IT'S day one of Royal Ascot which means it's time for a Weekend Punt special.
Our man Jack Keene continued his hot streak at Epsom earlier this month with a 58-1 double – meaning he is £74 in profit to a level £1 stake since the column began last August.
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The St James's Palace Stakes is a fantastically competitive race this year.
Guineas hero Poetic Flare is the one to beat, but this will be his fifth tough race in a matter of weeks.
You can make a case for several of these, including proven Group 1 performers Battleground and Lucky Vega, but this looks ripe for an upset so I'm going to take a flyer on one at a huge price in BULLACE (4.20 Ascot).
He has made huge progress this season, easily winning a red-hot handicap first time out at Newmarket. That form has proven incredibly strong, with four subsequent winners in behind.
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He then took a step forward when a close third to Mostahdaf and Highland Avenue (who are both considerably shorter in the betting here) at Sandown, where he was too keen in a steadily-run race on deep, testing ground.
He battled all the way to the line and only gave way in the final strides to his two rivals, who were more patiently ridden, but it was a big career-best and he will be much happier back on this faster surface.
He is a strong-traveller with a potent turn of foot who should get a strong gallop to aim at here, so I expect this fast mile around a bend to play to his strengths. Trainer Ralph Beckett doesn't throw his horses into Group 1 company for the sake of it – he's a runner they hold in high regard.
Day one will be a pretty quiet betting day for me otherwise, though I will have a few quid on SALDIER (6.10 Ascot) in the lucky last.
He is a top hurdler with plenty of speed as he showed when bolting up over a similar trip to this at Listowel last time out.
The fast ground will be right up his street and Willie Mullins and Ryan Moore have a formidable record when teaming up together.
He carries a penalty for his runaway Listowel success but that won't stop him making a very bold bid.
There are some mouthwatering betting opportunities coming up later in the week, so don't use up all your bullets on the first day for the sake of it. It's a marathon, not a sprint!
Royal Ascot day one selections (advised odds correct at time of writing)
4.20 Royal Ascot – Bullace 1pt EW @ 40-1
6.10 Royal Ascot – Saldier 1pt WIN @ 11-4
- (Column started August 6) rolling P&L: +74pts
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