Royal Ascot Tips: Joe Tuffin's Nap, Lay and Big-Priced fancy

Royal Ascot Tips: Battaash could be a favourite to avoid.
Royal Ascot Tips: Battaash could be a favourite to avoid.

Joe Tuffin picks out his nap, lay and big-priced fancy for Royal Ascot, which takes place next week and features five days of fantastic racing...


Jim Bolger has received plenty of praise this season, and correctly so, for the performances from all inmates at his stable this season, but his placement of horses has likewise been lauded, his name often featuring on most major racecards. This is shown none more so than by Poetic Flare, the winner of the 2000 Guineas and contestant in both the French and Irish variations to boot.

The son of Dawn Approach has been on a mini European tour this month and ran impressively in all showings with the Poule d'Essai des Poulains sixth providing the only blip, and he is surely fancied to bag a second Group 1 of the year what looks a fairly sub par St James's Palace Stakes. He sits at the top of the market with a best price of 7/2, which could be value against the second-favourite Mostahdaf, an unbeaten Frankel colt for John & Thady Gosden who was last seen winning by half-a-length in Listed company to third favourite Highland Avenue. The form of that event is hard to get excited about with the third yet to be seen again and the fourth, Nando Parrado, showcasing pretty poor form - so it doesn’t look like either match up to the favourite. Battleground and Lucky Vega also feature near the top of the market but the latter has been beaten twice by Poetic Flare this season, and Battleground has a lot to answer for after his 2000 Guineas flop. With all these question marks around Poetic Flare’s opposition, he looks a good value bet to get Royal Ascot off to a flyer on Tuesday.

St James's Palace Stakes
Poetic Flare silk

Poetic Flare

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The sprinting division is currently suffering from it’s lack of any real quality, with the ever speedy Battaash dominating the division for the last few seasons, but I expect this year may see the start of the changing of the guard and I think staying clear of him in the King's Stand Stakes may be the play on the Tuesday at Royal Ascot.

Charlie Hills’ bullet horse has an unbeaten record first time out, went unbeaten last year and is some 5lb clear at the ratings, so why back against him? Well, as has always been the case with Battaash, you can never truly say what you’ll get from him and this year there are more questions than ever. His achilles heel was always his inability to settle, throwing away races before they had even started, but that didn’t seem to be much of a problem last year as he went three from three - has he simply matured out of this mental block, or did the lack of crowds help him out? Will their return see him blow up again? Then there’s his age, while his mental maturity seems to have come on, his physical ability will not be improving anytime soon and can you expect a seven-year-old to pick up that blistering pace on his first start since August?

Of course there are then his rivals. As previously stated he is some 5lb clear of them all on ratings, with Oxted his closest rival - though all his form comes over six-furlongs. Brendan Powell’s eight-year-old Extravagant Kid is 9lb below him, though he looks fairly exposed, but what about the three-year-old Winter Power? The King Power owned colt looked to improve with every race last season, and was a facile, made all winner of a Listed event on his reappearance, will we see him step up once again and claim a Group 1 with a weight advantage? There’s no doubt that Battaash is the form pick in the race, but at 7/4 there are far too many question marks above his head for me to be siding with him at that sort of price.

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Big-Priced Selection

For my big-priced fancy I’ve looked into the Ascot Gold Cup, a race dominated by Stradivarius in recent years. Now, I almost had the super stayer as my lay of the week, but as a huge fan of his I simply couldn’t bring myself to do that - I do think he may be vulnerable however and therefore it may be worth playing Amhran Na Bhfiann at a huge price. Last year's Derby third and the woe of all English commentators/pundits has been very quiet since placing in the world’s most prestigious classic, but his season has been tailored around staying and namely this race at Ascot. After a facile 13-length win at Dundalk on his seasonal reappearance, he went to Leopardstown to contest the Listed Savel Beg Levmoss Stakes - which featured a smart field of six including two time Irish St Leger winner Search For A Song and Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment. 

It speaks volumes of what was expected from Amhran Na Bhfiann as a stayer that he was sent off the 5/4 favourite against these smart rivals but it just didn’t seem to click, and jockey Seamie Heffernan did say that his colt, who eventually finished fourth by 11-lengths, just wasn’t comfortable at any stage of the race. Despite being beaten turning for home, he managed to plug on pretty nicely which would suggest the 2m4f trip at Ascot will be no concern, and at a huge price of 40/1 he has to be worth a roll of the dice at the Royal meeting, with even an ounce of the form that Ballydoyle expected him to show last time out surely putting him right there. 

Ascot Gold Cup
 Amhran Na Bhfiann silk

Amhran Na Bhfiann

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