Sunday, February 25, 2024

Runners & Riders – Day 1, Royal Ascot 2021

Matthew Steeples analyses the top tipsters’ selections for Day 1 of Royal Ascot 2021 and offers selections in 5 of the 7 races

Whilst Royal Ascot turned into an ‘At Home’ version with racing behind closed doors in 2020, 12,000 guests will be allowed to be attend on each of the five days of racing this week from today, Tuesday 15th, until Saturday, 19th June this year.

Forming part of the government’s events research programme with all present forced to complete two Covid-19 PCR tests and evidence of a negative lateral flow test on arrival on each day of attendance, the brilliant BATTAASH – sadly no longer cared for our since retired ‘Hero of the Hour’ groom Bob Grace – will be one of Day 1’s highlights to watch in the King’s Stand at 3.40pm. We hope to cheer him on to a second win, but though Winter Power looks the obvious threat, we’ve selected two others, Oinsin Murphy on King’s Lynn at 15/1 and Jason Hart on Liberty Beach at 13/1 in this 16-runner field.

Battaash Bob Grace
Much loved by the public Bob Grace with also much loved by the public Battaash. In December 2020, ‘The Steeple Times’ made humble Mr Grace our ‘Hero of the Year’ for raising the spirits of the nation with his positivity. As one user concluded on Twitter: “Bob is wonderful, be like Bob.”

For the opening Day 1, Royal Ascot 2021, I am looking at EACH WAY BETS on:

3.05pm Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot (17 runners, 4 places)

Ryan Moore – AP O’Brien combo The Acropolis at 7/1 from 9/1 earlier (Radio 4, At The Races ’Top Tip’, Daily Record)

At The Races states: “THE ACROPOLIS fancied to give Aidan O’Brien his 10th win in the race after breaking through at Listowel.”

Racing Post adds: “Looked potentially smart at Listowel; trainer seeks a tenth win in this race; respected.”

Also in the same race, Oisin Murphy – Andrew Balding combo Berkshire Shadow at 12/1 from 16/1 earlier (Guardian, At The Races ‘Watch Out For’)

Greg Wood for Guardian observes: “It is two months since Berkshire Shadow made a winning debut at Newbury despite missing the break badly and running green for much of the race. Gisburn, who finished fourth, there, has since franked the form in style (and is a much shorter price to win for this contest) while Wesley Ward’s Kaufymaker gets the fillies’ allowance but the market seems to have forgotten about Berkshire Shadow, who can be backed at around 16-1.”

Racing Post less enthusiastic: “Did well to win after starting slowly at Newbury but the form hasn’t worked out that well.”

3.40pm – King’s Stand at Royal Ascot (16 runners, 4 places with Ladbrokes ’The Grid’)

Jim Crowley – Charles Hills combo Battaash at 19/10 from 2/1 earlier (The Sun NB,, Daily Mail ’Sam Turner’ and ‘Robin Goodfellow’, TOPSPEED, RP Ratings, LAMBOURN, Daily Express, At The Races ‘Watch Out For’)

Greg Wood for Guardian observes: “Battaash does not start at odds-against too often and won this first time up last season, so many punters will find 9-4 irresistible. His preparation has hardly been smooth, though, and in Winter Power he faces a fast-improving rival with both an age and sex allowance in her favour. The form of her easy success at York last month was franked by Atalis Bay, the runner-up, on Saturday.”


Sam Turner for Daily Mail adds: “Battaash is currently unbeatable on his first start of the season and looks to boast major claims of defending his crown. The return of crowds may not be ideal for a horse which can sometimes be excitable, however the selection’s trainer believes his star sprinter is maturing.”


The Sun enthuses: “Won this last year and sets the standard again.”


Racing Post adds: “Battaash is the form horse but things have not gone smoothly in the run-up and preference is for OXTED ahead of Winter Power… Memorable sprinter, the form horse; won this in 2020; off since August; interrupted prep.”


At The Races concludes: “All eyes will be on Battaash, who has been king of the speedsters for the last few years and finally put his Royal Ascot hoodoo to bed with a dominant display in this 12 months ago. He has had an interrupted preparation, though, so can be taken on with WINTER POWER.”


Also in the same race, Oisin Murphy – Andrew Balding combo King’s Lynn at 15/1 from 16/1 earlier

Racing Post remarks: “Lightly raced; latest 5f Listed win was an improvement; may well be capable of better yet.”


Also in the same race, Jason Hart – John Quinn combo Liberty Beach at 13/1 (The Sun ‘Each Way Thief’)

The Sun states: “She was a good third in this race 12 months ago and has held her form well since. She battled well in muddy ground to score at Haydock on comeback and has more to offer as a four-year-old.”


4.20pm St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot (13 runners, 4 places with Ladbrokes ’The Grid’)

Ryan Moore – AP O’Brien combo Battleground at 13/2 from 6/1 earlier (Radio 4)

Racing Post says: “An open St James’s Palace Stakes. Narrow preference is for LUCKY VEGA, with Battleground second choice ahead of Mostahdaf… Smart last year; unsuited by the Newmarket track in the 2,000 Guineas; remains of interest.”

Also in the same race, Lucky Vega at 7/1 (The Sun ‘Each Way Thief’, Sporting Life, SPOTLIGHT, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mail ‘Gimcrack’ NAP)

The Sun suggests: “He was a Group 1 winner over 6f last season but has stepped up to a mile well twice this season with good runs in two Guineas. This quick ground will be ideal and he’s hard to keep out of the frame.”

Greg Wood for Guardian offers: “Poetic Flare is the marginal favourite overnight after a battling performance to win the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and then a return to form in the Irish equivalent last time. He was just half-a-length in front of Lucky Vega (4.20) at Newmarket, however, and Jessica Harrington’s colt, who is likely to head to stud in Australia after the race on Tuesday, is the pick of the prices at around 7-1 to retire as a dual Group One winner.”

Matt Brocklebank for Sporting Life muses: “The money for Battleground is eyebrow-raising considering his ill-at-ease performance in the 2000 Guineas. Well backed that day when he looked a picture in the paddock, this good-looking son of Found has untapped potential and he won at this meeting last year in the Chesham.”

“However, all of the juice has been squeezed out of his odds now and it could be worth concentrating on the two horses that fought out the Guineas ahead of him at Newmarket – Poetic Flare and LUCKY VEGA. Preference is for the latter who is easily forgiven his subsequent Irish 2,000 Guineas fourth in heavy ground. He proved he got the mile well in the Guineas and running on better ground going round a bend should very much play to his strengths.”

Racing Post adds: “Close third in the 2,000 Guineas; the Irish version panned out less favourably; big player.”

5pm Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot (20 runners, 5 places with Ladbrokes ’The Grid’)

Ben Curtis – Michael and David Easterby combo Elysian Flame at 15/1 (The Sun ‘Longshot’, Guardian, Daily Mail “Robin Goodfellow’ and ‘Gimcrack’)

The Sun states: “He stays this marathon trip well and got no luck when fifth in a fair race at Chester last time out.”

Greg Wood for Guardian suggests: “It feels like Cheltenham again with Willie Mullins and Rachael Blackmore both prominent in the betting but good-to-firm ground is a question mark for several of the Irish-trained runners. A similar query about Elysian Flame was largely dismissed by a win at Newbury in April and he stayed on strongly at Chester last time, suggesting this marathon trip could be just what he needs.”

Racing Post remarks: “Badly hampered at start in Chester Plate and ran on well for fifth, so still in fine form.”

Also in the same race, Franny Norton – Mark Johnston combo Trumpet Man at 18/1 (SPOTLIGHT, TOPSPEED)

Matt Brocklebank for Sporting Life shares: “Last year’s winner Coeur De Lion should be considered off just a 3lb higher mark. He stays all day and Alan King has swapped the cheekpieces for a visor – headgear he won in last year when it was applied for the first time. However, he was only a place ahead of TRUMPET MAN in the Chester Cup and Mark Johnston’s horse was unlucky in the run. He’s lightly raced for a Johnston four-year-old and has untapped potential over marathon trips, so a career-best effort could well be on the horizon.”

Racing Post offers: “Did not get the best of runs late on when fifth last time in the 2m2f Chester Cup.”

6.10pm Copper Horse Stakes at Royal Ascot (16 runners, 4 places)

Hollie Doyle – John & Thady Gosden combo Amtiyaz at 20/1 from 16/1 earlier (Sporting Life NAP)

Matt Brocklebank for Sporting Life muses: “AMTIYAZ is one of them in the concluding Copper Horse Handicap. He’s a well-bred, lightly-raced four-year-old representing John Gosden and Hollie Doyle so it’s surprising to see him at such a big price, especially when you dig a little deeper into his promising profile. A son of Frankel, he was unraced at two and immediately started out over 10 furlongs on his belated racecourse debut last August so he’s clearly a late-maturing colt who has always shown an abundance of stamina.”

“After breaking through at the fourth time of asking in a Newcastle novice over a mile and a half, he was nicely going through the handicap ranks over the winter, winning twice more from marks of 82 and 89, before having a couple of months off and returning on All Weather Championships Finals day at Lingfield on Good Friday. Sent off 9/2 third-favourite despite being the lowest rated in the field (had over 10lb to find with the two ahead of him in the market), it became a really messy race and it’s hard to believe he was seen in his best light given how the race developed into a dash for home from around three furlongs out.”

“Amtiyaz was also bumped about between Rainbow Dreamer and Australis on the final turn into the straight and he didn’t do too badly in the circumstances, since when the horse has been put away for a summer campaign. It’s fairly well documented how comfortably some all-weather specialists can translate their form to the Ascot track so while he was a fairly disappointing fifth at Lingfield on his only previous turf start, that doesn’t concern me much at all especially given his pedigree (out of a Dalakhani mare who’s from the family of the great Goldikova). Slightly easier ground might have been preferred in an ideal scenario though I’d say that’s more than factored into his price.”

“Amtiyaz is entered in the Northumberland Plate later in the month and he clearly stays two miles strongly but, if anything, that looks an asset here given there are six or seven who like to lead or race prominently and I’m quite keen on his chances getting 8lb from the penalised favourite Saldier.”

At The Races offers: “The vote, however, goes to AMTIYAZ. He was last seen disappointing on All-Weather Finals Day at Lingfield, but the son of Frankel now makes his debut on turf which has the potential to bring about further improvement.”

Racing Post adds: “3-8 on AW; fifth on only turf outing; improvement needed to defy a career-high mark.”

Also in the same race, Arthurian Fable at 17/2 from 8/1 earlier (Racing Post ‘Dark Horse’, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Sporting Life)

Matt Brocklebank for Sporting Life offers: “Palavecino can have his own ideas and isn’t always the easiest of rides but a stiff mile and a quarter around Ascot promises to really suit the horse, who was far from disgraced behind Prince Of Wales’s contenders Armory (BHA mark 120) and Sangarius (114) in the Huxley Stakes last month on good to soft. Martin Dwyer knows him very well and will presumably look to bounce out from stall 11 before trying to dictate terms, or at least sit very handily. At 28/1 the chances of the talented individual hanging tough in the straight appear to be slightly underestimated.”

Greg Wood for Guardian remarks: “The consistent Arthurian Fable was gelded over the winter and looked as good as ever on his reappearance at Newmarket over Tuesday’s trip last month. His second at the Ebor meeting last season is strong form and while his ability to act on good-to-firm needs to be taken on trust, the same is true of Saldier, the warm favourite, and Brian Meehan’s runner is nearly four times the price.”

Sam Hardy for Racing Post enthuses: “Finished only two and a half lengths behind Global Storm on his seasonal reappearance when clearly needing the run. His sole win came on ground described as good to firm, so conditions will suit.”

Racing Post adds: “1-1 on good to firm ground; might have needed reappearance; should be in the mix.”

Sam Turner for Daily Mail concludes: “Arthurian Fable was an eye-catching fourth at HQ and should appreciate the better ground today.”

Elsewhere, I am favouring EACH WAY BETS on:

1.50pm Stratford-on-Avon (12 runners, 3 places)

Max Kendrick on Jessica Rabbit at 7/1 from 13/2 earlier (Sporting Life)

Sporting Life muses: “She’s been running well of late and JESSICA RABBIT can get her head back in front in the MansionBet’s Summer Of Love-ly Offers Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. The form of her win at Doncaster in November has worked out well and she travelled strongly for a long way when third at Fontwell last time. She races from the same mark here and another good account is in the offing.”

Racing Post adds: “Opened account last November and returned from break with two good runs last month.”

Also in the same race, Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Nye Bevan at 17/4 from 4/1 earlier (Guardian, Daily Mail ‘Robin Good-fellow’, At The Races ‘Watch Out For’)

At The Races observes: “Nye Bevan has been in great form over the past few months and could have more to offer with cheekpieces applied for the first time.”

Racing Post adds: “Dual winner this spring; only third off 5lb lower last time but further progress possible.”


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Happy racing.


Matthew Steeples
Matthew Steeples
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Matthew Steeples is a writer and marketing consultant. He conceived The Steeple Times as a media arena to fill the void between the Mail Online, The Huffington Post and such organs as the New York Social Diary in 2012.


    • And we’ve also had a number of places as well. So happy days. Well in profit at this end as a result. If you’d like to join our racing email list, email [email protected] and we can add you.


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