Royal Ascot begins today!
In horse racing the day-to-day grind of track after track and race after race can become monotonous, but racing truly shines at the major race meets and race days offered around the world.
The Saratoga and Del Mar meets, Kentucky Derby Day the Breeders Cup and the Dubai World Cup are all major highlights on any racing fans calendar. The highlight of the English racing calendar is Royal Ascot week. This is a series of five days of high class racing that’s offered in front of the Royal Family. Just like Saratoga, the best of the best meet each other in front of large crowds in a festival like atmosphere. Royal Ascot is certainly on my bucket list and if you consider yourself a major race fan it should be on yours as well.
The meeting is spread over five days, each day beginning at 8:30 CST and consisting of six races a morning that are available for viewing and wagering on HorsePlayerInteractive (HPI). Each day has a feature race and below I will quickly run through each day’s feature.
From a betting perspective English racing shares many concepts with North American racing, but it also varies greatly from North American racing. All the Royal Ascot races are contested on grass and most races are based on trip. Pace is not nearly the factor in Europe as it is in North American racing. From a wagering perspective, class and trip handicapping are certainly the best approaches to take in terms of wagering on Royal Ascot. Noticing that a horse has been running in major Grade 1 races means usually means they are superior to Grade 2 and 3 horses even though they may have better recent results.
The wagering offered is Win and Place (Place wagering in Europe pays 1st through 3rd) as well as Exacta and Triactor wagering. In the large 16-plus fields Exactas and Trifectas can reward gamblers quite handsomely. My approach would be to find a horse to bet Win and Place on, as well as keying him back and forth with 3 or 4 horses in an Exacta wheel. This is a low risk decent reward investment that does not require much more than $12 a race
Tuesday kicks off the festival with six races and four of them are major races of interest. The first is the Queen Anne Stakes over a mile with Toronado the heavy favorite. Toronado was a great miler last year but has not raced in 2014 yet. A familiar name to many will be Verrazano, who was a major Triple Crown contender last year. Now under the care of Aidan O’Brien, he is trying to become a top English miler. With my pick I will go to Anodin, who recently competed in France and ran second to the very classy Cirrus Des Aigles, especially if the going is soft.
The second race Tuesday is the Coventry Stakes for 2-year-olds. The field of 16 lends itself well to wagering. These lightly raced horses should provide a wide open race. If I was to make a pick and a play I would use the Godolphin runner Portamento who ran on well winning a recent Maiden race. The third race is the Grade 1 King’s Stand going five furlongs. I like Sole Power and Shea Shea, both who come in off great runs at the Dubai Carnival and at the World Cup. The fourth race is the featured St James’s Palace Stakes for 3-year-old milers. 2013 Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf winner Outstrip is a contender, but this race is a rematch of the 2000 Guineas, where Night of Thunder got the better of Kingman by a half-length. I will take a flyer on War Command, who probably needed his race in the 2000 Guineas and will be a solid price.
Wednesday features the Duke of Cambridge and the Prince of Wales Stakes. The Duke of Cambridge is a mile Grade 2. Certify and Sky Lantern are two of the favorites coming off good Dubai campaigns. The Prince of Wales Stakes is a classic mile and a quarter race for older horses. This is the best race of the week in my mind, and features two Breeders Cup winners, an Arc winner and a host of the best racehorses on the planet. The favorite is the Arc winning filly Treve, who unleashed a furious run to win the French classic in 2013. Magician won the 2013 Breeders Cup Turf and Dank won the 2013 Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf. The Fugue will also try this spot after being beaten as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup in both 2012 and 2013. I think it will take a powerful run to beat Treve, but I will take The Fugue to upset.
Thursday offers the test of a true stayer. The two-mile Ascot Gold Cup is a race filled with tradition. The race also is wide open featuring a full field, turning the race into a true jockey’s test. Moving too soon can be deadly, as stamina is the major factor. In handicapping terms I would look for horses with success over the distance. Leading Light is a major threat but I will also consider Estimate, Altano and Ernest Hemingway.
Friday offers the Coronation Stakes, a feature for 3-year-old fillies. This is a wide open race once again. Most of these fillies have tremendous closing kicks after galloping along in the pack. I would look for a horse that can almost make the first run to try to get the job done. Ihtimal and Veda are huge threats to win in my mind.
Saturday is the final race of the carnival and wraps up a tremendous week of racing. Another sprint, the six furlong Diamond Jubilee Stakes, is the highlight of the day. This race will feature a huge field of as many as 20 and will be a total wide open affair. Trip will be the deciding factor because so many horses will have traffic problems. I will try to beat the favorite Slade Power in here just because of the fact he has to overcome so much. The horses for me are Gordon Lord Byron and Astaire.
This tremendous festival of racing should offer top notch horses and top notch betting opportunities. It is great thing to watch and wager on. I would even recommend just watching the replays if you are busy during the week because many of these horses will be seen in North America soon for such events like the the Arlington Million and the Breeders' Cup. Good luck and enjoy the racing and we will see you at ASD for live racing Friday night at 7:00 p.m.