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Bookies fear for what's to comePosted on Monday 19th June 2017 @ 11.10

Bookmakers daring to glance at the six races scheduled for Tuesday's first day of Royal Ascot 2017 must shudder, at least a little.

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What will be causing the collective nervousness among layers is the potential for three clear-cut winning favourites to start the showcase fixture. It won't have escaped the attention of punters that it is by no means beyond the bounds of possibility that each of the three Group 1 races have strong favourites who are quite likely to do the business.

Richard Fahey's Ribchester (4/5) looks rock solid in the opening Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes having landed the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes in impressive fashion last time out. He also won the Jersey Stakes at this fixture 12 months ago, so there are no questions marks over his ability to operate on the track. Connections, however, will be hoping the clerk of the course has watered sufficiently to take the sting out of the ground for a horse who doesn't particularly like to hear his hooves rattle.

Flying American filly Lady Aurelia destroyed the opposition in last year's Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes over course and distance before going on to win in Group 1 company at Deauville. Wesley Ward's three-year-old won her only start so far this campaign when easily accounting for lesser opposition at Keeneland in April. Punters may well be tempted by the current 3/1 on offer about her blasting he rivals away once again - although it won't be easy against a strong field, including last year's winner Profitable (14/1), and Sir Mark Prescott's exciting filly, Marsha (7/2).

And then we move on to the St James's Palace Stakes in which the dual 2000 Guineas winner Churchill (4/6) is expected by many to confirm places with the Newmarket runner-up up Barney Roy in what could turn out to be a tremendous clash of two big guns. Aidan O'Brien's charge will have the superb Ryan Moore on board and should take plenty of beating.

So if the three "jollies" go in at anything like the current odds on offer, bookies could be looking at a potential 11/1 treble, a blow that might take some recovering over the rest of the outstanding five-day fixture.

A win for even money chance Order of St George in Thursday's feature Ascot Gold Cup would also be costly for the layers. Last year's winner looks the one they all have to beat once again, while another Irish raider, Jessica Harrington's Alpha Centauri (9/4), hugely impressive when bolting in at Naas in listed company last month, is a persistent tip for the Albany Stakes later the same day.

Aidan O'Brien has another hotpot to open the show on Friday with his Caravaggio (11/10) expected to take all the beating in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup, and the yard may double up in double time as their dual English and Irish 1000 Guineas heroine Winter (4/7) is expected to take some stopping in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes.

Saturday may be the best day for the bookies and the toughest for punters, with no clear market leaders among the six races. By then, however, the battle may be all but won with the Ballydoyle team and Ryan Moore proving stalwarts in the punters' cause. It should be, as ever, a stunning week of top-class international racing.

Best of luck!

Paul Alster

Broadcast Journalist

Article Posted on Monday 19th June 2017 @ 11.10

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