'The track is in lovely condition' - latest going for Royal Ascot
With Royal Ascot just five days away, we've outlined everything you need to know about ground conditions as racing gears up for the five-day bonanza, starting on Tuesday, June 15.
The official going description
The official going at Ascot on Thursday morning was described as good, good to firm in places. The GoingStick on the straight course read at 7.7 and 7.5 on the round course.
What does the forecast say?
According to the BHA racing administration site and the Met Office, Ascot is forecast dry and warm conditions until the weekend with temperatures set to reach 23C on Friday.
Temperatures will then increase on Sunday and Monday to highs of 26C and sunny conditions, while the opening day of the royal meeting is forecast to be 24C and sunny.
Temperatures will then drop through the week, with possible risks of showers and thunderstorms.
View from the course
Chris Stickels, clerk of the course, said: "The track is in lovely condition. We had a wet May and had about 90mm of rain last month, which was quite a bit more than average and that set us up in good shape to get some lovely grass growth.
"Now it's dried out a bit we have needed to start watering, and we're a mixture of good and good to firm.
"We'll monitor the forecast and keep a watchful eye on it. When the temperatures get hotter there can be the risk of thunderstorms, but it doesn't look like we've got any before racing at the moment.
"We're going through a watering programme where we water the straight every other day and the round course every night, but it varies depending on how warm and dry and breezy it's been.
"It's going to be pretty hot on Monday and Tuesday, so we're planning to start on a mixture of good and good to firm one way or the other. It's not impossible by the first race that it could be good to firm, good in places."
What's the latest betting?
For the opening race of Royal Ascot, the Queen Anne Stakes (2.30, Tuesday) Palace Pier is the hot favourite at 4-9 to continue his domination in the mile division for older horses and land a fourth Group 1 of his career. Shock Breeders' Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia is next best at 5-1.
Battaash is as short as 7-4 to win successive King's Stand Stakes (3.40, Tuesday) on his comeback appearance, while 2,000 Guineas winner Poetic Flare heads the market at a general 3-1 in the St James's Palace Stakes (4.20, Tuesday) from the John Gosden-trained Mostahdaf at 4-1.
In the feature race of the second day, the Prince of Wales's Stakes (4.20, Wednesday), last year's winner Lord North is the general 7-4 favourite to add another Ascot success to his haul, with the 2020 1,000 Guineas and Oaks heroine Love next best at 9-4.
Which key runners will it suit?
The news of fast conditions will be music to the ears of most of the favourites on the opening day.
While Palace Pier has won two Group 1s on ground described as heavy and good to soft, the four-year-old suffered his sole career defeat on soft ground over course and distance in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Battaash also thrives when the ground is rattling, with his two best Racing Post Ratings of 129 coming on good to firm ground in the 2019 Nunthorpe Stakes and King George VI Stakes a year earlier.
Poetic Flare may be a versatile performer, but his career highlight on the Rowley Mile came on ground officially described as good to firm, while La Barrosa and Lucky Vega should be better suited to quicker conditions having got stuck in the mud in the Irish 2,000 Guineas last time.
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