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Five top clashes to savour at Royal Ascot

12 Jun 2017

Rematch between Churchill and Barney Roy in the St James's Palace Stakes will get the ball rolling

Caravaggio had energy left in his tank after his winning return at Naas. Picture:

Eight QIPCO British Champions Series races – all of them Group 1 contests – will play a pivotal part at Royal Ascot next week. Who is going to emerge triumphant? We pick five clashes that racing fans will be able to savour.

(Tuesday: St James’s Palace Stakes)

Bookmakers make Churchill favourite to confirm the superiority he showed over Barney Roy in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last month but the latter did not enjoy the rub of the green that day and there are plenty who believe he will be able to turn the tables. Churchill, trained by Aidan O’Brien, beat him by a length at Headquarters and has since followed up in the Irish 2000 Guineas. Meanwhile, Richard Hannon has kept Barney Roy’s powder dry. The rematch should be a cracker and the pair dominate the ante-post betting. Churchill is a general 4-6, with Barney Roy no bigger than 5-2.

(Tuesday: King’s Stand Stakes)

The speedy fillies head the betting – several firms make them 4-1 joint-favourites – and choosing between them is not easy. Lady Aurelia was spectacular when winning the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot last year and the American challenger is unbeaten when racing over shorter than 6f. Marsha signed off last season by winning the Prix de l’Abbaye and looked better than ever when defying a penalty on her return in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket. What price a dead-heat?

(Thursday: Gold Cup)

Order Of St George won the Gold Cup in great style last year and is no bigger than 11-8 to win back-to-back renewals after warming up with a fluent success at Leopardstown on his latest start. However, he will have a new rival to repel this time in the shape of French challenger Vazirabad, a class act who has won 11 of his 16 races and accumulated almost £1.6m in prize money. On official ratings, there is only 3lb between them, with Order Of George rated 120 and Vazirabad on 117. Tactics and luck in running will play a part.

(Friday: Commonwealth Cup)

The Commonwealth Cup has been a great innovation and the third running of the race promises to be a cracker. Caravaggio has won all of his five races – including the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot last year – and Aidan O’Brien says no horse has clocked quicker fractions on the Ballydoyle gallops. Similarly, Clive Cox has never hidden his admiration for Harry Angel and the colt looked top-notch when trouncing the opposition in the Group 2 Armstrong Aggregates Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock last time. With Blue Point and Bound For Nowhere also in the line-up, it should be one of the most exciting races of the meeting.

(Saturday: Diamond Jubilee Stakes)

This trio all tasted glory in the Champions Series last year. Limato was electrifying in the Darley July Cup, while The Tin Man was decisive in landing the QIPCO British Champions Sprint at Ascot on Champions Day. Meanwhile, Quiet Reflection won the Commonwealth Cup and Betfred Sprint Cup. None of the trio were at their best on their respective seasonal reappearances but their trainers are likely to have them at the peak of the powers on this occasion. It will be no surprise if this proves the first of many clashes between them this term.