Monday, June 13, 2016
This will be my first Royal Ascot since I finished riding and I'll probably only be there for a couple of days, which will seem strange.
I don't mind really mind not being involved. What I really dislike is walking around like a lemon with nothing to do!
Although I won't be involved in the races I'll be watching avidly, either on course or on TV.
Here's my take on some of the big issues...
Tepin's not for me
Prior to confirming Tepin a runner at Ascot her American connections spoke of their concern about her not being able to run with the nasal strip she normally wears. Personally, I don't give much weight to what has been said about the strip. If they were so amazing every horse in America would be stripped up.
My theory is they're trying to find an early excuse because surely a much bigger concern to them - and it should be - is Tepin won't be racing on Lasix in the Queen Anne Stakes.
You have to be very wary of any horse who has run on Lasix for a long time and then comes off it. Why is she normally on Lasix? For the same reason nearly all horses are on it in the States - it's performance-enhancing. It must be. Not every horse in America bleeds but you don't hear of many trainers saying a horse no longer bleeds so the decision has been taken to stop using medication.
Once you start giving Lasix to horses they come to rely on it. Racehorses become very much like drug addicts. They depend on the Lasix.
Also against Tepin is she will be racing up Ascot's straight mile. It was a problem for Animal Kingdom in the same race and I think it will be a problem for Tepin. Our horses are trained up hills, down hills and around corners. In the US horses are taken out on the track and then gallop in the same direction every morning, left-handed. They also race on exactly the same track they've been working on, which is why our horses are at such a disadvantage over there.
Victoria Pendleton was brilliant cycling in velodromes but I wouldn't have fancied her chances racing up a mountain.
At Ascot on Tuesday Tepin has her own mountain to climb.
Don't discount my old mate
Sole Power was very unlucky in last year's King's Stand Stakes because the one thing I was certain wouldn't happen happened - they went very slowly (for a sprint) in the early stages.
Normally in that race they go incredibly fast, which is why Ascot suits him so well. He finishes strongly and with the uphill finish the horses in front of him tend to be stopping. Last year they were quickening a furlong and a half out, which was very unusual.
Going back there on Tuesday he has a real chance and 12-1 certainly seems a fair price to me. Ignore him at your peril.
Awtaad the best bet in a Palace cracker
I really can't see any reason why Galileo Gold is going to turn around the Irish 2,000 Guineas form - and that's meaning no disrespect to the Newmarket winner, who I think is very good. The two colts took each other down the Curragh home straight but from the furlong pole onwards there was only ever going to be one winner. Why should there be a different outcome this time?
Awtaad has had less racing than Galileo Gold, so you might expect him to improve more, and, as Chris Hayes said this week following a conversation with Johnny Murtagh, the best horses do keep on improving. That's a fact.
I know Ryan Moore fancies The Gurkha, and there's no doubt he was impressive in the French Guineas, but from what I've seen I prefer the British and Irish form.
Shin should win - but Gatsby is a danger
I have huge respect for Japanese horses. They race left-handed and right-handed, so you don't have any worries on that score, they are trained uphill like our horses and they tend to be hard and tough. A Shin Hikari is not only hard and tough but brilliant as well.
He absolutely destroyed the field in the Prix d'Ispahan. I think he is exactly what he looked to be that day, namely a very good horse.
The one tricky thing for him, assuming he takes on his normal front-running role, could be getting the fractions right. In his favour is he'll be partnered by Yutaka Take, who has ridden plenty in Europe, including at Ascot.
For most of A Shin Hikari's rivals his presence is bad news. That might not be the case for The Grey Gatsby, who will be very much suited if A Shin Hikari goes strong up front. If the early pace is as fast as I expect, The Grey Gatsby will be flying home. He has a massive chance of finishing second.
Rivals growing could be a pain for Acapulco
Remember Wesley Ward's famous quote after Acapulco won last year's Queen Mary? "She's a beautiful, gorgeous filly," he said. "If you look at her she looks like she's four not three."
It was a slip of the tongue, but an understandable one, because Acapulco did look like a four-year-old. She wasn't just a nice, big filly. She looked extraordinarily different to everything else. She was freakish in her appearance - and I'm not being rude about her when I say that because even Wesley clearly thought the same.
The problem for Acapulco is you would expect her contemporaries to have caught up with her. That means she should be worth opposing if she runs in the Commonwealth Cup.
What with, though?
I have to say I wouldn't take Log Out Island's Newbury win as rock solid form. He landed out of the gate two lengths in front of everyone else and then quickly opened up a six-length lead without James Doyle having done much. The other lads didn't really fancy him so they left him alone. That was a mistake because no horse in that race could have been caught granted such a huge lead.
I thought Quiet Reflection was quite good at Haydock but she had a perfect run through the race. Things might not pan out so nicely at Ascot.
It's a wide open race and anything could win it.
Jet Setting is a crazy price
At 8-1 I would be tempted to back Jet Setting to win the Coronation Stakes even on on firm ground - and, of course, the ground isn't going to be firm.
She is way overpriced. If the ground is anywhere near good you would have to say she is the one to beat. Running downhill on quicker ground, which is what she was doing at Newmarket, can be very unforgiving. At Ascot she will be climbing from the moment she jumps out the stalls.
If she is ever going to get away with good ground it will be in the Coronation.
Steer clear of front-runners in the handicaps
When you're going through the handicaps over 6f and 1m strike out any horse who it seems has to make the running.
Very few horses make all in the Royal Ascot straight-course handicaps because the front-runners go too fast. The jockeys on the far side and the jockeys on the stands side are taking each other on from the start because they know if the other side gets a decent lead they won't be reeled in.
That's why Jamie Spencer is so brilliant at Ascot. He drops horses out but is actually going the ideal speed. Similarly, Ryan Moore will be out the back for much of those handicaps.
Minding would have won the Derby
Harzand was a very worthy winner of the Derby, in which Pat Smullen really came to the fore. US Army Ranger came to beat him but Harzand pulled out a bit more and was going away at the end.
The winner looks to be a dour stayer, in the mould of a Sinndar, and he would take a lot of beating in the Leger. I couldn't see him being an Irish Champion Stakes horse. He is definitely a 1m4f-plus performer, which given he is bred by the Aga Khan is what you expect him to be.
Minding was brilliant in the Oaks and proved way too good for the opposition. In my opinion she would have won the Derby had she run in it. What she has that the Derby horses don't have is a turn of foot. With gears like she has she will be a force wherever she goes.
So, too, will Postponed. He looked fantastic in the Coronation Cup and, for me, is the best horse in the world at the moment, even better than A Shin Hikari. As I said last week, I sense he is a quicker horse than last year, so I was pleased to hear connections talking about possibly dropping him back in trip.
Having said that, they are going to need to find a better pacemaker than Roseburg.
Aidan O'Brien's pacemakers tend to be horses good enough to be competitive in Group 2 races. When you have horses like that other jockeys won't dare give them a big lead. That's important because pacemakers are only useful if the other runners in a race follow them, which didn't happen at Epsom.
This will be particularly important if Postponed does drop back to 1m2f.
Hoping for the best from Ireland
I wouldn't claim to be a massive football expert. However, I know the Irish team is passionate but not very good.
We're in a tough group, so it's not going to be easy for us. Fortunately, Irish fans have a great attitude.
England fans tend to have very high expectations. There always seems to be a feeling England should be winning. When England then fail to win everyone moans.
Irish fans aren't like that. We're delighted when the team draws a game, let alone wins one. The Irish people really get behind their players and don't ever expect too much.
It's also nice Northern Ireland have qualified as well. There will be plenty of green about, which must be a good thing.