The UK flat racing season may be renowned throughout the globe, but there’s only one Royal Ascot. The festival itself is one of the key events in the horse racing calendar, with its 5 days packing in a total of 30 exhilarating races – and that’s to say nothing of the event’s royal patronage.
We may still be several weeks out from the festival – in 2022, it’s running from 14th to 18th June – but the meeting is already shaping up to be one of the best to date.
With punters and racing enthusiasts no doubt keen to get their ante-post bets in as soon as possible, let’s take a look at some of the early prospects.
Being one of the key events in the British horse racing calendar, there are several ways to place bets on Royal Ascot races. Ante-post betting is available from bookies both online and on the high street, while during the meeting there’ll be a wealth of on-course options to pick from.
First-time punters and those looking to make a flutter will undoubtedly enjoy the thrill of betting on-course, however, more savvy punters will look online for free bets for Ascot. In terms of picking profitable winners, it’s all a matter of backing horses that will outrun the odds that they’ve been given. For this, it’s helpful to think about alternative types of bets.
The most common and straightforward bet you could place on a horse at Royal Ascot is a win-only bet. As the name suggests, these bets return money if your pick takes the win and, for short-priced horses, it can deliver the most value. However, another type of bet you could place is an each-way bet, which will give a return on a wager if the horse wins or ‘places’ (finishes in second, third or fourth place).
First up, Richard Hannon-trained Miami Girl is all set for a Royal Ascot appearance following her stunning debut at Newmarket. The filly shot five and a half lengths clear at the Betfair Exchange British EBF Maiden Stakes on May 1st, making short work of odds-on favourite Beautiful Sunrise and earning herself a place at the Queen Mary Stakes in the process – where she is currently placed 10-1 to win.
We also have an early favourite for the King’s Stand Stakes on day one of the meeting. Wesley Ward’s “awesome specimen” Golden Pal is all set to make his third attempt at winning on UK turf following an impressive showing at Keeneland in April. Blitzing his way around the course in the Grade 2 Shakertown Stakes, he beat 3-5 favourite Johnny Unleashed by no less than four and three-quarters.
The 4-year-old is yet to win on UK ground, having come a close runner-up in 2020’s Norfolk Stakes and placing seventh at Nunthorpe last year. Ward isn’t deterred, however, stating that he’s “looking forward” to “showing what he (Golden Pal) can do” at Ascot.
With ante-post odds of 3-1 for the King’s Stand Stakes and potential for an entry in the Platinum Jubilee Stakes, 2022 might just be the year Golden Pal makes his mark on British racing.
Bringing home the current crop of early entrants is the 2.7 million guineas thoroughbred, Akhu Najla. The Roger Varian-trained colt may be worth a small fortune, but that hasn’t weighed his performance down so far. Debuting at Yarmouth at the end of April, he was crowned the 2022 TDN Rising Star.
Half-brother to 2016 St James’s Palace Stakes winner, Galileo Gold, Akhu Najla has picked up odds of 14-1 to win the same race here in 2022.
All eyes will be on Royal Ascot this year as superstar stayer Stradivarius will attempt to make a fifth run at winning the prestigious Gold Cup, ridden – of course – by legendary jockey Frankie Dettori.
Dettori recently scored a winning ride at Yarmouth, romping home on Shining Al Danah in the 7f Maiden Fillies’ Stakes. Since it’s still early days in the season, Dettori is “running a lot of three-year-olds at the moment” with a view to running in the Epsom Derby or the Epsom Oaks. In his own words, however, riding “Strad is the one I am most looking forward to”.
As for Stradivarius himself, despite this being his seventh season his camp are “buoyant” about his prospects this year and he’s headed for a season start in the Yorkshire Cup in May.