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Royal Ascot to start with St James's Palace crackerPosted on Monday 6th June 2016 @ 09.52

The St James's Palace Stakes promises to be the highlight of not just the opening day of Royal Ascot, but the entire five-day meeting.

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The Group One contest over a mile is set to feature the winners of the English, Irish and French 2000 Guineas and it will be fascinating to witness who will come out on top.

The 888sport horse racing odds currently have French 2000 Guineas victor The Gurkha as the favourite, followed by Irish hero Awtaad, with Newmarket winner Galileo Gold the outsider of the talented trio.

It is easy to see why The Gurkha heads the market given his Deauville demolition job on just his third racecourse start and barely a month after his debut. He powered away inside the final two furlongs to beat First Selection by five-and-a-half lengths and he will now bid to give Aidan O'Brien an eighth win in the St James's Palace after side-stepping the Derby. He is by Galileo, who sired last year's St James's Palace winner Gleneagles, so sticking at a mile won't be a problem, despite the middle-distance influence in his pedigree. Quicker ground is also unlikely to be an issue for The Gurkha and it will be intriguing to see how much more improvement there is to come.

Awtaad provided octogenarian trainer Kevin Prendergast with his second Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh when beating Galileo Gold by two-and-a-half lengths after enjoying a smoother passage through the race. He also handled the softer conditions better on his first attempt at a mile, but there is no reason to think he wouldn't cope with a quicker surface given his sire Cape Cross won the Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal meeting on good to firm in 1999, a year after winning the Lockinge.

Like Awtaad, Galileo Gold's sire also won the Queen Anne and Lockinge on good to firm ground and connections of the English 2000 Guineas winner are confident a better surface will help him to reverse Irish form. Frankie Dettori had attempted to go the brave man's route up the inside at the Curragh, but even with a clear run, it's hard to have seen him getting the better of Awtaad that day. However, it is also hard to argue with the view he will be better on faster ground and it is worth noting that he had French 2000 Guineas runner-up First Selection eight-and-a-half lengths behind at Newmarket.

At the current prices, the St James's Palace Stakes value lies with Galileo Gold and it would be no surprise to see the three Guineas winners flashing past the post as one on the opening day of Royal Ascot.

Article Posted on Monday 6th June 2016 @ 09.52

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