By Dave Stevos
Day one at Royal Ascot is chock full of top class action and there are a couple of fascinating Group 1s to be run. First up is the Queen Anne (8f) at 2.30 and 14 runners are due to go to post. The Hannon yard has been the stable to follow in this race with three winners since 2009. He is represented by Toormore this season but he looks up against it. Four of the last six favourites have won, with no winner priced bigger than 15/2 since 2006. With rain forecast there could be a few non-runners, and the racing surface has already eased to good to soft. With that in mind an ability to handle easy ground will be paramount and that narrows the field down significantly.
One horse that looks certain to relish the ease in the ground will be Belardo, and this fella has already won two Group 1s, one of those coming on soft at Newmarket (7F). He started off very slowly last season but he improved as the year went on and he pushed Solow all the way here over course and distance in the Group 1 QE II stakes on good to soft ground.
He was equally as impressive on good ground at Newbury in the Lockinge last time out and he comes here in tip top shape. He showed a scorching turn of foot to put that race at Newbury to bed, and at this high level a smart turn of foot will take you an awfully long way. It can get jockeys out of trouble if they make an error of judgement and it can get them through gaps that might only appear for a split second. Belardo looks like a horse on the improve and with ground and trip to suit he could be a tough nut to crack.
Tepin looks a fascinating contender for America and of her four Group 1 wins one of those came on soft. However, she has shown her very best form on a quick surface and she will need to be special to beat Belardo on his preferred ground conditions. Ervedya represents France and she is another that will enjoy getting her toe in. She was beaten on good ground last time but the return to a more forgiving surface should show her in a much better light.
At a price Kodi Bear is one to keep a close eye on for Cox and Kirby. He got to within 2L of Belardo as a 2yo on soft in the Group 1 7f Dewhurst at Newmarket back in 2014. He should strip a lot fitter for his seasonal return at Newbury when he was 6L behind the same rival. The ground was good at Newbury that day and Belardo had the benefit of a couple of recent runs. Back on a softer surface and with that Newbury run behind him Kodi Bear could get a lot closer to Belardo, and if you are looking for a bit of each way value you could do a lot worse than have a pound or two on this talented son of Kodiac.
Stevos’ Selections: Belardo (win) 9/2 @ Ladbrokes Kodi Bear (e/w) @ 14/1 Paddy Power