Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: Neil Morrice: Royal Ascot Day 1 Preview

Neil Morrice: Royal Ascot Day 1 Preview

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Neil Morrice brings us his preview for day 1 of Royal Ascot, including in-depth previews of The King's Stand Stakes and the Queen Anne Stakes.

The splendour of British racing's greatest occasion manifests itself with five days of top-class action at a Royal Ascot fixture that has something for everyone... it would take a brave man to suggest there's anything on the global stage to top it and Day 1 gives punters the opportunity to glide into action with three Group Ones.

Over the past three seasons few horses have thrilled audiences in quite the same way as BATTAASH, and his clash with BLUE POINT in a rematch from the 2018 contest should provide a King's Stand Stakes worth going a long way to see.

Battaash looked as good as ever when hosing up on his reappearance in the Temple Stakes, while Blue Point proved unbeatable at the Dubai Carnival where he was 3 from 3.

In the opening Queen Anne Stakes Sir Michael Stoute's MUSTASHRY is going to be hard to beat on the evidence of his clear cut triumph in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury. The likes of LAURENSACCIDENTAL AGENTLE BRIVIDO and LORD GLITTERS trailed in his wake and if the same horse turns up he will be hard to beat.

Stoute is the master in encouraging improvement from a mature horse and the form book points to the Sheikh Hamdan-owned runner being in the best shape of his life.

In the St James's Palace Stakes there's a rematch between the colts that dominated the finish of the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

In that Curragh Classic, it was PHOENIX OF SPAIN that provided a massive upset as he trounced last year's champion 2yo TOO DARN HOT and on that evidence he's the one to beat.

However, John Gosden reckons Too Darn Hot had a rushed preparation for the Dante Stakes and had to cope with an unscheduled flu jab on the way to Ireland. The message from the master trainer is clear - write Too Darn Hot off at your peril.

Rarely have I heard such encouraging words regarding a two-year-old from Richard Hannon than those uttered about THREAT in the Coventry Stakes, and this once-raced colt has been working the house down at Herridge Stables. He looked something special when coming home unchallenged at Newmarket and is going to relish the extra furlong of this Group 2.

Aidan O'Brien looks to have the main danger in the form of ARIZONA who scored by eight long lengths on his debut at the Curragh. His trainer has won this eight times, making him the favourite in most books.

Royal Ascot Best Bets

Race 1: MUSTASHRY (9)
Trainer: Sir Michael Stoute
Jockey: Jim Crowley

It's uncanny how Stoute manages to exact improvement from mature horses and that gift has rarely been better demonstrated than with MUSTASHRY. The now six-year-old posted a first Group 1 triumph by powering two and a half lengths clear of Laurens in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury and under similar conditions can confirm placings with that filly. He is a strong traveller with a potent turn of foot - just the assets required to take the meeting's opener.

Race 2: THREAT (16)
Trainer: Richard Hannon
Jockey: Tom Marquand

The Coventry Stakes carries Group 2 status but has all the trappings of a Group 1 and THREAT can prove he is the best colt from the impressive Hannon academy. The colt coped with five furlongs to storm home on his debut at Newmarket and the way he's been kicking everything into touch on the Herridge gallops suggests he's going to love this step up to six. His trainer has no hesitation in naming him the stable's best winning chance of the week.

Race 4: SKARDU (8) (Each Way)
Trainer: William Haggas
Jockey: James Doyle

While he has work to do with the horses that beat him in both the Newmarket and Irish 2,000 Guineas, SKARDU appeals as a value player in a race that is not averse to upsets. He found himself drawn on the wrong part of the course in our Guineas whilst not disgracing himself by finishing in the money in Ireland. His trainer is happy with him, while track, trip and ground are other ticked boxes.

King's Stand Stakes

Race 3: BLUE POINT (2)
Trainer: Charlie Appleby
Jockey: James Doyle

BATTAASH was preferred in the market on that occasion and is likely to go off favourite again, having looked razor sharp in dispatching Alpha Delphini on his reappearance in the Temple Stakes at Haydock. Charlie Hills believes the 5yo is happier in himself than 12 months ago, and that his outstanding turn of foot can sink the best of them.

James Doyle picks up the prized spare ride on BLUE POINT owing to an injury to William Buick but the latter has tutored him on what to expect from the Godolphin runner, who was in imperious form with an unbeaten sequence of three straight wins at the Dubai carnival. BLUE POINT can operate at six furlongs as well as five, but the stiff five here brings out the best in him, as he showed when taking down his arch rival in 2018.

If there's a joker in the pack it is IMPRIMIS whose American connections moved fast to snap up Frankie Dettori for the ride. The 5yo is unbeaten in two this year in the US and Joe Orseno is a trainer with an eye on the prize, insisting his charge will show up in a big way.

SERGEI PROKOFIEV was a beaten favourite in the Abernant Stakes won by MABS CROSS but has been backed to turn the tables. But even though MABS CROSS was in turn unable to hold a candle to BATTAASH at Haydock I expect her to confirm Newmarket placings.

Neil Morrice's Predicted Finish
1st BLUE POINT (Nap)
2nd Battaash
3rd Imprimis
4th Mabs Cross
5th Sergei Prokofiev

Queen Anne Stakes

A stunning Group 1 to kick Royal Ascot into gear, with last year's shock winner ACCIDENTAL AGENT out to defend his title on the back of an encouraging seasonal comeback when third in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

Eve Johnson Houghton believes she has the 5yo in better shape than he was going into this 12 months ago but he has some ground to find with a couple of his foes.

MUSTASHRY looked a much-improved performer when zipping to a two and a half lengths triumph in the Lockinge, readily powering clear of LAURENS after readily striking clear inside the final furlong. The 6yo is a perfect example of trainer Sir Michael Stoute's ability to improve an older horse, and there was absolutely no fluke about the win.

Connections of LAURENS believe she was carrying a bit of condition at Newbury and that she will give MUSTASHRY far more problems today. There's logic in that line of thinking, as the filly is a gross individual who ran as if just needing it, travelling as well as anything and then blowing up.

Another distaffer that takes the eye is ONE MASTER and I anticipate money coming in for William Haggas's charge as she will be much more the finished article than for her placed to run in a fillies' Group 2 at the Curragh last month.

Best backed in the ante-post market was LE BRIVIDO who finished fifth at Newbury, staying on well at the business end. He's a lightly raced individual who could get a lot closer but clawing back three and three-quarter lengths with MUSTASHRY is a tall order.

For reasons unknown LORD GLITTERS flopped in the Lockinge, beating just one of his thirteen opponents. However, he got very keyed up in the preliminaries and might have left his race on the way down to post. Normally the most consistent of performers, it would be no surprise to see him bounce back.

Neil Morrice's Predicted Finish
2nd Laurens
3rd One Master
4th Lord Glitters
5th Le Brivido

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