Andrew Hawkins’ Royal Ascot: Day 2

Race 1

Day two of Royal Ascot kicks off with the G2 Queen Mary Stakes over five furlongs (or just beyond 1000m) for the two-year-old fillies. It’s rare that this race doesn’t throw up a good filly or two – think the likes of Rizeena, Acapulco, Lady Aurelia and Campanelle in the last decade – and this year appears no exception. In what is a very competitive affair, it’s worth siding with MAKE HASTE. We’ve seen the LNJ Foxwoods colours in Australia on G1 winner Lighthouse and the American outfit looks poised for a huge Royal Ascot result. Her sire Blue Point was himself unbeaten at the course and distance and this filly looks a similar type. The primary concern with her is that she got herself quite worked up on debut at Naas and yet she still sprinted well clear at the 200m. The bigger occasion might yet see her melt down again but if she can take improvement mentally from that debut outing, she’s the one to beat. TRULY ENCHANTING represents the powerhouse Coolmore operation. Despite his success with two-year-olds, Aidan O’Brien has surprisingly never won this race. Truly Enchanting looks a tremendous chance based on her Tipperary win, admittedly on soft ground. Given how long she took to go through her gears, the Albany later in the week might have been a better choice but she is right in the mix regardless. American raider ULTIMA GRACE is a chance to give trainer Wesley Ward a record-equalling fifth victory in this race, while blueblood KASSAYA beat the boys with ease at Nottingham and should only improve with every start.

Numbers: 13-23-24-9

Suggested Bet: Make Haste WIN

Race 2

Since the G2 Queen’s Vase for the three-year-olds was shortened from 3200m to 2800m, it has become a classier event. Not to say that every winner was poor in that last decade before the switch occurred – Mahler, Estimate, Hartnell were all very good – and not every horse since 2017 has been a star, with the likes of Dashing Willoughby and Kemari disappointing. Time will tell where this batch measures up, but perhaps the only guarantee is that some of these will eventually be heading our way. The nod goes to HIGHBURY, who has to turn tables on BIRDMAN from when they both debuted at Cork. However, Highbury did emphatically reverse a half-length margin with Himalayan Heights next time out, putting up seven and a half lengths on him at Leopardstown at start two. The firmer ground seemed to be crucial and it is that, as well as every indication that the 1m 6f should be right up his alley, which gives Highbury the advantage here. His stablemate ILLINOIS boasts the best figures, having been a G1 placegetter (on a bottomless French track) at two and finishing second as favourite to subsequent Epsom Derby runner-up Ambiente Friendly in the Lingfield Derby Trial last time out. Based on the way he hung out last time, a return to a right-handed track should suit. MEYDAAN comes out of the same Lingfield Derby Trial but has had the extra run since, winning the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood. He’s another in need of ground and he looks the best non-Coolmore contender. Birdman also shapes well, although any rain would help his cause.

Numbers: 3-4-7-1

Suggested Bet: Highbury WIN

Race 3

The G2 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes, usually over the straight mile for the mares but this year being contested on the circle, is the first of two consecutive races on the card named for Prince William and his current titles. Even with the switch from the straight to a turn, last year’s winner ROGUE MILLENNIUM looks capable of going back-to-back. Trained by Tom Clover to win last year, she’s now with Joseph O’Brien. She was OK at her first run for the stable at the Curragh and will take plenty of benefit from that outing. It’s hers for the taking. LAUREL is first-up for 396 days, having not raced since last year’s G1 Lockinge Stakes when she was well-beaten as second favourite. Her form before that was flawless and she could really be anything. Next best are the enigmatic RUNNING LION, who was disappointing at Epsom but is capable on her very best form, and the stamina-laden SEA THE LADY.

Numbers: 11-6-13-14

Suggested Bet: Rogue Millennium WIN

Race 4

The G1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes over 2000m is one of the highlights of the week, with winners over the last 25 years including Dubai Millennium, Fantastic Light, Grandera, Ouija Board, So You Think, Highland Reel, State Of Rest and Mostahdaf. This year, the race is all about AUGUSTE RODIN and what he does. He’s capable of anything – he could beat any horse on his day, but he also could finish a furlong off them too. He’s the best horse in here, but on his two efforts this season, it’s worth taking him on until he can prove he has trained on at four. Instead, it’s worth looking to another four-year-old who has got something to prove too but who is capable of taking this at her very best. BLUE ROSE CEN should love the firm conditions and this race should be right up her alley. She’s something of a forgotten horse but she has been tremendous at times and at double figures she looks worthy of a bet. She goes on top of INSPIRAL, who was so disappointing in the G1 Lockinge Stakes fresh as favourite. However, the way she charged home at her first attempt at 2000m in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita last November, this might just be her trip these days. She’s world class and she’s a legitimate contender here. HORIZON DORE has a G1 in him this season, but it remains to be seen if firm going is what he is really after, while Auguste Rodin – as mentioned – is certainly a chance but worth opposing from a betting perspective.

Numbers: 9-10-4-2

Suggested Bet: Blue Rose Cen EACH WAY

Race 5

The Royal Hunt Cup, a handicap over the straight mile, remains one of my favourite races – it’s hard to believe it’s been five years since I broke the Sky Racing set while cheering home Afaak to win this race. Hopefully, we are cheering again tonight when WILD TIGER steps out here. Unbeaten in the UK, he also had two starts in Dubai earlier in the year which provided him with a great grounding for the season ahead. He has to step up to a mile but he should handle it and he looks to be so well handicapped. He’s a perfect fit. The Emir of Qatar’s Wathnan Racing outfit has been buying up big and, if the Godolphin blue is to be eclipsed, it will almost certainly be by the Wathnan blue and gold. REAL GAIN just goes above BESHTANI as this looks a long-term aim for Real Gain, whereas Beshtani finds himself here on a path to bigger and better. I think Beshtani is likely the better horse, but Real Gain is the one better suited here. Next best is the fresh PEROTTO, who won the Britannia at the course and distance in 2021 and who can perform first-up. However, let’s hope they are all running for the placings behind Wild Tiger.

Numbers: 20-9-6-8

Suggested Bet: Wild Tiger WIN (Best Bet)

Race 6

On this day last year, trainer Tom Clover won the G2 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes with Rogue Millennium. As mentioned earlier, he no longer trains that mare but he can take the Kensington Palace Stakes – a mares handicap over the straight mile – with RAJINDRI. She’s never won at a mile with her form primarily at 1400m but she should see out the trip and she gets into this race well at the weights. She’s worth a wager. HOPEFUL comes out of a good race at Newmarket, with winner Great Blasket a subsequent victor at Nottingham and runner-up Zozimus has placed since too. She’s a chance in an open race. Favourite SUMMER OF LOVE can give Saeed bin Suroor a race-to-race double if Wild Tiger wins – and there’s every chance he will land that brace – while TWIRLING is best of the rest.

Numbers: 19-18-11-8

Suggested Bet: Rajindri EACH WAY

Race 7

The Listed Windsor Castle Stakes over 1000m for the two-year-olds ends the second day of Royal Ascot. Loved the way in which PONT NEUF has won both starts to date and the performance of Kassaya in the Queen Mary earlier in the day should give a guide as to how she will go. She’s drawn the right side too to suggest that she will figure. TREASURE ISLE ticks a lot of boxes for this race. She was far better on top of the ground last time out at Naas after debuting on wet ground at the Curragh. Expect her to be right in the mix for a long way. Her stablemate CELTIC CHIEFTAIN looks as though he will relish a step up to 1200m in time but he was good at Navan on debut just 11 days ago and, even if this is too soon for him, he will make a lovely horse later in the year. Include HAWAIIAN in all exotics – getting back onto a firm track will see him improve dramatically.

Numbers: 16-24-7-12

Suggested Bet: Pont Neuf EACH WAY

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