The Great and Good of Racing Battle for Royal Seal of Approval

Ascot Racecourse EntranceBy hook or by crook, Theresa May has managed to force the Tory rebels to stand down in their quest for the ‘meaningful vote’, on a day in which ministers were forced out of hospital beds in their pyjamas to vote.

It’s just the latest gaffe in the increasingly farcical Brexit timeline, but at least now the Prime Minister can enjoy a break this summer without the fear of her party imploding behind her back.

May want to take in some of the best flat racing that Britain has to offer – there is plenty to enjoy around the UK and Ireland, and the Summer Solstice dawns one of the very best meetings on the planet: Royal Ascot.

The festivities kicked off on Tuesday, and the action has been intense and, in parts, surprising thus far: Cracksman, the John Gosden powerhouse, downed by Poet’s Word in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday to make Sir Michael Stoute the all-time leading trainer at Royal Ascot.

The Queen herself is expected to be in attendance on Thursday, and it is from here-on-in (the meeting runs through until Saturday) that business really picks up.

The Gold Cup takes place at 16:20GMT on Thursday, and that should deliver an intriguing battle between the bookmakers’ favourite, Order of St George, and Frankie Dettori’s ride Stradivarius, with the likes of Vazirabad and Torcedor watching on and waiting for a mistake.

That sets the scene nicely for Friday and Saturday, which both have the capability of being belting days of racing with the sun predicted to beam down on a number of Group 1 clashes.

So let’s grab our sun cream, racecard and pen and see if we can dig out any winners in Friday and Saturday’s Royal Ascot stacked schedule.

Harrington Pins Hopes on Alpha Female

The Commonwealth Cup is a Group 1 sprint on Friday afternoon (15:40GMT) that could descend into a high speed classic given the forecast.

Equilateral takes favouritism based on a superb showing in his last outing, where he coasted home by eight lengths in a novice sprint at Doncaster, but watch out for that man Aidan O’Brien.

He has entered Sioux Nation, who is rather more experienced despite being just three years old. A winner of the Norfolk Stakes at Ascot a year ago, the offspring of Scat Daddy also took the honours last time out in Ireland.

And keep a keen eye out for Sands of Mali and Invincible Army, who fought out a titanic battle to the line in the Sandy Lane Stakes in May.

Next up is the Coronation Stakes, another Group 1 renewal that forms part of the British Champions Series, and there could be an intriguing meeting between Alpha Centauri and Clemmie here.

The former took the spoils in the Irish 1,000 Guineas at Curragh in May, and that comes a year after a decent showing on this very track in the Albany Stakes, where she was second to surprise winner Different League in a high-pace affair.

Clemmie was highly-rated after winning the Cheveley Park Stakes last season, but a never-there run in the 1,000 Guineas will be enough to put off most even in the quickening conditions.

Hardwicke Stakes Looks Crystal Clear to Stoute

Saturday serves up another excellent day of racing, and the first renewal to consider is the Hardwicke Stakes.

Run over 11f, Sir Michael Stoute has put up the winner in three of the last four renewals, and so the favourite, Crystal Ocean, is likely to take some stopping.

The four-year-old is an improving sort who has come on leaps and bounds since last year’s Royal Ascot, winning both his starts this ter, and the quick conditions should suit.

The defending champion, Idaho, will be looking to have his say for the O’Brien yard, but one win in six starts just hints at a horse who may have already peaked.

Later on sees a high-quality sprint shootout in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, a typically blink-and-you’ll-miss-it renewal fought out over 6f.

Harry Angel has a rating of 125 and thus takes favouritism, but a so-so record at Ascot – he’s not won here in four starts – will have punters on edge.

A pair of Australian horses, Merchant Navy and Redkirk Warrior, will certainly enjoy the fast pace, and the fact that Frankie Dettori is taking the right on the latter is an indication of how highly-fancied he is.

The firm ground is unlikely to suit the winner of last year’s British Champions Sprint Stakes, Librisa Breeze, while The Tin Man, the defending champion, is the elder statesman of the field at six-years-old. No horse older than five has won the Diamond Jubilee in the past decade.