Royal Ascot 2021: day one – as it happenedWednesday 16 June 2021
Poetic Flare and Palace Pier were the big winners as 12,000 spectators lined the course for the opening day
Well that was a day that had ... if not everything ... then a good way towards that goal. Royal Ascot returned with just 12,000 spectators as a designated government sporting trial (“next slide please”) and while the traditional finale singing at the bandstand looked thinly populated and a little half-hearted if I’m honest it was a massive improvement on last year’s behind-closed-doors version of the great meeting which is as much, if not more, about the pageantry and social occasion off the track as it is about the action on it. Frankie Dettori won the opener on the much-vaunted Palace Pier which helped. A favourite had won, ridden by the favourite of the Ascot crowd. Later, Poetic Flare was an impressive winner of the feature race of the day to set up what could be some battle between the pair at Goodwood for the Sussex Stakes. With all eyes on Rachael Blackmore, who flopped on a huge gamble, it was perhaps fitting that the supreme female talent on the Flat, Hollie Doyle, should pop up with a winner. The Queen (a late non-runner having been expected at the meeting on the days when she had a runner and she did have one on Tuesday) would have enjoyed it all at home and she will be itching to get back later in the week. Let’s hope so. She was missed as was a full crowd. Roll on 2022!
Great to see Hollie Doyle grab the second winner of her career at Royal Ascot. A stylish and tactically astute rider
1 Amtiyaz (Hollie Doyle) 33-1
2 Dubious Affair (J P Spencer) 33-1
3 Global Storm (W Buick) 4-1
Also: 15-8 Fav Saldier, 8-1 Arthurian Fable 4th
Non Runner: 1
And they’re off ... Galata Bridge is leading with Saldier, the well-backed favourite, bvery close up in third spot ... Amtiyaz is in second ... Brilliant Light is prominent too ... Saldier being pushed along now ... Arthurian Fable trying to get there ... Amytiyaz with Dubious Affair finishing late ... Amtiyaz and Hollie Doyle hold on!
Lot of talk about the drugs controversy already over last couple of days - even before Jim Bolger won today’s big race. Won’t go away
"In sport and life, all anyone wants is a fair crack of the whip...you have to sit up and take notice"@kevinblake2011 reacts to Jim Bolger's accusations of drug cheats in Irish racing
A highly-competitive handicap to round off the day, with Willie Mullins fielding the likely favourite in Saldier, another horse more familiar to followers of the winter game. A dual Grade One winner over hurdles, Saldier returned to the Flat for the first time in four years at Listowel nine days ago and strode seven lengths clear of a dozen opponents without being asked a serious question.
Mullins has saddled four winners of the Ascot Stakes and two more in the Queen Alexandra, the final race of the meeting, from his small band of runners over the last 10 years and Saldier could easily be another, but he is up against a Flat powerhouse in Global Storm, who runs for Charlie Appleby’s Derby-winning Godolphin stable, while another runner in Godolphin blue, Saeed bin Suroor’s Briliant Light, will bid to give the trainer his 37th Royal winner but also his first since 2017. Arthurian Fable, for the Brian Meehan stable, also deserves close inspection at around 8-1, with the form of his four-length second in the Melrose at York last August looking particularly strong in the context of today’s race.
1 Juan Elcano (Andrea Atzeni) 14-1
2 Patrick Sarsfield (Tom Marquand) 4-1 Jt Fav
3 Solid Stone (R L Moore) 4-1 Jt Fav
Non Runner: 5
And they’re off ... Victory Chime and Solid Stone with Forest Of Dean all prominent ... Euchen Glen is last ... Juan Elcano well back ... Victory Chime leads on the final turn ... Palavecino and Patrick Sarsfield come fast with Juan Elcano making a late swoop to win and nab the prize.
Will the taps get turned on at Ascot tonight?
Judged on times, it will be full-on FIRM going at Ascot tomorrow without watering. Should the Clerk water overnight?
An open renewal of this Listed contest for older horses over a mile-and-a-quarter, with a mix of solid performers at Pattern level and a scattering of horses dipping their toe in Listed company after graduating from handicapping. Blue Cup, who was due a win after some luckless runs when he ran away with a handicap at the Derby meeting earlier this month, is in the latter category along with Dawaam, while the Group-company regulars include Patrick Sarsfield, Solid Stone and the Winter Derby winner, Forest Of Dean. Marco Botti’s runner Felix will also attract plenty of support, having run third at Group One level at Meydan’s World Cup meeting in March. Solid Stone looks like Sir Michael Stoute’s best chance today to add to his record-breaking haul of 81 winners at the Royal meeting, and hold off what is likely to be Aidan O’Brien’s inevitable ascent to the summit (he’s on 74) for a little longer.
Selection: SOLID STONE
1 Reshoun (W Buick) 66-1
2 M C Muldoon (R L Moore) 11-2
3 Elysian Flame (B A Curtis) 16-1
4 Golden Rules (L Dettori) 12-1
Also: 5-2 Fav Cape Gentleman
They’re off ... there’s a long way to go ... Reshoun makes a bid for the lead ... Golden Rules is very keen ... towards the back with only four or five behind is Cape Gentleman ... Cape Gentleman moves up a place or two as Rochester House leads with Mancini up close ... Reshoun still prominent with Lucky Deal too ... Untold Story is just behind the leaders as turn for home ... Cape Gentleman has a lot to do ... M C Muldoon is flying down the outside and goes past the line with Reshoun. A photo-finish!
An incredible punt on Cape Gentleman is taking place ... “one of the truly big Royal Ascot gambles” says Matt Chapman on ITV about the Rachael Blackmore ride who is now an astonishing 9-4 for this red-hot handicap.
Is Cape Gentleman too short?
The Rachael Blackmore factor has caused the price to drop in the Ascot Stakes up next!
The #RacingPostLive panel including @CharliePoste have their say pic.twitter.com/D5IRN6lC75
Meanwhile, in the Royal Enclosure ...
The Blackmore effect on a horse’s price is familiar to fans of the jumping code, but it seems to be equally potent on the Flat, as Cape Gentleman has plunged from 10-1 to 4-1 favourite for this race since the Grand National winning jockey, Rachael Blackmore, was somewhat unexpectedly booked for the ride on Monday. Several jump jockeys have switched to ride on the level in recent seasons, including Graham Lee, who won the 2004 Grand National on Amberleigh House, and Jim Crowley, the champion jockey on the Flat in 2016, who is now number one jockey to the Shadwell racing operation. It is highly unusual, though, for a current jump jockey to dip in to the summer game, as they ride at a minimum of 10 stone over jumps and most would find it impractical – if not impossible - to lose enough weight for just an occasional ride the Flat. Blackmore, though, is a natural lightweight and will probably need some lead in her saddle to weigh out at 9st 10lb later today.
Cape Gentleman has an obvious chance, having run out an easy winner of a two-mile handicap at the Curragh on his last start in this code in October 2020, but not the kind of chance that his current, Blackmore-d price would suggest, not least when another star of the winter game, Willie Mullins, sends three runners – M C Muldoon, Rayapour and Royal Illusion - in search of his fifth win in this race in the last 10 years. Alan King’s Coeur De Lion is also hard to rule out as he seems to come alive when faced with this unique test – he has been sixth, fifth and first over the last three seasons – and while he’s on the drift this morning, I still fancy Elysian Flame to go well for Mick and David Easterby. He lost his chance with a slow start at Chester last time but was doing all his best work at the finish and has a real shout on the form of his comeback win at Newbury in April.
Palace Pier v Poetic Flare is going to be some contest if they clash at Goodwood in the Sussex Stakes
1 Poetic Flare (K J Manning) 7-2 Fav
2 Lucky Vega (S Foley) 4-1
3 Battleground (R L Moore) 11-1
Also: 12-1 Maximal 4th
They’re off ... Naamoos and Ontario well away with Wembley at the back ... Battleground is very keen ... Highland Avenue now at the back and Ontario skips clear by five lenghts ... La Barrosa and Poetic Flare goes for it and has shot clear ... Poetic Flare wins with ease.
Here’s trainer Roger Teal explaining why Oxted is called Fenton ...
Great interview on ITV with trainer Roger Teal after winning that race ... Oxted is known as Fenton at home he explains ... any excuse to watch this:
Cieren Fallon enjoyed his win on Oxted!
This has long promised to be one fo the most open renewals of the opening day’s feature event for many years, and if the eventual favourite goes off at 3-1 or bigger, it will be the longest-priced market leader for this race since Noverre was beaten as the 9-2 favourite in 2001.
Currently, the market leader is Poetic Flare, the 2,000 Guineas winner, at a top price of 4-1, but there has been a huge move this morning for Richard Hannon’s Chindit, who has a distinct liking for fast ground, down to a top price of 6-1 from 9-1 overnight. Chindit was four lengths behind Poetic Flare in the Guineas but was never really where his jockey, Pat Dobbs, would have wanted him to be and was doing all his best work at the finish.
1 Oxted (Cieren Fallon) 4-1
2 Arecibo (J P Spencer) 28-1
3 Extravagant Kid (L Dettori) 18-1
Also: 11-8 Fav Battaash 4th
And they’re off ... Winter Power is fast out with Ornate and Battaah is fifth early ... Winter Power and Battash lead but Oxted comes through to take it up and win.
Rachael Blackmore is prepping for her ride on the big gamble of the day, Cape Gentleman, in the Ascot Stakes at 5pm.
Got a feeling Battaash could be vulnerable in the King’s Stand - has a poor record in big fields when he gets taken on in the early stages - but he’s being well backed ...
It's time for Battaash on Sky Sports Racing pic.twitter.com/4slXmG0lDG
Here come the speedballs over the straight five furlongs, with last year’s winner, Battaash, leading the charge, in the betting at least. There was some 9-4 available about one of the best sprinters of recent years on Monday afternoon but he has ridden a surge of market confidence down to a top-price of 7-4 this morning, with punters clearly believing he will be race-ready after an interrupted preparation. At his best, Battaash does not give his rivals so much as the sniff of a chance to lay a glove on him, generally hitting the front by halfway at the latest and then exploding clear through the final quarter-mile. Everything needs to be in perfect working order to produce such overwhelming power, however, and having had surgery for a minor fracture to a joint over the winter, Battaash’s 100 per cent readiness for Group One action can only be taken on trust.
He faces a couple of very interesting new opponents this afternoon too, including Winter Power, a three-year-old filly who gets a total of 10lb from the favourite in sex and age allowances, and Frankie Dettori’s mount, Extravagant Kid, from Brendan Walsh’s stable in the US. I’m going with Winter Power, who was deeply impressive at York last month when she also stopped the clock in a very decent time, but Extravagant Kid has more than just his jockey to recommend him, having won a Group One sprint at Meydan in March a few months after a close fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland. Oxted, last season’s July Cup winner, will also be having his first crack at Battaash, while the Queen’s King’s Lynn, a Listed-race winner at Haydock 17 days ago, has also been nibbled in the market this morning.
1 Berkshire Shadow (Oisin Murphy) 11-1
2 Eldrickjones (D Tudhope) 66-1
3 Vintage Clarets (P Hanagan) 25-1
And they’re off ... Speedy Kaufymaker leads as expected ... The Organiser and Gisburn are up with the leaders ... Vintage Clarets is in with a chance and it’s wide open ... Berkshire Shadow grabs the glory at 11-1. A Guardian tip -- hats off for Greg Wood!
A re-run of the Queen Anne Stakes here ...
She will have had him in for a chat well before the racing surely!
The Queen today received Australian Prime Minister The Hon. Scott Morrison MP in Audience at Windsor Castle.
Wesley Ward, the Kentucky-based trainer who has become a firm part of the Royal Ascot tradition over the last dozen years, throws a curveball into the first Group race of the season for juveniles in the shape of Kaufymaker, who was installed as favourite last week but has drifted to around 7-1 this morning. Fillies rarely run in this race in the first place, and there has not been a winner for the distaff side since 1916, so history is very much against her. Ward’s record with juveniles at the Royal meeting is impossible to overlook, however, and he suggested last week that Kaufymaker is very much to the fore of this year’s team. “If you were to line them all up, she’d be the one in front, that’s going six furlongs [the Coventry trip], I’m not sure about five,” Ward said. “Kaufymaker will be a good measure of how my horses are going to run. If she wins then we’ll be tough, and if she gets beaten, we may be outclassed.”
With Kaufymaker on the drift, the new favourite is Richard Hannon’s Gisburn, who was a hugely impressive winner of his second start at Newbury last month, at around 5-1. On his first start, however, he was only fourth behind another of today’s ppponents, Berkshire Shadow, and while he clearly improved markedly for the outing, Berkshire Shadow lost several lengths with a slow start and still won with plenty in hand. At the current odds, I’m siding with Andrew Balding’s runner at 12-1 (from 16-1 yesterday), but Dhabab, The Acropolis, Masseto and Ebro River are just four among many potential improvers in with a shout, in a race that was won by a 150-1 outsider 12 months ago.
Frankie Dettori, who has now taken over Pat Eddery’s total of Royal Ascot winners, was in fine form after his win on Palace Pier in the opener there. He’s now on 74 winners and only behind the incredible Lester Piggott (on 116!). Dettori told Matt Chapman on ITV Racing: “Wow! This is the first time [Palace Pier] has run on this sort of ground and he didn’t let himself down the way he [normally] would. On easier ground he probably has a little bit more to give.” The horse stumbled after the winning line but the jockey said: “He’s quite clumsy with his feet. He’s often losing his shoes. It was a pressure ride – you want everything to go right and it did,” the Italian concluded.
1 Palace Pier (L Dettori) 2-7 Fav
2 Lope Y Fernandez (J A Heffernan) 12-1
3 Sir Busker (Oisin Murphy) 22-1
Also: 28-1 Lord Glitters 4th
They’re off ... Pogo is leading with Palace Pier just behind ... three furlongs to go and Palace Pier is being pushed along but take the lead and move clear to win by two lengths from Lope Y Fernandez who finished well late.
Is Palace Pier about to produce something a bit special?
Someone else is missing betting on the Queen’s Hat! Should be some later in the week ...
Royal Ascot just not the same without betting on the opener…. (no dodgy hashtag)…
First celebrity spot of the week ...
There’s a changing of the guard on the way at Royal Ascot. The Queen is picking her days to attend this week and it’s interesting that the Duchess of Cornwall is the subject of a feature across ITV Racing’s coverage this year. She’s arrived with the Prince of Wales.
#RoyalAscot: Prince of Wales & Duchess of Cornwall have arrived; when they did, band struck up National Anthem which caused a move by HM watchers towards paddock but Queen not expected as things stand; she’s written usual welcome in racecard @SportingLife pic.twitter.com/UreNXK8V2i
The hottest favourite of the week – unless Frankie wins the first six races of the day somewhere along the line - runs in the opening contest, as Palace Pier goes to post as the fifth odds-on favourite for the Queen Anne Stakes since the turn of the century. Two of the last four – Hawk Wing and George Washington – were beaten while more recently, Toronado and the incomparable Frankel both justified a short price.
It is always sensible to walk around an Ascot favourite like Palace Pier several times and prod it repeatedly in search of a weak spot, since the racing is at such a higher level of competitiveness, but it feels like a hopeless task where this one is concerned. He keeps producing top-drawer performances that would be more than good enough to see off today’s field, and while Order Of Australia, the Breeders’ Cup Mile winner, is a new and improving opponent, he still has several pounds at least to find with Palace Pier if the favourite is anywhere near his best form.
Rachael Blackmore’s unexpected booking to make a flying visit to ride at Royal Ascot on Tuesday has sparked a big gamble on Cape Gentleman, her mount in the Ascot Stakes Handicap at 5pm.
Blackmore was the first female rider to win the prize for the leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival in March, and achieved an even more historic success aboard Minella Times at Aintree a few weeks later, when she was the first woman to win the Grand National.
5.35pm Wolferton Listed Stake (Listed)
No 5 Stormy Antarctic (Self Cert - Going)
The going won’t be a constant either as rain is forecast later in the week but for now it’s going to be pretty quick out there. Chris Stickels, Ascot’s clerk of the course, reported earlier today: “The going this morning is Good to Firm, Good in places following a dry night. The track was watered yesterday, the straight course with 10mm and the round course with 4mm. We are expecting a fine, dry day today and a fine, warm, dry day again tomorrow.”
The GoingStick readings at 8.00am:
Stands side: 8.6
Far side: 8.2
Good afternoon and welcome to Royal Ascot 2021. For the second year running the certainties we’ve come to expect are no more – and that includes for this most traditional of events. For only the second time in 69 years the Queen is set to miss the opening of the meeting. The speculation last week was that she would be at Ascot when she had runners but she’s not going to be here today, according to her racing manager, even though King’s Lynn is running in the King’s Stand Stakes.
1/ Suggestions this morning that maybe the Queen will not be in attendance on the opening day of Royal Ascot ...
Good morning from Royal Ascot, where a 12,000-strong crowd is starting to converge on the Queen’s racecourse for the most famous and glamorous race meeting of the year. That’s around 30,000 fewer people than were here for the opening day two years ago, but still a huge boost to the morale of the lucky ones with tickets and racing in general after a year of racing pretty much exclusively behind closed doors.
A warm, dry day is forecast and the fans will hope – indeed, expect – to see their favourite son carve himself out another slice of Royal Ascot history in the opening race, when victory for the hot favourite Palace Pier would give Frankie Dettori his 74th winner at the meeting.Continue reading...