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Elusive Kate leads home defence in Ascot opener

Animal Kingdom is strongly fancied to get the punters off to a flying start at Royal Ascot when he lines up for the opening Queen Anne Stakes. The 2011 Kentucky Derby winner looked better than ever when winning the Dubai World Cup in March and has been backed down to odds-on favourite.

On official ratings the son of Leroidesanimaux has 10lbs in hand of the opposition. He has only been out of the first two once in eleven career starts. That came in the 2011 Belmont when he received a hefty bump leaving the gate causing his rider to lose an iron, eventually finishing sixth.

He has drawn stall 13 with main market rivals Declaration Of War in six and Elusive Kate in three. The home defence has been weakened by the withdrawal of Lockinge Stakes winner Farhh through injury. The Godolphin colt trounced a good field by four lengths at Newbury and several of those who finished behind him take part on Tuesday.

Sovereign Debt and Aljamaaheer fared best in second and third with Chil The Kite fourth and Aidan O’Brien’s Declaration Of War proving a major disappointment in fifth. He was backed down to 5-4 favourite on the strength of an effortless win in the Heritage Stakes at Leopardstown in April.

Trainer John Gosden is doubly represented with Elusive Kate and Gregorian. The former will be the mount of William Buick and was third to Excelebration in two Group 1 races last season. She was just touched off in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket and won the Group 1 Prix Rothschild at Deauville in July.

Gregorian put up a game effort to win the Diomed Stakes at Epsom and holds Penitent and Gabrial on that form. David Simcock’s Trade Storm ended last season by winning a York handicap off a mark of 98 but he has since gone on to prove himself at group level in Dubai.

Richard Hannon will be represented by Trumpet Major and Libranno whilst the field is completed by big outsider Monsieur Chevalier. O’Brien has not declared a pacemaker for Declaration Of War and there does not appear to be an obvious front-runner in the field. This could be a slight concern for backers of the favourite who has been racing over a mile and a quarter.