Aidan O’Brien is a worthy 2/1 favourite to become Royal Ascot top trainer for the fifth time, based on past form at least, and going into the meeting with 24 runners will certainly cheer Ballydoyle backers, but the 45-year-old isn’t exactly experiencing a vintage year on his beloved Flat.
Despite starting the campaign with the likes of John F Kennedy, Found, Together Forever and Gleneagles dominating the markets for the late-spring/early-summer British Classics, only the latter managed to do the business in the 2,000 Guineas, although 50/1 outsider Qualify won the Oaks by a shoulder.
Nevertheless, O’Brien’s inability to really get a handle on his horses this year suggests there’s value in looking beyond Ballydoyle in Berkshire.
John Gosden has taken the top trainer title twice in the past three years, including 12 months ago, but with star three-year-old’s Golden Horn and Jack Hobbs, who finished one-two in the Derby earlier this month, sidestepping Royal Ascot for possible cracks at Sandown’s Eclipse in July, the Sussex native is only fourth-favourite at 7/1.
Richard Hannon and Michael Stoute split the pair at 3/1 apiece, and the former in particular looks well placed to take his first Royal Ascot trainer’s title; the 39-year-old has a whopping 36 runners entered at the meeting, with five currently priced up at 8/1 or shorter, including 5/4 Jersey Stakes jolly Ivawood.
However, one trainer who has really shook up this part of the south east since 2009 is American sprint king Wesley Ward, with four winners including two in the Windsor Castle Stakes, where he runs 6/1 shot Ruby Notion this week.
Before that, Finnegan looks to have a decent chance at 6/1 in the Coventry Stakes, while last year’s Windsor Castle winner Hootenanny, who went on to land the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in October, is 4/1 second-favourite for Friday’s Commonwealth Cup.
It will need a Herculean effort from the California-based handler’s horses, but 10/1 on Ward being crowned Royal Ascot 2015 top trainer doesn’t look a bad price.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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