Trainer Charlie Hills issued an upbeat report at the weekend on his Irish 2000 Guineas winner Phoenix Of Spain ahead of the St James’s Palace Stakes – 7/4 with BetVictor – one of three Group 1’s on the opening day of Royal Ascot which begins a week today.
There is plenty of rain forecast for the area this week, but things begin to brighten up from Thursday and next week is set fair. The ground should be just on the fast side of good – perfect conditions for the most eagerly-awaited week in the flat-racing calendar.
The ground is likely to be on the soft side of good at Salisbury this afternoon and it will be interesting to see if the runners stick to the far side or come down the stands’ rail which is often the case when there is significant rain about.
The filly Tapisserie (2.45) looked ready for a step up to 7f having finished runner up in both starts over 6f including at Lingfield on soft ground last time. The William Haggas-trained filly is out of a 5f winner but there is enough stamina in her pedigree to suggest she should be able to cope with today’s additional furlong.
Eve Johnson-Houghton’s Reynolds was an eye-catcher on debut finishing best of all when third at Newbury on good ground. He has plenty of stamina in his pedigree and may need further before he breaks his maiden tag.
Andrew Balding’s Pempie (3.45) must prove she can handle rain-softened ground, but she improved for the step up in trip when winning over C&D last time and she receives plenty of weight from the older fillies and mares this afternoon. Note the classic generation have won this corresponding race for the last seven years.
In the mile-and-a-half handicap I hope to see Highfaluting (4.45) go one better than when runner up at Nottingham over 10f last time. The selection has suggested that this step up to 12f might be the key on both starts for James Eustace and his last run was on soft ground.
The first three races at Lingfield this afternoon will be run on polytrack and I hope to see Rosadora (3.00) leave behind her Windsor debut and reverse form with Love Love. The filly is likely to get further in time but the booking of Oisin Murphy suggests a bold bid is expected.
If the ground is soft or worse at Thirsk this evening, then I feel Shambra (8.20) can go close in the 12f fillies’ handicap for Newmarket handler Lucy Wadham. The selection has previously won on heavy ground over hurdles and on the level – she gets the each way vote.
In the BetVictor sponsored Novice Chase at Roscommon this evening I would be disappointed if Farclas (7.40) did not go very close for Gordon Elliot and Davy Russell. The selection won the Triumph Hurdle last year but struggled to make much of an impression over timber last season. He has been rejuvenated since switching his attentions to the larger obstacles, however, and is taken to give weight and a beating to his eight rivals this evening.
In the finale at Carlisle I hope to see Le Musee (9.00) improve for the return to soft ground on the level for Nigel Hawke. The selection won over 3m on soft ground over timber back in February and he should appreciate today’s extended 2m 1f trip with the ground likely to be soft or heavy come post time.
The 11-year-old Tawseef looks a big danger with the Donald McCain yard in such good form but I just favour Le Musee who makes the long journey north from Devon.