Muthmir, might be ready to shoot him down this afternoon.
Before all this, though, the meeting kicks off with arguably the race of the week, between the Hong Kong champion Able Friend and the brilliant French-trained grey Solow in the Queen Anne Stakes over a mile.
Able Friend is called a “monster” while his Brazilian-born rider Joao Moreira’s nickname is “Magic Man”, but there is much more to all this than hype; a stunning turn of foot has enabled the five-year-old to dominate the mile division in Hong Kong, with three Group One victories already this year in a run of six wins since last November.
His fans are baffled why he is not favourite, but Solow has developed into a miler of the highest calibre, an impressive winner of Group Ones at Meydan and Longchamp on his last two starts.
Getting a handle on the relative form values is well nigh impossible and the two camps appear equally confident. But Solow may have an edge, in as much as he is a proven good traveller, while Able Friend has basically lived where he has worked and run, 16 times, for the past two years at Sha Tin racecourse.
Ascot’s straight mile is also quite different to what Able Friend is used to, perhaps another advantage to Solow, but, with last year’s 2,000 Guineas winner Night Of Thunder also a contender, this is one of those fascinating, top-quality affairs one can enjoy thoroughly without a financial interest.Reuse content