Royal Ascot - Day one preview

The meeting opens with three Group Ones, all spearheaded by short-priced favourites, including two of the week’s high-profile global raiders.

If you want to take on the aforementioned ANIMAL KINGDOM in the Queen Anne Stakes (2.30), check out the only other genuine top-class contender in the field, ELUSIVE KATE. Fillies or mares rarely win the race and she’s yet to run this term, but her price of about 10/1 makes her an attractive each/way proposition.

South African sprinter SHEA SHEA is a worthy favourite for the King’s Stand Stakes (3.05). But as in the first, Newmarket trainer John Gosden saddles his most respected challenger -- this time in the shape of SWISS SPIRIT, who has finally grown into his frame and is finally fulfilling his potential.

The market leader in the St James’s Palace Stakes (3.45) is 2,000 Guineas winner DAWN APPROACH, who makes a swift and surprise return to the track only 17 days after his flop in the Derby. With serious fears that his Epsom exertions might have taken too much out of him, MAGICIAN and TORONADO look viable alternatives. The latter is confidently expected to bounce back to his best after finishing behind Dawn Approach at Newmarket.

Later in the day, the two-year-olds take centre stage in the Coventry Stakes (4.25) and Windsor Castle Stakes (5.35). Aidan O’Brien saddles three fascinating colts in a sub-standard Coventry, spearheaded by the strongly-fancied STUBBS, while the pick of three from the yard of juvenile expert Richard Hannon appears to be Frankie Dettori’s mount THUNDER STRIKE, even though stable jockey Richard Hughes has the leg up on CHAMPIONSHIP. The dark horse of the race is RIVERBOAT SPRINGS.

Hannon also has a strong hand in the Windsor Forest, where it is hard to choose between ANTICIPATED and SACHA PARK. At a big price, though, I like the look of David Elsworth’s JUSTICE DAY.

In between the two juvenile events is a fascinating renewal of the week’s first handicap, the Ascot Stakes (5.00). As well as the aforementioned Tiger Cliff, I could give a chance to four or five, most notably MUBARAZA. But Andrew Balding’s MYSTERIOUS MAN could well find this marathon 2m4f trip right up his street.