Clondaw Warrior has plenty to offer in Ascot Stakes

I’ve been to the Melbourne Cup, Breeders’ Cup, Hong Kong International Races and Dubai Carnival — all fantastic festivals in their own right — but none of them top Royal Ascot.

Clondaw Warrior has plenty to offer in Ascot Stakes

I haven’t missed Royal Ascot for the last 10 years now. I love everything about it from the relentless top-class racing, to the international competition, and, of course, the social side.

In fact, it was because of the ‘social’ aspect, that a Walsh is represented today. It was this time two years ago, that my wife Gillian, along with some of her friends, decided they wanted to have a runner at Royal Ascot.

To set the scene, the decision was made in the carpark well after racing had finished and expectations were perhaps a little unrealistic. I had to pour a little cold water on talk of leading in a St James’s Palace Stakes or Queen Anne Stakes winner and said the best they could hope for would be a runner in the Ascot Stakes.

It’s the nearest you can get to a jumps race — being run over two and a half miles — and it was probably the cheapest route to take, as well!

So, they bought Clondaw Warrior on a wing and a prayer, put him in training with Willie Mullins, and, two years later, here we are. He’s not without a chance either. He won the November Handicap last year and has run with great credit over hurdles in the meantime. He’s very consistent, looks well treated by the handicapper, has Ryan Moore on top and will like the fast ground. He’d have a cracking each-way chance.

That said, stablemate Digeanta might be the value pick at around 12-1. He would have needed his comeback run earlier in the month and will really see out the trip well.

There will be some party if Clondaw wins and it will make a change for Gillian to have to pay for the celebrations. Even in defeat, I am sure we will celebrate just having a runner there.

Today, is full of highlights with the first four races all mouth-watering prospects.

The meeting gets underway with the Queen Anne, in which Solow could announce himself as the best horse in the world this year. He’s won nine of his last 10 outings and seems to be getting better with age. As he’s a gelding, we could see him a fair bit in the future.

Jim Bolger is very keen on Round Two in the Coventry, but he will have to justify his reputation against the American speedster Finnegan. I watched his races on Racing UK’s international programme, Planet Turf, and he was mightily impressive when switched to grass at Pimlico last time.

I reckon Sole Power can complete his hat-trick in the King’s Stand and Gleneagles should be part of what could be a very special day for Ireland by taking the St James’s Palace Stakes.

Looking to tomorrow, Ivawood will relish the step down to seven furlongs in the Jersey Stakes, having been placed in both the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas, and it will be fascinating to see California Chrome in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, though I think he will struggle on what will be very alien conditions.

The highlight for many is Thursday’s Gold Cup, though it doesn’t look a vintage renewal to me. There are always periods of transition in racing, jumps racing especially, as we wait for the next golden generation to come along. I can’t see a Landing Light or Yeats on display here, which brings Simenon into play at a big price.

He has been second and fourth in the race the previous two years and his run at Sandown at the end of May will have put him spot on for this.

The Group 1 Commonwealth Cup on Friday has a terrific entry for its first running and I’ll be keen to see how Tiggy Wiggy and Anthem Alexander get on.

Tiggy Wiggy will appreciate the drop down to six furlongs, but I feel she had a hard race in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket and that might just take the edge off. I am a big fan of Anthem Alexander, who’s been beaten by Tiggy Wiggy three times, but won very snugly last time in what looked the ideal prep for this.

My banker of the week comes on the final race of the final day in the Queen Alexander. Wicklow Brave was a brilliant winner of the County Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and has won twice on the flat since. He’s guaranteed to stay and the same can’t be said for many of his rivals, as flat horses aren’t used to such a marathon test of nearly three miles.

One of the real buzzes for me is watching all the top jockeys from around the world on the same stage. To be honest, every jockey wants to be a flat jockey — and they’d be lying if they said they didn’t. Being a jumps jockey is a parochial hobby, whereas riding on the world stage for the big bucks must be a huge thrill.

I am being slightly tongue in cheek, but I do envy the likes of Ryan Moore, Christophe Soumillon, Olivier Peslier and Joao Moreira, who will on be on show and are among the best in the world. Perhaps the best of them, though, is Frankie Dettori.

I know Frankie and, whenever I see him, we’ll have a chat. On his day, he can be quite brilliant and when confidence is high and he gets on a roll, there can be no stopping him. Ascot is his favourite track, so keep an eye on whatever he rides.

He has lost his way on occasions in the past, but he is the perfect example of how you can get your career back on track.

  • Ruby Walsh is sponsored by Racing UK, which is offering all new customers a free one-month trial. Racing UK is covering 80 fixtures in the upcoming month and is on air from 10am every day at Royal Ascot. Visit for more.

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