The weather looks likely to be kind at Royal Ascot and if the forecast is correct then conditions will ride quick this week.
The ability to get a position and have good tactical speed will be crucial, especially in the handicaps where unless the leaders overdo it, or there is a headwind, it is likely that giving up track position could prove costly.
Keep an eye on the early times – remember Ribchester (1.36.60) and Rajasinghe (1.12.46) both set new track records in the first two races last year, to see how much impact the pre-meeting watering has had.
Likely stories for the week are Sir Michael Stoute, after a blank last year, becoming the most successful trainer at the Royal meeting with winner number 76 and Ryan Moore, currently on 48, reaching his half century of winners.
For many the clash of the first day is in the Kings Stand Stakes but for me by far the better bet of the two market principles is...
Wesley Ward’s speedball has already twice blitzed to success at the royal meeting, including in very similar conditions in this race twelve months ago.
She is all speed and while Battaash has a couple of standout efforts that give him a chance he is equally likely to give the race away either in the preliminaries or at the stalls.
While his return win was creditable enough at Haydock he cannot afford to dwell like he did that day or he will find America’s first lady gone beyond recall.
Usually backing a favourite at this level who has yet to run in a Group One contest is fraught with danger but John Gosden’s colt could be the exception to the rule.
He will have learnt a lot from his workmanlike defeat of Gabr at Sandown, where he may have been a gallop short on ground softer than ideal.
Prior to the stone bruise which forced him to miss the Guineas that Classic had been a realistic aim and the extra time he has had to finesse his game will be a great help.
Connections have had to be very patient after his victory in the Northumberland Plate consolation, a performance which in 2016 marked him as a progressive young stayer.
Absent for 700 days after that prior to his return at Goodwood he should strip fitter for that run and the return to a real staying test should also play to his strengths and he can be the one to end Sir Michael Stoute’s wait to break the record.
His strong travelling style should be ideal in this. He is a horse that looks ready to take another step forward.
It is not entirely straight forward, having drawn stall 13 and being a few pounds wrong at the weights with a few of his rivals but his tactical speed looks such as asset that a big run looks likely.
Hopefully his Newmarket defeat was down to being just short of a run and his stable are in as good a form as at any stage this season.