Royal Ascot is three weeks away but it has been on my mind since the end of the 2018 meeting. The level at which I ply my trade always makes it unlikely we will contest the Group 1 races but the race programme gives everyone a chance to make an impact.
However difficult it is for us to hit the target, it would be impossible without very careful planning and a clearly defined strategy. Our tally is two Windsor Castles, a Queen Alexander, a Hunt Cup, a Britannia and a Buckingham Palace.
The handicaps are ultra-competitive and the draw can play it's part. In order to stay sane, I have to believe that over time, draws both help and hinder in equal measures.
This year's team will include three possibles for the Hunt Cup. Raising Sand is there for all to see but requires some ease in the ground to show his best form. Cliffs Of Capri is a dual course winner who runs well fresh and has been aimed in this direction since returning from Dubai in March. Lush Life is potentially the best handicapped of the three.
I was hoping for a 6lb rise following her Sandown win last week. Unfortunately, she went up only 3lb, putting her on a mark of 94, so she will need a penalty to get in. I will cry if she is standing in her stable while the race is being run as I believe she is a stakes horse in the making.
Jukebox Jive will contest the Ascot Stakes and will be as fit as any horse I've ever sent out. It is no coincidence jumps trainers win an abnormal number of Flat staying handicaps. With this in mind, his current training regime resembles a Mullins-Henderson hybrid without the jumping.
I hope Jersey Wonder can sneak into the bottom of the King George V handicap as I'm confident he will stay and be a progressive three-year-old.
The two-year-old picture can change quickly leading up to the meeting. Seraphinite will go for the Albany and is a rapidly improving filly. Emten will go to the Queen Mary, she is very fast and has an amazing physique - she makes a Wesley Ward two-year-old look like a weakling.
I have pencilled in plans for a handful of the as yet unraced two-year-olds, and some of my maiden runners in the next ten days have enough ability to be there. The timing is tight and we are probably odds-against them coming out of their races well enough to back up so quickly. But if they show the right signs on debut, it's not impossible.