The top-quality action just keeps coming at Royal Ascot and we’re already at the half-way stage. Here are Nick Luck’s thoughts on the seven-race card.

Favourite looks rock solid in opener

No boat rocking in Thursday’s opener, the Golden Gates Handicap (1:15pm) at Royal Ascot – I like ACQUITTED at 4/1 here, and I won’t be alone, as the booking of Ryan Moore suggests.

Time may tell he was attempting the impossible against Palace Pier in their comeback race at Newcastle, but I loved the way Acquitted stuck at it once headed, suggesting that the extra two furlongs could bring about more improvement. The pedigree offers enough to support that view and this uncomplicated horse looks in front of the handicapper.

I’ll be playing CEPHEUS each-way at 16/1 as well. He was shell-shocked by the pace of the Guineas, but I can’t help feeling that a mark of 87 underestimates him on the form of his maiden victory last year. He will definitely improve for going up in trip.

It could be another Regal day for Stoute

Although Fox Tal will be all the rage for the Wolferton (1:50pm), his presence is making REGAL REALITY a really juicy price at 9/2 for a horse of his ability. He is a bit of a handful, but connections do a great job with him, and if ever there’s a horse who should improve for being gelded, here he is. I fancy him strongly in this spot, particularly with a strong pace likely.

Guest no Ropey bet in the Jersey

And now for something a bit different: I just cannot resist the huge price of 40/1 about ROPEY GUEST to break his maiden in the Jersey Stakes (2:25pm).

To say that he is 10 times the price of leading fancy Molatham, despite beating him on their only meeting, is reductive, but still true. More to the point, he posted a slew of good efforts behind the very best last year, two of which came at this track. Aside from the potential of favourite King Leonidas, I don’t see much else in this race that really excites me, and I’ll be really disappointed if Ropey Guest doesn’t get pretty close to the frame.

Another one I quite like at a price is KING OF ATHENS at 22/1, who ran a fine comeback at Leopardstown last week and is just starting to fulfil his potential.

O’Brien can win the Chesham Battle

BATTLEGROUND looks the answer at 10/3 to the Chesham (3:00pm) – by War Front out of the magnificent Found, he is bred to be a star, and was ridden with an eye to the future on his debut, making some lovely late ground after a tardy start. There was a bit of money around for him at big odds that day, and he might well have beaten a smart looking field if the penny had dropped earlier.

Strad should win but Moonlight Spirit can chase him home

I don’t really want or expect Stradivarius to be beaten in the Gold Cup (3:35pm), but the game catches up with them all eventually, and his prep this year has been necessarily unconventional.

I’ll take a chance that MOONLIGHT SPIRIT at 12/1 can take a good step forward, having been gelded since his last run and completely unexposed at a marathon distance. It seems interesting that William Buick has chosen him over Cross Counter.

Moore and Gosden contender looks worth of support in Britannia

There are all sorts of possibilities in the Britannia (4:10pm), but I’m tempted by CHEROKEE TRAIL at a decent price of 18/1. He’s got a patchy look to his form at first glance, but he can be excused soft ground and dirt for his two poor runs, while he appeared not to stay in a very hot (on the clock) running of the Newmarket Stakes behind two stablemates. Cutting back to this straight mile is exactly what he wants, and I like that he broke his maiden here for good measure.

Lightning could strike twice in Sandringham

In the final race, the Sandringham (4:40pm), I’m going for lightning to strike twice for Charlie Fellowes and Hayley Turner, who took this last year with Thanks Be. This time around, they’re represented by the beautifully bred ONASSIS, who improved a little with each run last year. Her pedigree suggests she is going to be a fair bit better than an 81 filly, while a stiff, straight mile should be absolutely ideal. She’s available at 20/1.

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