Powerful O'Brien team leads way with raiders set to leave Royal mark
There's no sense of a pre-appetiser at Royal Ascot today and it's straight into the main course with the Group One Queen Anne Stakes (2.30) - worth a cool €670,000 - kicking things off at the five-day meeting.
Aidan O'Brien, hovering around 4/9 to be crowned top trainer again at the Royal meeting, saddles Le Brivido in the opener but the French recruit will have to step up from his fifth behind Lockinge winner Mustashry.
Michael Stoute's six-year-old is a worthy favourite as Jim Crowley's mount continues to get better with age, while last year's Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Romanised arrives in the best form since his Classic success.
There was little to separate Ken Condon's charge with Le Brivido on Newbury form, while Dermot Weld's Hazapour - his only runner of the week - is the other Irish runner in a hot contest.
The Group One St James's Palace Stakes (4.20) is similarly mouth-watering with a rematch between Charles Hills' Phoenix Of Spain and John Gosden's Too Darn Hot.
Too Darn Hot couldn't keep up when they clashed in the Irish 2,000 Guineas but with his trainer's admission that "he's been probably the worst-managed horse this year," the best may be yet to come.
It's hard to see beyond the top two if they run as expected but Phoenix Of Spain is the more reliable option as O'Brien sends a trio after them, including supplementary entry Circus Maximus.
The Ballydoyle maestro is not renowned with sprinters and sends Sergei Prokofiev and Fairyland in search of his first victory in the Group One King's Stand Stakes (3.40).
The 49-year-old will be up against it, however, with Hills saddling crack speedster Battaash, while last year's victor Blue Point is back for more for Charlie Appleby and James Doyle.
O'Brien has farmed the Group Two Coventry Stakes (3.05) with eight winners and he looks primed to add another as a four-pronged attack is led by Curragh winner Arizona.
Fort Myers, Royal Lytham and King Of Athens also take their chance while Magic Wand - winner of the Ribblesdale at this meeting 12 months ago - is his sole challenger in the Listed Wolferton Stakes (5.35). Last year's Irish Derby hero Latrobe also runs for his son Joseph with Willie Mullins' Riven Light and Fozzy Stack's Zihba completing the raiding party
The penultimate Ascot Stakes (5.0) over 2m4f looks set to be dominated by the visiting team once again - Irish runners have landed the last five renewals - with the travelling sextet in the top half of the betting.
Mengli Khan is a rare Michael O'Leary-owned runner at the Royal meeting, while trainer Gordon Elliott also saddles Batts Rock with Mullins - successful in four of the last seven runnings - responsible for likely favourite Buildmeupbuttercup.