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Royal Ascot – June 20, 2017

By Ben Archer in Sports
| June 6, 2017 12:00 am PDT
Royal Ascot 2017

The traditional curtain-raiser for the start of the four-day summer racing bonanza is the Queen Anne Stakes and although the roar from the crowd is not up to Cheltenham Festival standards, there is still a decent reception that fills the Berkshire air as the gates fly open.

Ribchester

This year’s renewal is headlined by Ribchester, who is already trading at a shade of odds-on and is likely to be a lot shorter come the day of the race.

He has had just one start in the UK this season, but what a performance he put up in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in last month.

Always travelling well, he quickened off the front and put the race to bed in a matter of strides and if he’s anywhere near that sort of form come the opening day at Ascot he’s going to be a tough nut to crack.

Royal Ascot cannot come quickly enough for Ribchester’s owners, Godolphin, who have yet again failed to have a cut at the four Classics run this season and had to watch their great rivals in the bloodstock industry, Coolmore, take both Guineas events and the Derby.

Such is the feeling running through the Godolphin camp that their top trainer, Saeed Bin Suroor, has openly criticized the daily regime at his stable in Newmarket and spoken in depth to the Racing Post.

His main concern was the role played by John Ferguson, the man Sheikh Mohammed installed as Chief Executive to give the operation a ‘kick in the belly’.

Bin Suroor has since done some kicking himself, revealing that after a 2016 campaign that plainly left him angry and exasperated, he has from this year reported to only one man.

Now Sheikh Mohammed makes the decisions at Stanley House, nobody else“, said Bin Suroor.

I like things this way. Last year it didn’t suit me at all. Everything was top-class in past times, from the work-riders to the people in the office. Now I’m trying to build that up again for the future. The last three years without Simon Crisford have not been the same, have not been easy.”

Bin Suroor went on to say plenty more, none of it by mistake. He spoke of how frustrated he had been to have James Doyle foisted upon him as retained rider – without being critical of Doyle himself – admitting: “I was not happy…it was very hard to do my job properly.”

He separated his own yard from that of Charlie Appleby by describing his base as “the main Godolphin stable”. He then bemoaned his latest two-year-old intake, extremely backward relative to the collection entrusted to Appleby, stating: “It is a disaster. I can’t train them, have no chance to run them. The system is not quite great this year.”

Godolphin need to find a good one and Ribchester fits the bill.

King Stand Stakes

The second race on the opening day is the King Stands Stakes and here we see the former American flyer ACAPULCO, who started her career with Wesley Ward.

It was Ward who brought her to Royal Ascot in 2015 when she ran away with the Queen Mary Stakes over 5f and that effort was one of the most impressive of recent years.

Now with Aidan O’Brien, Acapulco warmed up for this with a comfortable victory in a listed contest at the Curragh last month and, certain to be trained to the minute, she is sure to give it a good go to win her second Royal Ascot race.

St James Palace Stakes

Race 3 on the opening day is the highlight St James Palace Stakes, which is traditionally fought out by the Guineas winners.

CHURCHILL, who won both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas this year, is a warm order to follow up here and he rightly heads the market.

Godolphin also have a say in this with their representative BARNEY ROY, who was second to Churchill in the English 2000 Guineas and has come on by leaps and bounds from that run according to his trainer, Richard Hannon.

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