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Circus Maximus can make mark


Circus Maximus will lead the charge for Aidan O’Brien

Circus Maximus will lead the charge for Aidan O’Brien

Circus Maximus will lead the charge for Aidan O’Brien


Royal Ascot will be scarcely recognisable today with no procession, no top hats and tails and no spectators as the five-day meeting takes place behind closed doors for the first time.

Aidan O'Brien's thirst for silverware never changes, however, and the Ballydoyle maestro flies the Irish flag almost single-handedly on day one with a host of leading fancies.

O'Brien is likely to duke it out with John Gosden to be crowned leading trainer at the meeting and the pair collide in the Group One Queen Anne Stakes (1.50) with Circus Maximus heading his trainer's bid for a fourth success in the €280,000 contest.

A narrow winner here 12 months ago when taking the St James's Palace, the teak-tough Galileo colt showed his durability once again when scoring in the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp and he sets the standard under Ryan Moore.

Gosden's lightly raced filly Terebellum, which is sure to benefit from a Group Two win on her reappearance, also vies for favouritism, but 2018 English 1,000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook may be the smart each-way proposition with Richard Hannon's five-year-old making a pleasing return at Kempton two weeks ago.

O'Brien and Gosden have shared the last four renewals of the Group Two Ribblesdale Stakes (2.25) and Gosden is spoiled for choice with Frankie Dettori partnering red-hot favourite Frankly Darling, an impressive maiden winner at Newcastle two weeks ago.

The value may lie with stablemate Miss Yoda, however, having already scored in esteemed company when Rob Havlin's mount overcame plenty of obstacles to land the Oaks Trial at Lingfield earlier this month.

Moore partners recent Listed fourth, Passion, rather than last week's Leopardstown maiden winner Ennistymon, but both may be playing catch-up with the Gosden pair, while O'Brien's Mogul tackles the Group Two King Edward VII Stakes (3.0) with his Epsom Derby ticket at stake.

O'Brien's Sergei Prokofiev and Darren Bunyan's Hit The Bid are two Irish outsiders trying to upset the apple cart and turn over Charles Hills' hot favourite Battaash in the Group One King's Stand Stakes (3.35) and it looks an unenviable task.

Getting stuck in at odds-on is not advised, however, given that Battaash is without a win from three starts at Ascot and he is taken on.

Glass Slippers holds a victory over him in the Prix de l'Abbaye and Kevin Ryan's progressive filly may upset the odds once again.

The National Hunt brigade delivered on the Flat yesterday with both Noel Meade and Rachael Blackmore on the mark at Fairyhouse.

Meade's five-year-old Powerful Ted took take the Ballyhane Stud Maiden under Classic-winning rider Colin Keane, coasting home by four-and-a-half lengths.

Little was thought of Blackmore's chances in the second division of the Meath Handicap aboard the friendless Oromo (28/1).

Back surgery over the winter seemed to help the seven-year-old, with Blackmore as strong as ever in the finish to see off veteran Sharjah (7/1) by three-quarters of a length.