Every year I look to try to oppose several horses at Royal Ascot, which can be a tougher task than it would seem.
You do not want to be laying horses at too big a price and some of the shorter ones look to have very solid prospects.
Thus I have had to look somewhat out of the box to find five to lay.
If nothing else it is a useful exercise to crystallise your thoughts. Creating a one-horse book is clearly not always the best way to go, but this is more to highlight horses who are simply too short in the market. Make of that what you will.
Here are my Royal Ascot horses to lay.
One very good reason for opposing a horse in any given race is the fact that you fancy something else in the race. In this case I am very keen on Benbatl, who I think should be favourite and therefore I simply have to oppose this filly.
That Aidan O Brien has won two Group One races with her since she bled badly in the French Oaks in 2017 is testament to his skill as a trainer.
This, however is a tough task for her. She was seen to her absolute best in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury last time, typically finding the best part of the track before battling well to narrowly beat Lightning Spear, who did not race on the favoured part of the course.
She was tactically ridden to perfection to beat a lesser field than she meets here and as such around 4.3 looks too short.
There is no doubting this horse’s brazen speed that has carried him to Group One and Group Two success in his career.
He was particularly impressive when winning the Prix De L’Abbaye at Chantilly in October.
All of that said he does have some chinks in his glistening armour.
Firstly he can get very worked up before his races and if ever he is going to boil over it is in the cauldron that is Royal Ascot. He has to walk up from the stables on the other side of Ascot High Street, too.
There is little doubt that his temperament got the better of him in the Nunthorpe at York last year where he was very edgy in the preliminaries before playing up down at the start.
He then pulled hard in the race and could only finish fourth to Marsha. That may have been a one off but that it could happen again is a worry.
Secondly we have no evidence that the straight track at Ascot will suit him and it does not suit all horses.
He did run with promise in the Windsor Castle as a two-year-old but has not been there since. It is a track that some just do not take to. With that in mind he has a formidable opponent in Lady Aurelia, who won the race last year and loves the track. I think she should be favourite and not him so he must be opposed at round about 3.5.
The Gold Cup this year looks to be a very strong renewal and this horse is short enough at around 5-2, given that he has a few chinks in his armour.
He is undoubtedly a progressive stayer, but we do not know if he will stay two and a half miles and he has something to find with Order of St George from Champions Day.
I got the impression that on that day Order of St George was below par, yet he still beat Stradivarius by a length.
Not only is Order of St George back again (he should have won last year against Big Orange) but the mercurial French raider Vazirabad is there as well and they will make life very tough.
If Stradivarius was 5-1 I would probably be siding strongly with him each-way, but he is half that price so he must be a tentative lay.
Diamond Jubilee Stakes – Saturday - Harry Angel at around 4.0:
The Godolphin representative is very talented racehorse. His record speaks for itself. He is a dual Group One winner who has lightning early speed and who impressed on his seasonal reappearance in the Duke of York Stakes.
All of that said, his Ascot record is somewhat concerning.
All four of his career defeats have come at the track, even if on every occasion he has run well. It is quite possible that six furlongs at this track stretches his stamina to its absolute limit and leaves him vulnerable late on, especially given the way he is ridden.
It certainly looked that way in the Commonwealth Cup last year when defeated by Caravaggio and he was a bit disappointing as the 5-4 favourite when finishing fourth to Librisa Breeze in Champions Day. There is something about his racing style and Ascot that seems to mitigate his chances and at around 3-1 he can be opposed.