Opening day of Ascot forecast to end with a Storm

Royal Ascot racegoers dressed to impress

Royal Ascot selections Tuesday 15th June

Royal Ascot returns and with a crowd of around 12,000 expected, there should be at least some sort of return to the traditional atmosphere of the big meeting. As usual the opening day does not disappoint with three Group 1 contests providing the star quality. I am taking on two hotpots in a couple of those, but arguable the best betting opportunities come in the handicaps late on.

Ascot 2.30: Sir Busker

There is no getting away from the fact that Palace Pier seems far and away the best miler around and if he is anywhere near his best he won’t be beaten today. However his prohibitive odds do leave each-way opportunities elsewhere and SIR BUSKER ought to be able to run a big race.

A winner in the Hunt Cup consolation at this meeting last year, he continued to run fine races in big handicaps all summer where the strong pace brought his fast finish into play. Of course ultimately he became too highly rated for handicaps, but was good enough to finish second in a Group 2 at Goodwood and then fourth in the QEII here on ground arguably softer than ideal.

He was a bit buzzy on his return to the track here in April, but ran well enough for third and kept on nicely for fourth in a listed race at Longchamp where they simply did not quick enough early for him. If there is a strong gallop his chances will be greatly enhanced, but on this quick ground his turn of speed late will still come into play.

Ascot 3.40: Oxted

Another shorty in Battaash here, but there are greater grounds for taking this favourite on. Now seven, he makes his seasonal debut here and as a horse who can be tricky in the preliminaries, there is the danger of him getting overly worked up. Whilst it is true he won this first time out in 2020, he was taking on horses also on their seasonal debut given the late start to the season. That was also his first win in four attempts at Ascot.

Therefore I look elsewhere and to OXTED, who looks worth a first try at 5f. Whilst he has not quite recaptured his brilliant best since winning the July Cup at Newmarket, he has produced two solid runs in defeat, most recently in a Group 2 at York. His best form has come on sharp 6f tracks, so perhaps a stiff 5f will prove ideal.

He did win the Portland over 5 1/2f, early in his career and he gets out well from the stalls, so should be able to take a good early position. He should have plenty of pace high to track in Ornate and Liberty Beach, so provided he can keep up in the first half of the race, his stamina will come into play late.

Ascot 5.00: Rayapour, Postileo, Just Hubert

A strong Irish challenge for the longest handicap race of the week and three bets are advised.

Willie Mullins has a strong record in the race and saddles a trio. Of those RAYAPOUR makes most appeal. He made his stable debut over hurdles at Killarney last month and whilst he was beaten at odds-on, that will have set him up nicely for today.

He showed consistent form in France over 12f as a 3yo, including with headgear and cheekpieces go on today. He is a half-brother to Reshoun (another runner in this) who is a strong stayer so there is every chance he will get the marathon trip. I slightly prefer him to the keen going other Mullins pair.

POSTILEO has been progressing nicely through his career and was a very unlucky second in the Chester Plate last month after meeting trouble in running. He has since been beaten at Haydock, but on bottomless ground where he also lost a shoe so is forgiven that effort.

He has finished off pretty much of all his previous races strongly, including a runaway win at Salisbury last autumn. He remains thoroughly unexposed, especially at this distance, so more improvement can be expected.

Perhaps the strongest fancy though is JUST HUBERT. He won the marathon at Glorious Goodwood last summer and loves this fast ground. It was to his credit then that he ran so well on his comeback at Haydock last month in that same race as Postileo was in. He remains on the same mark of 92 today for a stable that is currently flying.

He relaxes so well in his races which helps him preserve his stamina in these long distance contests and this race has surely been targeted since the start of the year.

Ascot 6.10: Gold Maze, Global Storm & Arthurian Fable

The Copper Horse Handicap is retained after making its debut at the meeting last year. There are plenty in this who would probably have preferred to run in the earlier 2m4f race, but are too highly rated. Instead I am dropping down the weights for my selections.

Top choice – and probably of the day is GLOBAL STORM. He made an impressive step up to 14f when winning at Newmarket last month, despite having too make up plenty of ground on a track favouring front-runners. He is only up 4lbs for this.

He ran a cracker to be third at the Royal meeting last year, despite suffering a wide trip and that should not be an issue from his inside draw, especially given a short run to the first bend. He has won on quick ground before, despite acting well with cut.

ARTHURIAN FABLE is another improver who gets to run on quick ground for the first time since easily winning at Sandown last summer. Since then he was a fine second in the Melrose at York, before getting bogged down in end of season going in the autumn.

Considering the soft ground and long absence, he ran a cracker to be beaten less than 3l by Global Storm in that Newmarket race last time and he will surely come on for that effort – especially as he is 4lbs better off with the winner.

At big odds I will have an each-way saver on GOLD MAZE. He finished in mid-division in both the Epsom and Irish Derbies last summer when with Jessie Harrington. He was later not disgraced behind the subsequent Leger winner at Navan, and then third in a Group 3 at Dundalk.

He has since moved to England and Roger Varian, but ran no sort of race here last month. However that was on very soft ground and he has since been gelded, so perhaps he can leave that run way behind today.

Recommended bets:

1pt each-way – Sir Busker – 2.30 Ascot – 22/1 Bet365, BetVictor

1pt each-way – Oxted – 3.40 Ascot – 9/1 Bet365, Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 4)

1pt each-way – Rayapour – 5.00 Ascot – 14/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 5)

1pt each-way – Just Hubert – 5.00 Ascot – 11/1 Bet365

0.5pts each-way – Postileo – 5.00 Ascot – 16/1 Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Global Storm – 6.10 Ascot – 9/2 Bet365 (¼ odds 1st 4)

1pt each-way – Arthurian Fable – 6.10 Ascot – 8/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 5)

0.5 pts each-way – Gold Maze – 6.10 Ascot – 20/1 Skybet (1/5 odds 1st 6)

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