Our expert has a tasty Yankee and treble for Royal Ascot
Just as with Cheltenham, the Irish runners make a huge impact each year at the Royal Ascot fixture.
Going back over the years, the tradition was that Vincent O’Brien led the charge but only the likes of the late Paddy Prendergast, Seamus McGrath, John Oxx and Dermot Weld, would be regular visitors to the meeting.
How things have changed over more recent years as David Wachman, Mick Halford, Tommy Stack, Ger Lyons and even noted jump trainers Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott managed to start striking with effect.
The emergence of Jessica Harrington as a top dual-purpose trainer has been one of the features of the past few years.
She will find herself providing one of the Irish bankers of this week’s fixture in the shape of Albany Stakes contender Alpha Centauri and even Coventry Stakes-challenger Brother Bear.
The strength of the Irish-trained thoroughbred has never been greater and the maestro, Aidan O’Brien will lead a powerful Irish team into action from Tuesday onwards.
Many of O’Brien’s likely winners will be of the shorter price variety.
You need not expect any fancy odds about Churchill winning the St James’ Palace Stakes on Tuesday, Order Of St George successfully defending his Gold Cup crown on Thursday, the super filly Winter winning the Coronation Stakes on Friday or the powerful Caravaggio trotting up in the Commonwealth Cup the same day.
Richard Hannon has been shouting from the rooftops that Barney Boy will lower the Churchill colours in the St James’ Palace Stakes. He is basing his assessment on the fine run from the colt behind Churchill in the 2,000 Guineas and on perceived improvement in the interim.
But he is probably ignoring the near certainty that Churchill has improved by leaps and bounds since Newmarket and he was fine in winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas on ground that would not have suited.
Barring a nightmare passage in the race Churchill must be one of the week’s banker bets.
Winter, similarly, has been utterly dominant in winning the English and Irish 1,000 Guineas and there is no reason why anything can get close to her in the Coronation.
As a juvenile the general feeling was that Caravaggio was the number one Ballydoyle colt but then he had a little setback and Churchill arrived on the scene. We had to revise our way of thinking but the likelihood is that they are two exceptional colts.
O’Brien’s reaction was to go the six furlongs route with Caravaggio and he was hugely impressive on his only outing this year. It will be a surprise if he fails to oblige.
If there is one suspicion among the major O’Brien contenders it would be that Order Of St George may have an off-day. He may be suspect after the Gold Cup but he is likely to be dominant in the big one next Thursday.
Of the other Irish runners the major fancy would be Harrington’s massively built filly Alpha Centauri in the Albany Stakes on Friday. She has been massively impressive and she will tower over her rivals on the parade and, likely, in the race also!
ALPHA CENTAURI (Friday)
LADY AURELIA (Tuesday)
BROTHER BEAR (Tuesday)
JACK HOBBS (Wednesday)