Sport

Royal Ascot Day One: A cracking opening day to the famous meeting

SportBy Shuki Byrne
Gleneagles is a justified short price in the St James
Gleneagles is a justified short price in the St James

Some 300,000 spectators are expected to descend on Ascot over the coming five days for the world-famous annual meet.

It attracts some of the best thoroughbreds, jockeys and trainers in the world, and the opening day features some truly cracking races. 

The opener is a very strong Queen Anne Stakes (2.30) and one of the highlights of the week. 

Featuring two of the world's highest-rated horses, the Japanese Able Friend and the French-trained Solow, who are both on a six-race unbeaten run, the prize money looks set to leave the country. 

Solow (below) is the favourite in the race at 11/8, while Able Friend is currently at 11/4, and it's difficult to pick a horse based on form. 

It's the first time the world-class horses come up against each other and it's a mouth-watering Group 1 affair. 

Night of Thunder heads the outsiders at 9/2 and looks up against it in the company of the aforementioned horses. He did win the valuable Lockinge Stakes at Newbury last time but will need to be at his very best against the foreign competitors. 

The Coventry Stakes (3.05) follows a smashing opener and is another top quality race. 

Heading the betting is the Bolger-trained Round Two (5/2). He stayed on strongly in a 5 furlong listed race in the Curragh and will appreciate the step back up in trip to 6 furlong. 

However, the form is not rock solid and others look more open to progress. 

We've only seen the Aidan O'Brien-trained Air Force Blue (11/2) once but that form has worked out well and this 2-year-old is open to improvement with champion jockey Ryan Moore in the saddle. 

A very interesting runner is the Mark Johnston-trained Buratino (10/1, below) who was a very impressive winner (5l) at Epsom last week in a strong 6 furlong race. He can be forgiven a run in a 5 furlong before and 6 furlong looks his trip. He can go close with William Buick in the saddle. 

Some of the others are open to improvement in a strong race. 

The King's Stakes (3.40) looks an intriguing race on paper. 

The Eddie Lynam-trained Sole Power (10/3, below) is looking to win this for the third time in a row and has very solid credentials at a relatively short price. He will appreciate the drop back to 5 furlong but faces tough competition in the form of Muthmir (11/2). 

At bigger prices Pearl Secret (20/1), Mecca's Angel (7/1) and the raider Shamal Wind (8/1) look likely to be thereabouts and need a check in the betting. 

The St James Palace Stake's (4.20) is the final Group 1 race of the day and the Aidan O'Brien classic winner Gleneagles (5/6). The Irish and English Guineas winner is understandably a short price and the ground looks like it'll be ideal for him. 

A very interesting challenger is the Andre Fabre-trained Make Believe (11/4). He is a very smart looking 3-year-old with a bright future but looks like he may have to take a valuable place behind Gleneagles. 

My picks of the day:

Buratino (10/1, each way) in the Coventry Stakes (3.05)

Mecca's Angel (7/1, each way) in the Kings Stakes (3.40) 

Gleneagles (5/6, win) in the St James (4.20)

Weather forecasters have predicted racegoers will enjoy glorious sunshine this afternoon, with temperatures reaching up to 22C.

A Met Office spokesman said the fine weather was set to continue throughout the week, with the mercury peaking at 23C tomorrow.