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With the World Cup in Brazil captivating the nation, Royal Ascot has rather slipped under the radar. However, all eyes will be firmly affixed to the Berkshire venue at 4.25pm today when Kingman and NIGHT OF THUNDER lock horns in their eagerly awaited rematch in the St James’s Palace Stakes.
Kingman was stripped of his unbeaten status when beaten half-a-length by Richard Hannon’s charge in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket last month, but the general consensus is that he was beaten by the draw rather than a superior horse on that occasion.
Personally, I’m not so sure. Admittedly, it was an unsatisfactory race in many ways, with Kingman racing against the far side rail, Night of Thunder coming up the centre of the track while subsequent Derby hero Australia, who finished third, came up the stands’ side.
However, in my opinion the notion that John Gosden’s colt was unlucky is fuelled by the fact that he had beaten Night of Thunder in such good style in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury a month earlier. But could it be that the latter simply improved between the trial and the Classic? I believe so.
Kingman was impressive when subsequently landing the Irish 2,000 Guineas at The Curragh and is a standout 11/10 favourite with William Hill (as short as 4/5 in a place), whereas Night of Thunder is 5/2 with the same firm. Should there be such disparity between them in the betting? I don’t think so.
Night of Thunder actually conceded first run to Kingman on the Rowley Mile and hung badly right in the closing stages, hence eventually finishing up the centre of the track. The Dubawi colt arguably lost ground when hanging so he may well have won by a greater margin had he kept a straight line.
To my mind, backing Night of Thunder at 5/2 is a complete and utter no-brainer. His stablemate Toormore, who was seventh in the 2,000 Guineas, could emerge as best of the rest, though Aidan O’Brien’s War Command, ninth at Newmarket, shouldn’t be written off just yet.
Toronado – a steal at even money
In the opening race, the Queen Anne Stakes, TORONADO can get the Hannon team off to a winning start. He was just edged out in the St James’s Palace here 12 months ago and subsequently got the better of his old rival Dawn Approach in the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.
The High Chaparral colt wasn’t right when well held in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York when last seen in August. You can draw a line though that run and the four-year-old is confidently expected to make a winning reappearance here, perhaps at the chief expense of Verrazano.
The latter, a dual Grade 1 winner in the US, shaped well when third behind Toronado’s stable companion Olympic Glory in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury last month. He will be much sharper this time and his trainer Aidan O’Brien won this race last year with Declaration of War.
Sole has the Power
The other Group 1 race on the opening day of Royal Ascot is the King’s Stand Stakes. SOLE POWER and South African star Shea Shea were separated by a neck when first and second respectively in the 2013 renewal and it’s not hard to envisage a similar outcome this time round.
Irish raider Sole Power appeared to win with a bit up his sleeve in the Palace House at Newmarket early last month and, at 5/1 with BetVictor, he rates a cracking bet with Richard Hughes doing the steering.
The up-and-coming Hot Streak was a close-up third behind Sole Power on the Rowley Mile prior to landing the Temple Stakes at Sandown. Kevin Ryan’s charge rates a big danger, as does Aidan O’Brien’s lightly-raced colt Guerre.
Royal Ascot tips:
2.30 Toronado – evens (William Hill)
3.05 The Wow Signal – 13/2 (BetVictor)
3.45 Sole Power – 5/1 (BetVictor)
4.25 Night of Thunder – 5/2 (William Hill)
5.00 Suraj – 12/1 (Ladbrokes)
5.35 Merdon Castle – 13/2 (Paddy Power)