News & Community Articles

Royal Ascot day one preview and tips


As Royal Ascot gets under way, our writer and pundit Jake Russell has cast his expert eye over the seven-race card on day one of the Festival

By @ Jake Russell

2.30pm - Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes

Royal Ascot kick off with the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes over the straight mile, which is usually more than enough to get the juices flowing for the rest of the fabulous week at Royal Ascot, and although this race does lack a little bit of spice in it this year, it is still a good enough contest to get us excited for the rest of the day and week. 

The French have won this race three times since 2005, with the likes of Valixir winning it in 2005, before Goldikova won it in 2010 and then the latest winner from across the channel was Solow in 2015 for Ferdy Head. With that very much in mind, I do feel the main two French horses have a real grip on this contest, although the ground is set to be good to firm when we start racing on Tuesday afternoon. 

Big Rock was mightily impressive when landing the Group 1 on Champions Day over course and distance last October, but I firmly feel he would prefer a lot more cut in the ground, plus his Lockinge run last time does leave a little to be desired. 

In that case, Facteur Cheval is the one I would be siding with here, and although he arrives here off the back of an 80-day break, he has the all-important better ground wins to his name. None more so than last time out, when landing the Group 1 Dubai Turf, where he was always just doing enough in the closing stages, and fended off Namur pretty nicely in the end to win by a short head. 

He has also won a further two times on going described as "good", so although this is a real change in ground for him, I think he will have the quality to overcome the rest of his rivals and land this contest. I think this has clearly been the plan for a while with this horse, and I believe connections are very happy with where he is heading into this on Tuesday. His sire Ribchester won this back in 2015, so he also has the all-important winning genes for this race come Tuesday.  

  • Selection - Facteur Cheval (10/3 Win)

3.05pm - Group 2 Coventry Stakes

Aidan O'Brien has won this race 10 times in the past, so every single runner that lines up for him in this contest should be taken very seriously, although I think this is a really deep field this year where one or two lower down in the market could somewhat spring a surprise in the first two year old contest of the day. 

It should have been seen by now that I am quite a fan of the Wathnan racing two year olds this season, as they have had a few winners already with some pretty nice types coming through, and all of them are really pleasing to the eye, they clearly like to purchase the good-looking types. 

They do actually have three runners lining up in the Coventry this year, and all three of them are coming off the back of first-time-out victories for three different trainers. The one I shall be siding with is seemingly their principal runner and that is Catalyse for Richard Fahey and James Doyle. The fact that James has been booked on this horse, and he is Wathnan's retained rider would suggest he feels this is the one who has the best chance in the contest, and I would agree with him. 

Richard Fahey's horses are going pretty well at the moment, and this son of Starspangledbanner was a very eye-catching debut winner at Hamilton just 16 days ago, when he actually fetched a fair bit of market support before the race was off. 

A £300,000 2yo purchase, he was sent off the 5/4 favourite that day, where he seemingly dismantled the 6-runner field with ease, beating a last-time-out winner, and although the winning margin was only two lengths in the end, he won it going away once push came to shove. He was relatively slow away and did jump slightly right when coming out the stalls, but it's clear to see that he has some much talent in the locker, as he cruised into the contest 2 furlongs from home, before pressing the leader with a furlong to go. He pulled clear in the closing stages and won more cosily than the winning margin would suggest. 

He wasn't given a hard time of things on the debut at Hamilton, and although he did get a flick from Oisin Orr in the final furlong, that would have just kept his mind on the game and was a reminder to finish the job. Once he got the reminder, he seemingly pulled clear and looked like the further they went, the more he would pull away in the end. They went a pretty quick pace in that contest, and it clearly suited him, and given the fact we have a 23-runner field in the Coventry this yea, he could get the early fast pace that looks likely to suit. 

One aspect that I really like as well is the fact he comes out of stall 6, the exact same stall Nando Parrado came out of when winning at 150/1 in 2020, as well as River Tiber last year. A plum draw for Catalyse, the eye-catching debut with the market support beforehand and the Wathnan two-year-olds going very well, I can see this lad running well at a decent price currently.

  • Selection - Catalyse (12/1 Each Way)       

3.45pm - Group 1 King Charles III Stakes

Quite possibly my favourite horse in training is set to take on the older horses in this on Tuesday, and that is Big Evs for the Mick Appleby team, who, might I add, have done so very well with this lad since he won the Windsor Castle at the Royal meeting last year. He has only had the one duck-egg run in his career as yet and that was in the Nunthorpe Stakes, a race in which two-year-olds do seem to struggle, but at least connections did take the chance and go for it that day.

Ever since the slight disappointment in the Nunthorpe Big Evs has not looked back, blitzing it in the Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster, before he went on his American/Breeders Cup dream tour where seemingly the whole of the United Kingdom was on his side that day. Obviously, he had a whole lot out of his favour in the Grade 1 Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, which included the very fast early American pace, the bell as they came out the stalls and more importantly the big looping bend as they went into the home straight. However, he was given an absolute peach of a ride from Tom Marquand, and both he and Big Evs clearly relished everything that was thrown at them that day over in Santa Anita. That was one of my favourite performances of last season, and it also seemed like it was the same for most of the UK, as it was great to see the buzz for connections after the contest. 

However, there was always going to be a few question marks heading into this season, especially being a sprinter and also being pretty small for a sprinting type, but it is pretty clear to see he has trained on nicely, as he once again blitzed clear in the Listed Westow Stakes at Doncaster last time on his seasonal debut, giving a little chunk of weight to the rest of his rivals. Sent off the odds-on favourite that day, he was obviously entitled to win like he did, but sometimes these fast types might need the early-season run before going onto the bigger tests as the season progresses, and I think that was in the back of connections minds, but the fact he won and still looked to have retained the speed, he is very exciting for everyone going forward. 

He has to do it against his elders here on Tuesday, horses with probably a little more experience in these types of races, but there is no doubting Big Evs’ CV so far, apart from that York goose egg, he has been flawless with every race since, winning all of them. 

Obviously, as the winner of the Windsor Castle last season, he knows what it takes to win over the straight 5 furlongs of Ascot, and with there not really being much of a stall bias (might pay to come out of 10 or below) I hope he becomes the 2nd three-year-old in a row to land the feature 5-furlong contest. 

Also can I just add, fair play to connections for going for this rather than maybe taking the easier route of the Commonwealth Cup, although that is over six furlongs, I think he would be ok over that trip, that contest is only for the three-year-olds. So it is nice and refreshing to see him battling it out with the older horses here on Tuesday.

  • Selection - Big Evs (9/2 Win)  

4.25pm - Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes

Quite possible one of my favourite races of the whole week, I do like to see the Guineas horses battle it out against each other once again. There will be the 2000 Guineas winner Notable Speech taking on the Irish 2000 Guineas winner in Rosallion, who also came 2nd behind Notable Speech on his seasonal debut in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, as well as the French 2000 Guineas winner in there who is Metropolitan for Mario Baratti. 

Although we have just eight runners heading to post for this Group 1 on Tuesday, I think this is a really strong renewal of the race, as another name to throw in the mix is Henry Longfellow for Aidan O'Brien, who seemed to be very bullish when speaking about this horse to the press last week. 

I have spent a fair bit of time mulling over who to side with here, as I am a huge fan of both Rosallion and Notable Speech, and I was a little critical of Notable Speech after his 2000 Guineas win, probably due to the fact he was a late bloomer and he was one of the only ones at the top end of the market who had race fitness on his side, he was entitled to win the 2000 Guineas just on that fact really. 

But when you put into perspective that he didn't make his debut until January of this year, had all three of his runs at Kempton and didn't make his turf debut until the 2000 Guineas back in May, it is pretty remarkable that he won that Classic, and won it in the manner that he did. With that obviously in mind, and the fact he is unbeaten and the highest rated in the field, he is the one to side with for me. 

Watching the son of Dubawi's 2000 Guineas back, I have been more and more impressed with each replay I have watched, he handled the dip of Newmarket so very well, and you wouldn't have known it was his first ever run on grass. The headway he made with 3 furlongs to go was brilliant to watch, and although he did edge right in the closing stages, that did not deter him as he still went on to win pretty comfortably by a length and a half. 

Rosallion has since come out and been a game winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas, Inisherin has since come out and won a Commonwealth Cup trial so he looks set to put up a good performance in that and be one of the main runners in the race, as well as City Of Troy winning the Derby a few weeks back. So that could be pretty strong form in the long run.  

The form of that 2000 Guineas is probably stronger than people make it out to be, and although I was slightly critical of Notable Speech when he won the 2000 Guineas, I think if he wins this on Tuesday, we can then start to maybe put him in the new racing star category. And for what it is worth, I think he will win pretty comfortably once again on Tuesday. 

  • Selection - Notable Speech (6/4 Win Day 1 NAP)

5.05pm - Ascot Stakes

Willie Mullins has won this race on 4 different occasions, and Ryan Moore has ridden three of the winners. So with that obviously in mind, I think it could pay to just side with their runner here, as down to what Willie Mullins has shown recently, when he goes to a big UK Festival with a few runners targeting certain races, they tend to win, therefore My Lyka is my selection for the combination. 

A winner over 1m2f and 1m4f when trained in France, the horse has only had the one run for Willie, which was a 2nd-placed effort in a novice hurdle at Killarney 36 days ago, which will set him up nicely for this no doubt. He has an Irish St Leger entry so clearly Willie likes him as a stayer for the flat races, so to warrant that entry he would probably have to land this contest on the way to that.

It is hard to tell if the opening mark of 98 is a little high for this horse, given the fact that he has not run much over this trip, but one of Willie's previous winners in Thomas Hobson was rated 100, therefore the mark might not be too high. You have to obviously take into consideration any Willie Mullins horse that runs in this given his previous record, so that alone is enough for me to side with this lad on Tuesday. 

  • Selection - My Lyka (5/1 Win) 

5.40pm - Listed Wolferton Stakes

A typically competitive contest for the Listed prize, the last horse who won the Wolferton having won his previous race was Mahsoob, where he arrived into the contest unbeaten, so it might pay to look for once who might not necessarily be in a rich vein of form, although that might help their chances. 

I think it is interesting that James Doyle takes the ride on Torito here for John & Thady Gosden for the Wathnan racing team, who did recently purchase this horse, along with many others as they look to raid Royal Ascot this year. 

James’ retained yard of Roger Varian also has Botanical who arrives into this race in pretty decent form. I am not sure how it works when you are retained for an owner and yard like James is, but you would like to think he would have been given the choice on who he wants to ride here, and given the fact I like the look of Torito for this race already, the fact James Doyle has chosen to ride the horse fills me with even more confidence. 

I am a huge fan of James Doyle as a jockey and can not believe it has taken until now for him to get a few decent retained jobs, he is showing his capabilities at present as he has ridden quite a few winners to start the season already. 

Torito has been a bit of a frustrating figure, but has won twice previously and did run well to claim 3rd spot at Newmarket last time when only beaten a little under 2 lengths in the end in a very strong run race. He is a very low-mileage four-year-old who could still improve, and now back at this 1m2f trip, which he won over last year, we could see the best of him once again with that all important run under his belt to kick start the season. 

  • Selection - Torito (9/2 Win)   

6.15pm - Copper House Handicap

Willie Mullins and Ryan Moore won this contest with Vauban last year, so once again every time they team up the horse has to be taken seriously, but Ryan has been jocked up to ride Sir Michael Stoute's Fox Journey, where William Buick will ride Willie’s Belloccio. 

Even with that in mind I am looking elsewhere as I will be siding with A Piece Of Heaven for Joseph O'Brien and Syndicates.Racing, who have recently picked this horse up from Barry Fitzgerald.

A very lightly raced six-year-old, he was a very nice 3¾-length winner at Leopardstown in a lady-rider-only contest, and he won very nicely. Running off the mark of 101 here on Tuesday, that was the same mark Vauban was given, and although this lad might not be as talented as Vauban, I still think he fits the bill perfectly to land a contest of this nature.

I know by following Syndicates.Racing on X they have prepped this horse solely for this contest, so I fully expect him to be more than ready for this on Tuesday. The change in yards should pose no issues, and the current connections have come out and massively praised Barry Fitzgerald with how well he has done with this horse and how ready he is for the yard transition and his run at Ascot on Tuesday.

  • Selection - A Piece Of Heaven (7/1 Each Way)  

JakeRuss1000's Royal Ascot Day 1 selections:

  • 2.30 - Facteur Cheval
  • 3.05 - Catalyse
  • 3.45 - Big Evs
  • 4.25 - Notable Speech
  • 5.05 - My Lyka
  • 5.40 - Torito
  • 6.15 - A Piece Of Heaven


 All previews and tips provided by @ Jake Russell

Want to see older articles? Visit our articles page to keep reading.