Royal Ascot will be unusual viewing, with none of the pomp nor ceremony we associate with it, but there is, as always, top-class racing to enjoy and Skardu makes plenty of each-way appeal at around 16-1 for this afternoon’s Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes.
This race usually gets the action underway for the week but has to play second fiddle to a handicap this afternoon. Circus Maximus is almost certain to be sent off favourite but there is more than enough depth in this race to take him on at his odds of around 9-4.
Skardu finished behind Aidan O’Brien’s colt in last season’s Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes at this meeting and was noted staying on very nicely to take fourth place, beaten just a length and a half.
He was also beaten next time, but again not that far, in good company. However, he goes well fresh and the quicker the ground the better for him. He should also be suited by a fast pace and the straight course and, with those in his favour, is difficult to ignore at big odds.
Roseman would be a leading fancy on softer ground, while Fox Champion is a smart horse in the making but may find this trip sharp enough in this company.
The Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes does not look particularly strong and Frankly Darling will take beating if stepping up even a little from her Newcastle win. The extra couple of furlongs should help bring about that improvement, and she can be another for in-form trainer John Gosden.
King’s Stand Stakes favourite Battaash can get a little overexcited in the preliminaries so it could work in his favour that there is no crowd at today’s meeting. He finished runner-up to Blue Point in this race in 2018 and 2019 but this can be third time lucky.
He was well beaten on his last outing, in the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp, but that was on very soft ground. He has on his return for each of the last two seasons and can continue his fine record fresh.