Blogs & Opinion


Racing to a climax

Time for a change to Royal Ascot's running order, says Ed

Ed Chamberlin - Ed Chamberlin Posted 23rd June 2011 view comments

It's no Cheltenham Festival but I still enjoyed Royal Ascot enormously last week.

Skybet had a superb box in the Grandstand on the Thursday, which was the day that contained my highlight of the week. I had bumped in to Michael Owen on the Tuesday and discussed his chances and he told me that Brown Panther was by far his best chance of a winner.

Royal Ascot: front loading best races

Royal Ascot: front loading best races

You can imagine the roar in the box when Brown Panther bolted up in the last race on Thursday. Owen's emotion in the winner's enclosure after the race showed just how passionate the Manchester United striker is about racing.

For all the things that Racing For Change has done to help promote the sport, for me Michael Owen has done the greatest. He resonates with a younger audience that racing desperately needs to appeal to.

And to see and read him talking about his love for racing last week and tweeting to his 500,000 followers, is publicity for the sport that money can't buy.

I was pleased to see my 'bet of the week' win easily on Saturday and Await The Dawn is definitely a horse to follow for the rest of the season, which looks set to culminate with a tilt at the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Order

Over the last two weeks, I wrote about my amazement at Royal Ascot's running order with the meeting front loading its best races. A great debate has now started as to how people think Ascot should change things because at the moment the best day's racing by far is day one (Tuesday) and the best races are run early on each day's card. Each day's card and the meeting as a whole fails to build to a climax.

The fact is that racing gets less coverage in the sports pages close to the weekend and the course would sell out on Friday and Saturday even if they staged cards full of claimers and sellers but I would still tinker with the format.

Tuesday does not need both the Queen Anne and St James' Palace Stakes and I would switch the former to bump up Friday's card. I would also move the feature contest from race three to be race five on the card each day. This would build each day to a crescendo and maximise betting turnover in the process.

This weekend I'd expect Midday to win the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh and think Carlton House (6/4 with Skybet) can turn the Epsom form around with Treasure Beach and win the Irish Derby for the Queen.

Great

There's some great sport going on at the moment with some less than great weather.

Wimbledon is in full swing and hopefully my fancy Novak Djokovic (10/3) is still in the tournament when you read this. And I hope you are enjoying the Wimbledon Report every morning from 8.30am with Georgie and Kirsty on Sky Sports News.

There's 10 days to go until the start of the Tour de France. Having tipped up Andy Schleck to win the Tour at 9/4 with Skybet, I was pleased to read the comments from race favourite Alberto Contador (8/13) last weekend.

Contador said: "Right now I'm tired. My muscles still feel the Giro. It is very difficult to win the Tour anyway, because it requires a specific approach. The Giro was not the ideal preparation, because it was extremely difficult."

It's a mighty task to win the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France these days and I much prefer the chance of someone who's prepared solely for the Tour. Andy Schleck has done that and showed plenty of signs of being in good form in the Tour of Switzerland last week. Skybet currently offer 11/5 on Schleck and I reckon that's a big price.

Final word must be left for the brilliant Rory McIlroy, who produced some compelling golf and television to win the US Open last weekend. Unlike Tiger Woods, McIlroy has won over the galleries with his charm and grace, capturing the public's and Skybet's imagination.

He is Skybet's 6/1 favourite to win the Open next month and they have a range of specials on golf's latest major winner including 2/1 on him finishing in the top ten at the Open and USPGA and 50/1 to be leading after the first round of all four majors.

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