Top Notch Tonto finally repaid the faith shown in him by his trainer Brian Ellison on Saturday when lighting up the Knavesmire with a blistering turn of foot to take the honours in the Ian and Kate Hall Macmillan Ganton Stakes.
Sporting first time cheekpieces and with just enough cut in the ground, Top Notch Tonto ended a 12-race losing streak dating back to October 2013 as he trounced his rivals under the sought after Silvestre De Sousa.
The ever popular chesnut with distinctive white socks received the biggest cheer over the two-day June meeting in what proved an absolute minefield for punters with not a single outright favourite winning.
In the feature race the 888Sport Charity Sprint a major gamble went astray as the well backed favourite Scalzo was sent off 7/4 from a morning price of 7/2, but he failed to land a blow and it has since been revealed the Hamdam Al Maktoum owned colt suffered a stress fracture during the race.
It was left to the unbeaten Twilight Son to pick up the pieces and ultimately prove a very impressive winner for trainer Henry Candy and jockey Fergus Sweeney.
The ever-increasing popularity of Royal Ascot shows no signs of relenting as the five-day fixture welcomes a record number of overseas challengers this year including the second highest rated horse in the world Able Friend, who has carried all before him in his native Hong Kong.
Ascot will also welcome a strong contingent from the US, Japan, Australia, France and Ireland to what looks set to be a spectacular royal meeting.
With last weekend’s thunderstorms failing to materialise around the Ascot area, the going for this week’s festivities is set to be good to firm which is terrible news for local trainer Peter Niven, whose stable star Clever Cookie is in desperate need of some juice in the ground to take his place in Thursday’s Ascot Gold Cup
He said: “It’s a real tough one, he’s gone on fast ground before but he hasn’t really shown his true form on it.
“It’s whether it is worth the risk or not. There’s only one Ascot Gold Cup, next year might not be his chance as he’ll be eight.
“There’s got to be a doubt, like there is about the top two or three in the betting, it could end up being a weakened race.”
The unlikely participation of Clever Cookie and red hot favourite Forgotten Rules owing to the ground, leaves punters with a wide open betting heat and Willie Mullins sends over Simenon for another crack at Thursday’s feature race following second and fourth placed finishes in the last two seasons.
Mullins charge clearly loves it around Ascot and especially the Royal meeting after becoming one of the only horses to win twice in the same year at Royal Ascot in 2012 when winning the Ascot Stakes followed by the Queen Alexandra Stakes four days later.
Not only will Simenon love the rattling ground and marathon trip around his favourite course, but his re-appearance was also full of promise when travelling like the best horse in a race at Sandown before tiring late on to finish a creditable fifth behind Vent De Force, who had race fitness on his side.
That was Simenon’s first run for 10 months and he is expected to show bags of improvement in what will be his main target of the season.
The introduction of a new a race on Friday in the form of the Commonwealth Cup has already been heralded a success after attracting a top class field of three-year-old sprinters in what is one of the most highly anticipated contests of the week.
Long time favourite Limato is out to prove the doubters wrong after losing his unbeaten record when last seen at Haydock when beaten by the reopposing Adaay but many experts believe Henry Candy’s charge will bounce back as he was unsuited by the over watered ground.
Nevertheless Adaay is a rapidly improving horse for William Haggas and Limato may struggle to reverse the placings, however he may face a bigger danger from the underrated Irish challenger Anthem Alexander, who was victorious at last year’s Royal Ascot.
Crack sprinter trainer Eddie Lynam watched Anthem Alexander make an impressive seasonal return when readily disposing of The Happy Prince despite reportedly been in need of the run and with the expected improvement and firmer ground in his favour he looks like one of the best bets of the week at 8/1.
The Richard Hannon-trained Tiggy Wiggy will again prove popular with punters as she aims give Richard Hughes the perfect send off in one of his last ever rides at his final Royal Ascot.
But after watching him chase home Anthem Alexander in last year’s Queen Mark Stakes I see no reason why she will turn the form around this time.
Another Irish raider whose chances may have been seriously underestimated is that of the Sabrina Harty trained Ansgar in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes over six furlongs on Saturday.
With the majority of all the top British sprinters being aimed at the King Stand Stakes on the opening day, we are left with a real void in this Group 1 and although the Australian sprinting superstar Brazen Beau brings genuine top class form to the table he may struggle to translate his form in a climate he is not used to.
Mustajeeb is an obvious danger for the master trainer Dermot Weld, but his price is way too short compared to Ansgar, who boasts a similar level of form and can easily be forgiven his last run when clearly in need of the outing.
Ansgar’s unheralded trainer Sabrina Harty can clearly get one ready for the big day as she proved last year when Ansgar won three group races and with good to firm ground set to be ideal he will certainly outrun his odds.
In the past 10 renewals this race has hardly been short of surprise’s with 20/1, 25/1, 33/1 and 33/1 winners so hopefully this year Ansgar could be the latest to spring a shock and prove quickest of all.
Simenon, Ascot Gold Cup, Thursday, 16/1.
Anthem Alexander, Commonwealth Cup, Friday, 8/1.
Ansgar, Diamond Jubilee Stakes, Saturday, 33/1.