A strong book of seven rides on day one

Solid each-way chances for both of Aidan’s

14:30 – Order Of Australia

We all know that Palace Pier is the one to beat if he brings his A-game to the table, and he will be very difficult to beat at that, but maybe the expected fast ground gives us all a window of hope – though probably not, as he won on it earlier in his career – and his third in the QEII here last October proves he can have the odd off-day.

Order Of Australia caused a shock when beating his stablemates Circus Maximus and Lope Y Fernandez in Keeneland and clearly has a solid place chance on that firm ground win, which was a significant improvement on his earlier form. His improvement since stepping down from 1m4f was quite something. And he wasn’t disgraced when sixth in the Hong Kong Mile afterwards in December, too. There is little between our pair in here at their best, and I’d have happily ridden either.

Lope Y Fernandez was probably unlucky not to pick up at least one Group 1 win last season, including when a length third to Order Of Australia at the Breeders’ Cup, and I think you can draw a line through his Lockinge run last time, a race in which the ground turned against him and I was not hard on him once beaten. He looks like having his optimum conditions here, a mile on fast ground, and he has a solid each-way chance, too.

Quicker ground to suit a horse we really like

15:05 – The Acropolis

He had been going well at home before making his debut at the Curragh last month but the ground was very bad that day, and that was no reflection of his true ability. We got a better look at what a promising horse he was when winning impressively at Listowel last week and this son of Churchill and a Queen Mary third promises to be even better on this quicker ground still. He clearly steps up markedly in grade but he is a horse we like. He is classy and should go well, albeit this is a big field made up of similarly unexposed juveniles.

Each-way chance on pick of her Group 1 form

15:40 – Keep Busy

Like Palace Pier, Battaash is the obvious standard-setter and if he runs up to his best then the rest of us are probably playing for places. A reproduction of any of his runs in the past two years, with the exception of the 2019 Abbaye, would make him very hard to beat. He has no weaknesses form-wise, or on the course or on the ground, and he won this first time out last season as well, but you hear of his rushed, interrupted preparation and you see some hope, I guess.

Keep Busy tends to need her first run of the campaign so I think you can expect her to be a lot sharper for her fifth in heavy ground at Haydock on her return, a race in which she wasn’t beaten far, anyway. Her Group 1 form at the Curragh and in the Abbaye gives her an each-way chance, and she did run well when bumping into Art Power, who was running off just 97, in the 3yo 5f handicap at this meeting last year.

I do think Ascot’s stiff 5f promises to suit Extravagant Kid, too. A close fourth from a wide draw in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in Keeneland in November, I got on him for the first time in the Al Quoz at Meydan in March and he did it well. The bare form of that race needs improving on here but I do think conditions are very much in his favour. But Battaash is going to be very difficult to beat if he runs his race, as I said.

Big run in him if returning to juvenile form

16:20 – Battleground

Both of our colts are on recovery missions, but it would be unwise to give up on both, I feel. Quite why Battleground didn’t run his race at Newmarket we don’t know, and he was pulled out of the Irish 2000 Guineas due to the worsening ground afterwards, but this is a colt I really rated last season in winning the Chesham at this meeting, the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood, and then finishing second at the Breeders’ Cup.

The form horses from the Guineas are the ones to beat here but if my colt returns to his juvenile form then he clearly has a big run in him.

And similar comments apply to Wembley, who just didn’t handle conditions at the Curragh last time. His Dewhurst second to Sir Mark’s Basilica speaks for itself, and hopefully the first-time tongue-ties for them both prove to be a positive. This looks a very deep St James’ Palace though, albeit one lacking a clear stand-out, with the form horses from the Guineas closely matched.

Decent chance if seeing out this marathon trip

17:00 – M C Muldoon

Willie (Mullins) has won this race four times in recent years, so he knows what he is doing. MC Muldoon did well in all four of his hurdles starts for the stable after joining from Peter Chapple-Hyam, for whom he showed good, Listed-placed form on the level on occasions. On his Flat debut for the yard, and after proving a little unlucky when third at Punchestown on his most recent start over hurdles in late April, then he has a decent chance here if lasting home over 2m4f, a trip he hasn’t even contested in the National Hunt sphere.

The stable also have Rayapour in the race, and Royal Illusion. I think the former looks fairly handicapped on his French form over 1m4f and he seems to have run well when third in a fair maiden hurdle last month on his stable debut, a race from which the second and fourth have won since. He also has his stamina to prove.

Competitive race but he has a lot in his favour

17:35 – Solid Stone

Solid Stone picked up a 3lb penalty for winning a Listed race over 1m at Windsor last time but I think that was a career-best, so you have to take the positives from it. I think he will be equally effective over this longer trip, too. He has form on this quicker ground, he finished second in a Balmoral here in October, and, all things considered, he has a fair bit to recommend him in an admittedly hugely competitive race.

Noteworthy runner off this handicap mark

18:10 – Saldier

Another ride for the stable and he looks a very interesting contender under a 4lb penalty for his 1m5f impressive Listowel win earlier this month, his first Flat start for Willie. He has clearly had his problems over hurdles since winning the Morgiana in 2019 but he ran well in the Champion Hurdle this year and that win last time was a big positive. Running off 103 makes him noteworthy here – that is only 1lb higher than his revised Irish mark – considering he was rated as high as 159 over hurdles after that Grade 1 win, and he probably wasn’t too far that form at Cheltenham. This will probably be the quickest ground he has raced on, but hopefully he will fine on it.