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Royal Ascot 2018

The markets are starting to take shape for Royal Ascot 2018, and there are a both clear favourites and some tight betting races emerging among the leading horse racing sites. The five-day meeting, which will this year feature 20 Group races and more than £7.3 million in prize money, provides some wide open renewals as well as some dead certs, with the lead up this year providing plenty of talking points for punters.

In the 1-mile Queen Anne Stakes (Tuesday 19 June), Aidan O’Brien’s Rhododendron is currently the bookies’ tip at a best price of 7-2, on the back of a hard-fought win over Lightning Spear in the Lockinge Stakes in May. The filly’s form is all the more remarkable considering the setback she had in 2017 in France where she bled heavily and could have been retired from racing, while the mile looks her preferred journey. The horse that Rhododendron beat at Newbury, Lightning Spear, is also a runner in the Queen Anne and is currently at 8-1, behind Godolphin’s Benbatl, winner of the Group 1 Dubai Turf at 7-1, and French Group 1 winner Recoletos, trained by Carlos Laffon-Paria.

Also on the card on the first day, the Kings Stand Stakes (5f) features Battaash who has long been the ante-post favourite at a best price of 5-2, ahead of the 2017 winner Lady Aurelia at 7-2. There may well be some late movement in the market for the Australian sprinter Redkirk Warrior, who is currently at 12-1, although any shortening may depend on how well the 7-year-old gelding pulls up after travelling, as well as whether the connections opt for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes instead.

Wednesday’s feature race is the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes (1m 2f), and John Gosden’s Cracksman remains the red-hot favourite, with the best price available a miserly 5-4, having led the ante-post markets for most of the build up to Ascot. The only potential rival to Cracksman (who was nevertheless not at his best in winning the Coronation Cup at Epsom) looks likely to be Sir Michael Stoute’s Poet’s Word at 5-1, after a strong performance in winning the Brigadier Gerard Stakes (Group 3) at Sandown Park in May.

In Thursday’s Ascot Gold Cup (Group 1, 2m 4f), long time ante-post favourite Order of St George still heads the market with a best price of 9-4 in the premier staying race. On the back of an outstanding 2017 and a comfortable win in the Levmoss Stakes at Leopardstown in May, Aidan O’Brien’s 6-year-old looks the stand-out runner in what should nevertheless prove to be a competitive race. There has been growing interest in Stradivarius, closing in to 5-2 after John Gosden’s stayer put in an assured performance to win the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup in May, although there is still some uncertainty as to whether the 4-year-old can handle the 2 ½ mile trip. Outside of these two, the next best placed in the markets are Vazirabad (6-1) and Torcedor at 10-1.

In what looks like being one of the most competitive races at Royal Ascot 2018, Friday’s Group 1 Coronation Stakes (1 mile) has Irish 1000 Guineas winner Alpha Centauri (trained by Jessie Harrington, who has also had great success with chasers) as the current favourite at 5-1, after finishing strongly ahead of Could It Be Love at the Curragh. Aidan O’Brien’s Clemmie is second in the betting at 11-2, after finishing 9th in her first run since September in the Irish 1000 Guineas. Also of interest to punters is David Simcock’s Teppal, after her excellent win in the French 1000 Guineas at ParisLongchamp, and the filly has now moved in to 11-2 with most sports books.

As always, Royal Ascot’s final feature race is the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (6f), one of the world’s premier sprint races. The ante-post favourite Harry Angel continues to head the markets at 3-1, with Clive Cox’s sprinter making a successful start to his 2018 campaign with a win in the Group 2 Duke Of York Stakes, backing up the outstanding form he showed throughout last season. Merchant Navy is second in the betting at 4-1 after Aidan O’Brien’s Australian import won the Group 2 Greenland Stakes at the Curragh on his European debut. Another Aussie raider, Redkirk Warrior, sits third in the market, but trainers David & Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig are still undecided as to whether he will run in this race or in Tuesday’s Kings Stand Stakes.