Junior landed the gamble of the 2011 Cheltenham Festival in the Kim Muir Challenge Cup, and there will be plenty hoping he can do the same at Royal Ascot.
The David Pipe-trained eight-year-old is the reigning Ascot Stakes champion having made all the running last year to dominate the 20-runner field by five lengths, and Junior has been installed as the 4/1 favourite this year.
Ryan Moore has been booked by David Pipe to ride his star of both the National Hunt and Flat scene, and with Moore in the saddle Junior becomes an even more enticing betting proposition.
Except there has only been one winning favourite of this race in the last 18 renewals and at eight years old, Junior will have to defy the age trends to make it consecutive Ascot Stakes wins.
10 of the last 14 winners of this race have been aged four or five, and if we take into account the trend that tells us seven of the last 10 Ascot Stakes have been won by a horse trained by a National Huntsman, we’re left with two chances.
Nicky Henderson will saddle 11/2 third favourite Veiled and Tim Vaughan will saddle 50/1 chance Private Story.
Of Veiled and Private Story, Veiled is the more obvious candidate having won the Mares Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but a quick glance down the recent winners of this race suggests Vaughan’s gelding shouldn’t be written off because of his odds.
Veiled was very impressive when winning at Cheltenham and won her last outing at Newmarket in a Class 4 race.
Kieren Fallon has been handed the ride on Veiled making his chances even more appealing, and Nicky Henderson will be in confident mood ahead of the penultimate race on the first day of Royal Ascot.
Private Story has a lot to find on last season’s form but a switch to the Vaughan yard may be just what the four-year-old needs.