Royal Ascot - At The Races

Alan Thomson's Horses To Follow

    Form expert Alan Thomson has shortlisted a dozen horses to follow at Royal Ascot in 2018, covering everything from promising two-year-olds right through to fancies for some of the meeting's hottest handicaps.

Horse profiles

Alpha Centauri (IRE)

Jessica Harrington’s filly clearly relished the return to quicker ground at the Curragh last month, using her speed to scythe down trailblazer Could It Be Love and some better-fancied rivals in a quality renewal of the Irish 1000 Guineas. Alpha Centuari appeared a little unlucky not to land last year’s Albany Stakes at the Royal Meeting, finding herself tucked in against the far rail when challenging French raider Different League. She was very strong at the finish at the Curragh on her first attempt at a mile.

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14 Apr 2018:
10 Sep 2017:
21 May 2017:
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Fairyland (IRE)

Unbeaten in both her starts for Aidan O’Brien, Fairyland is following in the hoofprints of Ballydoyle’s 2016 Albany Stakes heroine Brave Anna. Fairyland showed plenty of dash to make almost all the running on her debut at Naas last month but the daughter of Kodiac was ridden with a bit more restraint 19 days later in a Listed event at the Curragh. Ryan Moore got the leg-up on odds-on favourite Van Beethoven but Fairyland was still on the bridle two out and quickly asserted to score by more than two lengths. The ground was good to firm that day (yielding at Naas), so Fairyland seems versatile when it comes to underfoot conditions.

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26 May 2018:
7 May 2018:

Harry Angel (IRE)

Yet to register a victory at Ascot from four starts but that is a rare blemish on an illustrious CV which should be corrected this year. Harry Angel made a confident start to the new season in the Duke Of York Stakes, giving weight and a beating to Brando. Clive Cox’s sprinter split Caravaggio and Blue Point in the Commonwealth Cup 12 months ago and probably has Aidan O’Brien’s Australian recruit Merchant Navy as his main rival.

Hydrangea

Four-year-olds have won the Group 2 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes contest nine times in a row and Hydrangea fits the bill. The Ballydoyle filly chased home very smart stablemates Winter and Roly Poly in the Coronation Stakes last year and although slightly disappointing when beaten by Opal Tiara at the Curragh last month, Hydrangea remains the one to beat. French challengers have won the last two renewals (Qemah and Usherette) but nothing from across the Channel catches the eye this year.

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9 Sep 2017:
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Idaho (IRE)

The five-year-old will be back to defend his crown after winning this plum prize for older middle-distance horses last year. Idaho never really picked up the bridle behind Cracksman in the Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom but it may be best to overlook that aberration on testing ground. The five-year-old seems to come alive at Ascot as he showed with running a gallant third to Enable and Ulysses in last year’s King George. Sir Michael Stoute saddles hot favourite Crystal Ocean and he’ll be hoping for a better showing from the very easy Newbury scorer than last year’s warm favourite Dartmouth (fourth). Crystal Ocean was a beaten favourite in last year’s King Edward VII Stakes (third) and I’d prefer to back Idaho each-way.

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Lady Aurelia (USA)

Wesley Ward’s filly is back to defend her unbeaten record at Royal Ascot, having mopped up the King’s Stand Stakes last year on the back of a seven lengths romp in the Queen Mary Stakes as a juvenile. Lady Aurelia was particularly strong at the finish 12 months ago and her showdown with home hero Battaash promises to be one of the highlights of the week. Battaash scraped home on his return at Haydock when uneasy in the market but he brought the curtain down on a sensational 2017 by thumping Nunthorpe heroine Marsha four lengths in the Prix de l’Abbaye.

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4 Nov 2017:
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Mildenberger

Often referred to as the ‘consolation Derby’ this big pot was scooped last year by Mark Johnston’s Permian and Mildenberger follows the same route to Ascot on the back of a bold show in the Betfred Dante Stakes at York. Mildenberger couldn’t match Roaring Lion’s finishing kick but this longer distance should play to his strengths. He likes to race prominently and might be difficult to reel in if kicking off the home bend.

Rhododendron

Aidan O’Brien has been top trainer at the royal fixture for the past three seasons and what better way to kick-off his formidable 2018 challenge than by winning the opening race of the week, Tuesday’s Queen Anne Stakes. Rhododendron scraped home from Lightning Spear in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury when finding herself isolated in the middle of the track and a stiff mile seems her best trip. She was tried over a variety of distances last season and after chasing home stablemate Winter in the Qipco 1000 Guineas, Rhododendron was no match for Enable in the Investec Oaks. She should go very close on her first visit to Ascot.

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Romanised (IRE)

Fulfilled his juvenile promise with a surprise, but fully merited, triumph in the Irish 2000 Guineas. He had more than two lengths in hand of U S Navy Flag and clearly appreciated the good to firm ground at the Curragh. Romanised was noted running on into seventh spot in last year’s Coventry Stakes and his subsequent second to Masar in the Solario Stakes at Sandown on a slower surface is looking better than ever. The St James’s Palace Stakes is one crackerjack of a contest with John Gosden’s unbeaten Without Parole and Qipco 2000 Guineas runner-up Tip Two Win adding plenty of lustre to the line-up.

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Sioux Nation (USA)

Proved a tough nut to crack when landing last year’s Norfolk Stakes but seems better at the six-furlong trip of the Commonwealth Cup. Sioux Nation went on to win the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh last August and warmed up for this race at Naas, hitting the front at the furlong pole. All his wins have come on quick ground and Aidan O’Brien’s tough colt knows how to get the job done when the whips are flying.

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Wild Illusion

Sets a high standard of form following her fourth in the Qipco 1000 Guineas before taking second prize behind runaway winner Forever Together in the Investec Oaks. Wild Illusion led briefly two out at Epsom and there were murmurings that the Godolphin filly has stamina issues. Jockey William Buick has no such misgivings and is confident she’ll stay 12 furlongs in the Ribblesdale Stakes.

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22 Aug 2017:

Zhui Feng (IRE)

The draw always plays a significant part over this straight mile and Zhui Feng got lucky last year when winning the Royal Hunt Cup from stall 26, with the next two horses berthed 22 and 18. Big fields and fast ground on a straight course bring out the best in Zhui Feng as he loves to bowl along at the head of affairs. The five-year-old is up 8lb this time round but proved his well-being with another excellent effort back at Ascot last month, running Ripp Orf to a neck in the Victoria Cup on his first start in 281 days. There will be worse each-way bets, especially with many firms offering up to six places. Last year’s Britannia Stakes winner Bless Him flopped in the mud at Nottingham at the end of May but could well bounce back on quick ground.

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