The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is the most valuable mile race in Europe with £1million in guaranteed prize money (3.30pm, Ascot, Saturday).
Soft ground means that Toronado declines the opportunity to take on Dawn Approach (9/4) for the fourth time this season, leaving Jim Bolger’s (pictured) 2,000 Guineas and St. James’s Palace Stakes winner as clear favourite.
The son of New Approach apparently returned from the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville in August with mucus on his lungs and his previous form, in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, is arguably the best on offer. However, he has an absence of 69 days to overcome and, while he won the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket last October and finished a narrow second in the Sussex Stakes in July on good to soft going, he’s never raced, never mind won, on soft or heavy going.
By contrast, Maxios (11/2), trained in France by Englishman Jonathan Pease, is unbeaten over a mile, including on soft and heavy going, and comfortably beat Prix Jacques le Marois runner-up Olympic Glory by 5 lengths in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp last month. Connections of Olympic Glory are adamant that the son of Choisir didn’t handle the bend at Deauville and will be suited by the straight mile at Ascot but, even so, he has work to do to reverse the form with Maxios on just 2lb better terms.
Ironically, Soft Falling Rain (5/1) has done all his winning on turf on good or faster going and trainer Mike De Kock has voiced his concerns about his effectiveness under testing conditions. The son of National Assembly recorded his first win over a mile on turf, on good to firm going, at Newmarket last month. A slog through the mud at Ascot is unlikely to play to his strengths and, for all that he’s been beaten just once in nine starts, isn’t hard to oppose.
Despite finishing fourth in the Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin last December and winning the Desmond Stakes, also over a mile, at the Curragh in August, Gordon Lord Byron (12/1) has been better known as a six and seven furlong performer in recent seasons. However, he clearly stays well enough, acts on soft and heavy going and has just half a dozen pounds to find with the likes of Olympic Glory and Dawn Approach on official BHA ratings. He could be the one to take advantage if the principals fail to fire, but otherwise looks booked for a place at the best.
Elusive Kate (14/1) has been a fine servant to connections, but may struggle against the colts, while the likes of Top Notch Tonto (14/1), Gregorian (40/1) and Caspar Netscher (50/1) look outclassed.
The only real dark horse among those at longer prices is Aidan O’Brien’s Kingsbarns (20/1). The son of Galileo was favourite for the Derby after winning the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last October, but was beaten so far in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last month that he cannot be recommended.
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes look a thrilling race in prospect, but MAXIOS leaps off the page in terms of value, so our betting tips advice is to back Jonathan Pease’s five-year-old to win at the best current price of 11/2 with Coral.
STOP PRESS: Maxios has been the subject of sustained support since we published this article and is now available at best odds of 9/2 with Betfred, Coral or William Hill.