ROYAL ASCOT 2020: Big day for O'Brien as juveniles set to shine

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Aidan O'Brien - with 73 career Royal Ascot winners - could be set for a big day at Royal Ascot, with three winners already this week
Aidan O'Brien - with 73 career Royal Ascot winners - could be set for a big day at Royal Ascot, with three winners already this week

Denied the opportunity for their desired preparation, and with the soft ground presenting additional question marks, it's not been easy picking winners at Royal Ascot this week, writes James Toney.

Following Jim Crowley - who has doubled his career meeting wins inside three days with his six triumphs - could well be the way ahead and, if in doubt, it often pays to back Aidan O'Brien blind here.

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O'Brien has bagged 73 Royal Ascot winners in the last 23 years and while he's not been banging in winners with his usual strike rate this week, three wins in three days is hardly cold form.

His horses all seem to be improving for their second run this season, Battleground was imperious winning the Chesham Stakes yesterday and Sir Dragonet and Monarch of Egypt both went very close too, a study of their split times showing they got unlucky too.

Which opens things up for another Ballydoyle charge in the Commonwealth Cup (3.35pm), today's Qipco British Champions Series feature race.

LOPE Y FERNANDEZ finished just two and a half lengths behind the highly-rated Siskin at the Irish 1000 Guineas one week ago and while this ground will be a new experience, the same could be said of all major rivals, with favourite Pierre Lapin's two winning runs both on good to firm.

O'Brien also has two eye-catching juveniles in the Norfolk Stakes (2.25pm) and Albany Stakes (1.50pm).

Ryan Moore takes the ride on LIPIZZANER in the former, a horse that was narrowly beaten in his first two starts but handled the softy heavy ground at Naas on his debut in March.

And the same jockey takes charge of MOTHER EARTH in the earlier race, who is stepped up to 6f with no major concerns about the ground.

O'Brien's Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck didn't do a lot right after winning last season's Epsom Classic but had an encouraging run on his seasonal debut at Newmarket, where he was beaten by Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup.

However, he clearly didn't relish this ground at Ascot when Enable handed down a 39-length beating at last year's King George, so Crowley's charge ELARQAM is preferred.

Trained by Mark Johnston, the Frankel colt had no worries with good to soft earlier this month when beaten by the narrowest margin by Lord North, who franked that form with a big win here in Wednesday's Prince Of Wales's Stakes.

Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy has won two this week and hit the bar with a couple more but Andrew Balding's BERKSHIRE ROCCO looks a good chance in the Queen's Vase (4.10pm) despite some concerns about the ground, worries that could be equally applied to the whole field.

DEJA appeared a horse with potential last season and will run for the first time as a gelding when Andrea Atzeni partners him for the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes (4.40pm).

The opening race has been something of a graveyard this week with winners returned at 14-1, 12-1 and 20-1 and the long-priced globetrotter MAYSTAR is perhaps most eye-catching.

Today‚Äôs Royal Ascot selections: 1.15 Maystar, 1.50 Mother Earth, 2.25 Lipizzaner, 3.00 Elarqam, 3.35 Lope Y Fernandez, 4.00 Berkshire Rocco, 4.40 Deja

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