It’s the poshest week in the racing calender – a time when the Queen, the elitist class and some sneaky ruffians from Paddy Power converge on Royal Ascot for the best flat racing of the year. The action kicks off on Tuesday and in a drunken haze one Saturday night, Paddy Power decided that we’ll be giving you your money back as a free bet if your horse finishes second or third in the Queen Anne Stakes – the first race of the Festival.
Not only that, but Paddy’s giving your money back as a free bet every day at Royal Ascot in the Jersey Stakes, Norfolk Stakes, Albany Stakes and Chesham Stakes.
There’s an international flavour to the opening day with French challenger Solow shading favouritism from Hong Kong’s Able Friend.
While both are multiple Grade One winners and set the standard they’ve spent less time winning away from home than QPR last season and could be vulnerable to one of the home challengers.
The Lockinge Stakes at Newbury looks the key piece of form with the first two home in Night of Thunder and Toormore set to clash again.
There was only a neck between Richard Hannon’s stablemate’s at Newbury and there was a strong feeling that Toormore would improve a lot for that seasonal debut and at 8/1 in the overnight prices looks a shade generous for the former champion two-year-old now that there are only eight runners.
The quality of the race has stood up with third-place Arod a subsequent winner of the Diomed Stakes at Epsom while Lockinge fifth Cable Bay landed a Group 3 7f contest on his next start.
Esoterique has nice form on soft ground in France and did beat reliable yardstick Integral at Newmarket last year but was well beaten by that rival 12 months ago in a Royal Ascot Group 2 and she’ll need to improve again to beat the colts in a race where Paddy’s going money back if your selection finishes second or third.