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Alex Hammond previews the opening day of Royal Ascot

Alex Hammond's Tip of the Day
Image: Alex Hammond: Fancies Solow to win the first race

Sky Sports racing pundit Alex Hammond previews the opening day of Royal Ascot, with Tuesday's card full of Group 1 highlights.

The first day of the meeting is a real treat with the Group One Queen Anne Stakes to get us underway. This is a real clash of the international superstars with Freddy Head’s Solow heading the market for France.

The protagonists are among the highest rated turf performers in the world which makes this a real championship contest. Solow is a horse I love and I can understand why he’s as short as he is for this curtain raiser. His record speaks for itself, but this is the toughest task he has faced so far.

Able Friend makes the trip over from Hong Kong for trainer John Moore who is hoping the local superstar can prove himself in Europe as one of the leading horses in the world. His record at home is outstanding and he won the Hong Kong Mile in December impressively.

That race wasn’t of the calibre of this though and he will have to work much harder if he’s to beat Europe’s best. He’s a superb horse and it’s a real treat to see him running here.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MARCH 28:  Solow   ridden by Maxime Guyon wins the Dubai Turf during the Dubai World Cup at the Meydan Racecourse on March 28
Image: Solow is strongly fancied to open Royal Ascot by winning the Queen Anne

I can’t over emphasise how much of a superstar he is at home and he only has American Pharoah higher rated than him in the International classifications . He has a devastating turn of foot, but this track and European racing will be a culture shock for him. 

Newbury’s Lockinge Stakes is usually a reliable pointer for this race, in which case Richard Hannon’s duo of Night Of Thunder (winner) and Toormore (runner up) should figure prominently. I fancied Toormore that day, but it was soon obvious that he needed the run and looked burly beforehand. Both horses are expected to improve for that outing and the Hannon yard has a great recent record in this race. 

More from Royal Ascot 2015

NEWBURY, ENGLAND - MAY 16:  James Doyle riding Night Of Thunder (R) win The Al Shaqab Locking Stakes at Newbury racecourse.
Image: Night Of Thunder (right) could be a big danger to the French colt

Night Of Thunder is a consistent performer and can’t be written off. Arod wasn’t far behind the Hannon pair at Newbury and he has had a nice confidence booster at Epsom since. If he gets fast ground he’ll be a threat at a more respectable price. He’s is a fairly attractive each way bet (12/1 with Sky Bet). As for the selection, well Solow looks hard to beat (11/8 with Sky Bet).

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MARCH 28:  Sole Power  ridden by Richard Hughes wins the Al Qouz Sprint during the Dubai World Cup at the Meydan Racecourse o
Image: Sole Power will be looking for a third win in the King's Stand

Is it possible for Sole Power to win the King’s Stand Stakes for a third year in succession on his fifth appearance at this meeting? Well, the answer to that is ‘yes’, and the ground looks like being ideal. He managed to win this Group One five furlong sprint on good ground last year, but he’s incredibly hard to beat given his favoured fast conditions.

There will be no more watering now ahead of the meeting and it’s currently good, good to firm in places, with no rain forecast. Winning a race like this isn’t a given and you need things to drop right, but he’s the form horse. It can be hard to assess form from other continents and Aussie sprinter Shamal Wind will be bidding to enhance the record of Australian sprinters in this race.

Shamal Wind
Image: Shamal Wind provides a tough Australian challenge in the five-furlong dash

The mare has the assistance of Ryan Moore and looks a more attractive price than the favourite given the luck you need to win a race of this nature. The William Haggas-trained Muthmir is an improving and exciting sprinter and is another of the leading contenders. He won in France at Chantilly last time out having beaten himself by being too fresh on his reappearance. He goes there with a massive chance. So, the home challenge is top notch as ever, but I’m giving the southern hemisphere raider, Shamal Wind, a chance in the hands of Ryan Moore (8/1 with Sky Bet).

Image: Gleneagles (centre) is odds-on to win the St James's Palace Stakes but could be vulnerable

The St. James’s Palace Stakes on the book is a one horse race with dual Guineas winner Gleneagles the clear market leader, but it may not work out like that. His chance looked to be enhanced with the news that Andre Fabre’s 2000 Guineas runner up Territories misses the race due to a stone bruise.

It was won by a hotpot last year in the shape of odds-on favourite Kingman and this year may go the same way. However, he’s 4/7 with Sky Bet and isn’t getting any of my hard earned. So, the value bet could lie with the horse that WILL represent Andre Fabre, Make Believe.

This colt won the French Guineas and the runner up (a stablemate of this colt) has since followed up in the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby). Fabre has a good indication how this colt will rate with Gleneagles through Territories and at the prices I think it’s worth taking the favourite on in what could be a tactical race. Make Believe at 3/1 with Sky Bet is my selection.

I have to give a positive mention for Lycidas in the Ascot Stakes. Charlie Fellowes trains this lightly raced six-year-old and while the Newmarket trainer has been quiet on the winners front, this horse could give the stable the high profile win they need. He beat another of Tuesday’s leading contenders, Moscato, at York last time out and he certainly wasn’t stopping at the end of that two miles. He’s a likely improver and has plenty in his favour. Lycidas is a 10/1 shot with Sky Bet.

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