The Fallon Factor: “She’s beaten most of these and I think she’ll beat them all again”
The former Champion Jockey gives you the inside track on day one at Royal Ascot
The first day of Royal Ascot is always a cracker and it’s going to be beautiful weather, beautiful ground and loads of fantastic horses.
I’ve been fortunate to have some great days at Royal Ascot and also had the privilege of meeting the Queen a few times. I’ve ridden winners for her, and for the Queen Mother as well. I remember winning on Double Brandy for the Queen Mother and being terribly shy when she was talking to me. I didn’t know what to say at all and ended up mumbling away to her because it’s such a monumental thing to meet them both.
Other than potentially meeting the Queen, the jockeys will have to give consideration to is the draw. Everyone makes a big issue of it on the straight course, but Chris Stickels, the clerk of the course, does a good job and it shouldn’t matter too much.
On the round course the draw’s much more of a problem. If you’re drawn wide in one of those big handicaps you can use too much gas going forward or you can get in a bad position trying to tuck in. It’s something to bear in mind, even for races like the Ascot Stakes.
It’s also worth considering how different trainers approach the week. I can see Aidan O’Brien and Mark Johnston doing well at opposite ends of the meeting.
Mark Johnston’s horses are flying at the moment and most of his best chances are always towards the back end of the week. He’s got a great record at Ascot. Aidan, on the other hand, tends to tear it up at the front half of the meeting and then see what he can pick up from there.
I’m going to sound like a broken record with everyone fancying him but I do like Ribchester in this race. He was very impressive last time too. Deauville’s an interesting one, but his best trip is a mile and a quarter so I think he’ll find a mile tough and he could get done for a turn of foot.
This is going to be a great race. I like the look of De Bruyne Horse in here. He was very impressive at Epsom at it was a good, fast time as well. He looks like he’s got bags of improvement in him and Cardsharp, the horse he beat, was a good winner at Beverley. He’s got a rock-solid chance. Rajasinghe is worth a second look as well. He won at Newcastle very impressively in a good time. He was backed as if defeat was out of the question that day and he’s a nice horse for sure.
Marsha’s one of my favourite horses in training. She’s a proper filly and gave them all weight and a trouncing last time. She’s beaten most of these and I think she’ll beat them all again. I didn’t ride a lot for her trainer Sir Mark Prescott but I did ride him a good few winners at a decent strike rate. He’s an excellent trainer and probably the most interesting man you can listen to in racing. He makes a lot of sense.
Churchill will win this race. He’s a horse that only ever does enough and is the sort that Aidan O’Brien does so well with. This type of horse just gets better and better with Aidan – think of Giant’s Causeway, Rock Of Gibraltar and Dylan Thomas – and Churchill looks the real deal. Knowing Aidan and how he trains I think this will be the best we’ve seen yet from Churchill. Barney Roy will give him a race without question and he was arguably unlucky in the 2,000 Guineas, but Churchill beat him and will do so again. It was the same in the Irish 2,000 Guineas as Thunder Snow looks like he’d win but Churchill was too good. I don’t know how Aidan does it but he gets this horses in a rhythm and the more the race the better they are.
I liked the look of Thomas Hobson in this race but the ground’s going to be too quick for him. Instead Star Rider looks interesting to me. She stays well and has a good draw. You might think the draw doesn’t make much difference over 2m4f but it really does. If you get shuffled back too far they you’ve got to pass everyone in the straight and that’s hard work.
Wesley Ward’s horses are so hard to beat over 5f at Royal Ascot. They’re out of the gate and gone in a flash, which gives them a massive advantage over the rest of the horses. I wouldn’t know how good Elizabeth Darcy and Nootka Sound are, but they’ll be difficult to beat.