Willie Mullins’s seven winners at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival ensured that he was confirmed as its top trainer for the fourth year in succession.
However, it would be foolish to consider Mullins as only a leading National Hunt trainer. Since 2010, he has saddled 13 runners at Royal Ascot and returned home with four winners.
Current entries show Mullins is lining up a four-runner team to travel to Berkshire this year and using his previous strike rate as a guide, at least one should taste victory.
Max Dynamite is set to go in the Ascot Gold Cup and Wicklow Brave in the Hardwicke Stakes, but it is the Mullins duo in the Ascot Stakes that are being looked at here.
Mullins has won the Ascot Stakes twice in recent years, with Simenon’s success in 2012 followed up by the victory of Clondow Warrior 12 months ago.
He is set to be dual-handed this year, with Champion Hurdle entrant Sempre Medici and more frequent flat performer Pique Sous.
Sempre Medici (10/1) may have won only one of his nine flat starts, but the grey has finished in the first three in another five contests.
The six-year-old hasn’t been seen on the flat in a year, when a beaten favourite off a mark of 93 at the Curragh. However, that handicap was over an inadequate 1m4f. At Royal Ascot he will run over a mile further and has been dropped to a more lenient mark of 91.
Ryan Moore has been on board both of Mullins’ previous Ascot Stakes winners and the fact he has already been confirmed as Pique Sous’ mount suggests the nine-year-old is the first string of the yard.
He won the Queen Alexandra Stakes over 2m5f at Royal Ascot in 2014, but has barely been seen since because of a succession of injuries.
Pique Sous (8/1) made his long-awaited comeback at the Curragh last month when finishing down the field in a handicap over a trip too short, but this was surely nothing more than a fitness-enhancing mission.
Beneficially, he has also been dropped 2lb by the handicapper for this racecourse reappearance, meaning Pique Sous will compete in the Ascot Stakes off a mark of 98. Based on his victory in the Queen Alexandra Stakes, this is a rating that is far from beyond winning from.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.