Royal Ascot 2017 opens with a cracking curtain-raiser in the shape of the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes where Ribchester (best priced 4/5 with Bet365) heads the betting market for the one mile event on the straight course (2.30pm Tuesday, live on ITV).
Ribchester may be a genuine dual-Group 1 winning performer but it is worth this Queen Anne preview looking elsewhere in a high-class field of 16 when the draw has not been kind to him. Ribchester’s very capable trainer Richard Fahey thinks that the draw from stall one should not matter but it will certainly not help this Godolphin-owned colt, especially as his pacemaker and stablemate Toscanini (66/1) starts from stall ten.
Ribchester is rated 5lb superior to the field and was last seen winning the Lockinge in convincing style, making all and beating Lightning Spear nearly four lengths on soft ground at Newbury in late May. This four-year-old’s very capable and intelligent jockey William Buick is confident that there is no reason for Lightning Spear to reverse the placing as he believes that this rather tall son of Iffraaj is still improving. Buick is probably right but the very different conditions raise another question over Ribchester’s claims.
Yes, Ribchester was only beaten half a length by The Gurkha on quick ground at Goodwood in the Sussex Stakes last year under James Doyle but his action suggests that a bit of give probably suits him. Ribchester is yet to score on ground faster than good but, as he has only encountered it once, the jury is out on that subject. Ribchester deserves to be favourite but he is not as unbeatable as his price suggests.
The William Haggas trained Mutakayyef (7/1) took the Group 2 Summer Mile Stakes here in July last year on quick ground, beating Dutch Connection (25/1) just over two lengths on the round course. Next time out Mutakayyef was only beaten two lengths into third by Roger Varian’s ultra-talented Postponed in the Juddmonte International Stakes in August at York after getting carried right and enduring a less than perfect passage in the closing stages.
Mutakayyef went on to finish third in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile Stakes in Canada in September, beaten three quarters of a length by the superstar mare Tepin. This term he has only been out once, on unsuitably yielding ground in the Dubai Turf at Meydan and finished fifth, beaten nearly six lengths. This son of Sea The Stars should relish conditions and is drawn from a promising looking stall nine. Rated only 5lb below the favourite, he could be the beneficiary if Ribchester fails to run his race.
The same theory could be applied to the 5/1 second favourite (with Bet365) Lightning Spear who shares a rating of 120 with Mutakayyef. This son of Pivotal took the Group 2 Doom Bar Mile at Goodwood last year and finished second to Ribchester at Newbury. His form suggests that he likes quick ground but, trained by David Simcock, he is going to have to raise his game to beat him.
Lightning Spear will be ridden by Jamie Spencer for the first time suggesting that a hold-up ride is on the cards. Whatever Spencer does, Buick’s theory seems feasible and his price rules him out as an each-way prospect.
A horse who really relishes a sound surface is Aidan O’Brien’s Deauville (14/1). In the mile and a quarter Arlington Million Stakes last August in the US he hit the front two furlongs from home on the firm ground. He was outstayed rather than outpaced by David O’Meara’s Mondialiste and finished third, beaten only half a length under Seamie Heffernan.
Owned by Fitri Hay and ‘the lads’ behind Ballydoyle, this season this son of Galileo has been racing over distances beyond a mile and managed to score in the Group 3 Huxley Stakes at York on good ground in early May. We last saw Deauville getting beaten three lengths on unsuitably soft ground in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup in late May at the Curragh. Drawn in stall 11, Ryan Moore partners him adding to his chance and he looks a sound each-way prospect at his current price.
The two American challengers in the line up are worth a second too look as they are available at generous prices. A recent US raider blew her chances by carting Olivier Peslier to the start leading to a bale out and withdrawal from the race. Miss Temple City is trained by the very shrewd Graham Motion who knows a thing or two about English racing as he was based here before moving across the pond.
Miss Temple City is a five-year-old daughter of, erm, Temple City. She won the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes for fillies and mares on firm ground at Del Mar in December under Edgar Prado. The partnership also took the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes at Keeneland in October. Miss Temple City might just spring a surprise but Motion’s decision to keep Prado on board could be a mistake.
Another US challenger, Todd Pletcher’s American Patriot (25/1) is also capable of a good show despite his Queen Anne betting odds. As a son of War Front he should enjoy a fast surface and recently proved the theory by taking the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes on quick ground at Keeneland in April.
There are no guarantees with US horses but you can be sure that most of them are offered at relatively generous odds as most UK punters prefer to follow a horse that they know or horses from a trainer that they believe in. Frankie Dettori has been booked to partner American Patriot which has to be a massive positive.
Our Preview’s Queen Anne Stakes Preview Betting Tips Verdict
Ribchester looks a worthy favourite but this Queen Anne Stakes preview has to oppose him from his poor draw and at his odds-on price. Todd Pletcher’s horses are in great form back home in the US, putting AMERICAN PATRIOT firmly on the list. This horse is as short as 16/1 with the excellent Bet365 Bookmaker, so back Dettori’s mount each-way at current best odds of 25/1 with Coral. We can see that price disappearing.