We're backing Lucky Vega and Chindit at each-way prices
Poetic Flare (right) beating Lucky Vega (centre) in the 2000 Guineas. (Getty)
The third of three Group One races on day one of Royal Ascot is the St James's Palace Stakes. This historic race was first staged at Ascot in 1834, and this year's renewal is shaping up to be a brilliantly competitive affair.
We've taken a look through the betting for this year's St James's Palace Stakes and picked out our top tips.
Topping the market is Poetic Flare, who'll be running for the fifth time in just over eight weeks. Jim Bolger's star won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, ran with great credit when fifth in the French Guineas, and was beaten by a short-head by Mac Swiney in the Irish version of that fabled Classic three weeks ago.
Battleground was backed into favouritism for the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, but Frankie Dettori's mount delivered a limp performance, labouring over the line next to last. Aidan O'Brien claimed his colt didn't handle the Rowley Mile that day. We know he goes well at Ascot, having watched Battleground power to victory in the Chesham Stakes 12 months ago, so this looks like the ideal race.
Wembley was another who flopped at Newmarket, and O'Brien's colt didn't fare much better at the Curragh, finishing last of eleven in the Irish 2000 Guineas. A dual Group-One runner-up at two, Wembley clearly has ability and, given the reputation of his trainer, it wouldn't be a shock if Wembley put those two terrible efforts behind him at Ascot.
Lucky Vega was my each-way selection in the 2000 Guineas, and I thought he ran a cracking to finish less than a length behind Poetic Flare in third. Jessica Harrington's colt was then the beaten favourite in the Irish 2000 Guineas, but heavy ground that day was never going to suit.
The highest-placed British entrant in the betting is the unbeaten Mostahdaf, who got the better of Highland Avenue to win the Heron Stakes at Sandown. John Gosden's colt has run twice on the all-weather and once of soft turf, so there are question marks as to how he will handle a faster surface.
Highland Avenue looks set to renew rivalries with Mostahdaf, having gone down by less than a length when giving his rival three pounds at the weights. Charlie Appleby will also throw La Barrosa into the mix, having watched his charge finish sixth in the Irish 2000 Guineas, where the soft ground may have gone against him.
Chindit won at Ascot last year and stayed on well to finish fifth in the 2000 Guineas when last seen. Thunder Moon really struggled on fast ground in that Classic at Newmarket, and Joseph O'Brien won't like the look of the weather forecast leading up to Tuesday's race.
Maximal has gone down by a length to Hurricane Lane and El Drama this season, and could drop back to a mile at Ascot. Tactical could have his first start over this trip on Tuesday, while Ralph Beckett's Bullace is another likely runner.
While there's no doubt this is going to be a fantastic race, trying to find the winner is proving very difficult. You could make a strong case for at least eight of the possible entrants, and most of them sit on very appealing prices.
I've managed to whittle my Royal Ascot shortlist down to two names, the first being LUCKY VEGA, who I still believe is the best of the Irish three-year-olds.
Jessica Harrington's colt seemed to get a little unbalanced coming out of the dip at Newmarket, but saw out the mile really well. Had that Classic been run over eight-and-a-half-furlongs, I fancy Shane Foley's mount would have come through to beat Poetic Flare and Master Of The Seas.
Lucky Vega didn't enjoy heavy ground at the Curragh, which clearly dampened his electric turn of foot. Quick ground at Ascot will be much more suitable and I can't resist another punt on Harrington's colt at 7/1. This will also be Lucky Vega's final appearance before he heads off to stud in Australia, so Harrington will be desperate to end his racing career on a winning note.
I'm also going to back CHINDIT, who showed a real liking for this track when beating two future Listed winners in the Pat Eddery Stakes last season.
Having seemed to struggle on the Rowley Mile in the Dewhurst Stakes last season, I didn't fancy Richard Hannon's Greenham Stakes winner in the 2000 Guineas. Yet, despite being drawn on the wrong side of the track and sitting second-last entering the dip, Chindit really caught the eye as he stayed on through beaten horses to finish fifth.
I was really impressed with the way Chindit finished off his race at Newmarket, and course-form is often vital here at Ascot. Richard Hannon won the St James's Palace Stakes with Barney Roy in 2017 and he'll fancy his chances of lifting the famous trophy for a second time on Tuesday.
I'm going to take each-way punts on both Lucky Vega and Chindit, in the hope that both will run big races in this hugely competitive renewal.
2021 St James's Palace Stakes Tip 1: Lucky Vega Each-Way @15/2 at bet365 - 10 Units
2021 St James's Palace Stakes Tip 2: Chindit Each-Way @10/1 at Star Sports - 10 Units
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