Today's tips: The Gurkha can triumph in battle of Guineas winners at Royal Ascot

Arguably the best week of racing of the year gets underway this afternoon, when Royal Ascot kicks off with the Queen Anne Stakes. 

Today's tips: The Gurkha can triumph in battle of Guineas winners at Royal Ascot

Frankel, whose stallion career has begun in such scintillating fashion, is on the illustrious role of honour and, while there isn’t such a star in today’s line-up, this renewal looks well up to scratch.

The last Irish winner of the race was Declaration Of War, in 2013, and the Ger Lyons-trained Endless Drama can bridge that short gap this afternoon. The imposing colt has had limited opportunities on the track but is tremendously talented, as he showed when runner-up to Gleneagles in last season’s Irish 2000 Guineas, and again when a close third behind one of today’s rivals, Belardo, in the Lockinge Stakes on his first start of this season.

Clearly entitled to be better for that run, the touch of ease in the ground should play to his strengths, as should the very likely strong pace. This strong-travelling colt can be expected to arrive with a serious challenge in the final furlong, and, at around 7-1, rates a good value bet to get punters off to a flyer.

US mare Tepin may be the most interesting of runners, but the ground is a concern, while Ervedya and last year’s runner-up Esoterique are both reliable mares but not unbeatable. In a competitive race, Endless Drama is just preferred to Belardo.

The St James’s Palace Stakes is a real cracker, with the Irish, English and French 2000 Guineas winners all involved. A case can be made for each, but French Guineas winner The Gurkha looked a real prospect when routing the opposition at Deauville.

Much of the reason for that improved effort from Aidan O’Brien’s colt was certainly coming with experience, but he may also have appreciated the better ground. However, he has proven effectiveness on soft ground, albeit at a lower level and on track which had a distinct bias on the occasion of his maiden win.

There’s no saying how far he could go, and today’s race will tell us plenty more. He is preferred to Kevin Prendergast’s Irish Guineas winner Awtaad, and Newmarket Guineas champ Galileo Gold.

There is a strong Irish challenge for the two-and-a-half-mile Ascot Stakes, including Pique Sous and Sempre Medici, both bidding to give Willie Mullins a third win in the race in five years.

They, along with Dermot Weld’s Silver Concorde and Jarlath Fahey’s Jennies Jewel, dominate the market, but at a much bigger price Le Maitre Chat makes plenty of appeal.

Ian Williams’ five-year-old ran beyond two miles just twice to date, the first of which was in last season’s Cesarewitch at Newmarket, where he was noted finishing with real purpose. He wasn’t beaten far behind one of today’s rivals, No Heretic, in the Chester Cup on his return, and should be better for the run and for today’s even longer trip.

On genuinely fast ground he would represent a tremendous value bet, but is still worth taking a chance on each-way at around the 20-1 mark.

Caravaggio still looked green when winning a listed race at the Currgah on his second start, but the form of that race looks good, and he should step up again for the extra furlong of today’s Group 2 Coventry Stakes. While the son of Scat Daddy may prefer faster ground, his latest win was on a yielding-to-soft surface, and this exciting prospect can prove too smart for his rivals.

Mister Trader, who was runner-up to Caravaggio at the Curragh, is a leading fancy for the concluding Windsor Castle Stakes, and victory would be quite the feather in the cap of trainer Darren Bunyan. A big run can be expected, but marginal preference is for Charlie Hills’ Battaash, who ran away with a novice race at Bath on debut, and shouldn’t be fazed by a step up to Listed company.

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