It’s Day 2 of the Royal Ascot. The meeting is of course the centrepiece of Ascot’s racing year but the meeting has always been traditionally a key element of the British summer social calendar alongside such events as Henley Regatta and Wimbledon.
It is a gloriously eccentric ‘English’ event off the track and a conspicuous celebration of wealth and nowhere else do we see the class division so strictly enforced. Whilst off the track nothing has changed in the past 100 years, on the track it’s becoming more and more a truly global racing festival.
This year there are a record number of horses coming from overseas, with runners from United States, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan joining the usual strong Irish and French challenge. Sadly racegoers won’t be able to see one of the overseas horses as last years Kentucky Derby hero California Chrome is out of the 4:20 with a bruised foot.
Moving on to Wednesday’s top class racing action:
2:30 – JERSEY STAKES (Group 3)
A seven furlong contest with sixteen declared to go to post. Connections of Ivawood wont hear of defeat for their three year old and you can see why, as he has finished third behind Gleneagles in both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas. He comes into the race with the best form and is expected to be suited by the drop down a furlong in trip; he is a best priced 13/8 in the ante post lists for the race. He looks the likely winner of the race but it’s not a one horse race by any means.
The filly Devonshire who was third in Irish 1000 Guineas and Toscanini who was second to Gleneagles at as a two year old and will like the quicker ground have to be taken very seriously. The one that I like at an each way price though is the Barry Hills trained filly Fadhayyil. As a two year old she was good enough to run Lucida to a length, that day she looked the likely winner before her inexperience showed well inside the final furlong. After that race she was aimed at the 1000 Guineas and although she turned up for the race she finished a well beaten 5th. She may not have trained on as well as connections had hoped or she could just have needed more time to come to hand. We shall know more today. The drop back a furlong in trip shouldn’t be an issue as she has plenty of speed in her pedigree. Her trainer has had a quiet start to the season but has had a couple of winners in the past 14 days so it’s Fadhayyil for me each way.
Verdict – Ivawood will be tough to beat but am going each way on the filly Fadhayyil.
3:05 – QUEEN MARY STAKES (Group 2) (Fillies)
A two year old race over 5f and it would be nice if trainer Michael Dods could get into the winners enclosure with his filly Easton Angel who looked a smart horse in the making when winning at Beverley in May. Her draw in 1 is a bit off putting though but if she can overcome it then she has a major chance.
Tommy Stack brings over Cry Me A River from Ireland. This filly was put into the deep end when finishing 4th behind Round Two and Washington DC at the Curragh, they both run on Tuesday, and her form could well have been given a major boost come post time. She shaped really well in that race and was able to keep up with the early speed and her jockey wasn’t hard on her when her chance had gone. She is clearly held in high regard and should come on a lot for that run. She is drawn in the middle in 15 and looks to have a major chance.
Mark Johnston saddles two in Rah Rah and Delizia both look to have chances but I have a preference for the former. Rah Rah a winner on her debut at Kempton followed that up with a win at Chester. What was likeable about her Chester win was they way she battled back to beat the second who had looked likely winner inside the final furlong. A big strong filly, she has plenty of scope for improvement and should be handle the forecast quicker surface.
Verdict – Its Rah Rah and Cry Me A River against the field in what looks a competitive renewal.
3:40 – DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE STAKES (formerly Windsor Forest Stakes) (Group 2) (Fillies & Mares)
Eight have been declared to go to post in this one mile contest Sir Michael Stoute’s Integral is the favourite at a best priced 11/10 in the ante post market. She won the race last year but carries a 5lb penalty for that win. Clearly the five year old is still the one to beat even with her penalty and her close up 4th in the Lockinge was a good reappearance.
Lightning Thunder was second in both the English and Irish 1000 Guineas lasy year and a reproduction of that level of form would put her very much in the mix today and her 16/1 ante post odds would look big. Sadly she didn’t show much on her reappearance at Lingfield and those odds are about right about her chance. The one that could shake up the favourite is the Clive Brittain trained Rizeena. The four year old won last years Coronation Stakes and is now 3-3 on the track, she clearly likes Ascot. Well beaten on her seasonal reappearance when she was very fresh but last year she improved a lot on for her first run to win the Coronation Stakes. She will have been trained for this race, will like the quick going and her trainer who usually hits top form in June has been amongst the winners.
Verdict – Integral is clearly the one to beat but Rizeena looks the value to enhance her excellent course record
4:20 – PRINCE OF WALES´S STAKES (British Champions Series) (Group 1) (CLASS 1)
Ten go to post for this 1m 2f race and I think this could be one of the races of the meeting. The Grey Gatsby trained by Kevin Ryan comes in to the race with the best overall form having won last years French Derby before ending the season by beating Australia in the Irish Champion Stakes. He was a little disappointing at the Curragh when 4th to Al Kazeem but it was his first start since Meydan in March, so he was probably a little short fitness wise and he didn’t get much cover on the outside during the race.
There is every chance that he can leave that form behind with a stronger overall gallop.
Cannock Chase has well backed in the ante post market and was a winner of the Group 3 over C&D at last years meeting. He is plenty short in the betting at 8/1 on what he has achieved so far but he is lightly raced, likes the track and quick going so we can expect a big run.
Ectot come over from France while he has the class to be competitive, he does tend to pull hard in the early stages of his races which won’t help his cause here.
Free Eagle comes into the race as ante post favourite and deserves to be. He comes from the stable of master Ascot trainer Dermot Weld. Lightly raced this will only be his 5th career start, he clearly hasn’t been the easiest horse to train but make no mistake he looks a Group 1 horse. Last September he won a Group 3 at Leopardstown in very impressive style and on the clock would have gone close to winning the Irish Champions Stakes. On his final start of last season he was close third in the Champions Stakes over C&D but that was on heavy ground which wouldn’t have suited him. We haven’t seen him since that run but his trainer is clearly well able to prepare one after a long lay off so that’s no real concern. I think he is capable of plenty more improvement in him and could still be a ‘superstar’ in the making.
The Japanese are looking for their first win at the Royal meeting and they have a live one in Spielberg. He is the best Japanese horse over today’s distance and was a Group 1 winner in his homeland before going onto run 3rd in what looked a hot renewal of the Japan Cup. Connections have booked Christophe Soumillon for the ride and a reproduction of his Japan Cup run gives him a live chance. I think he could be a little overpriced in the betting and offers each some way value.
Verdict – I like Free Eagle for the win and Spielberg can repay each way support at double figure odds.
5:00 – ROYAL HUNT CUP (Heritage Handicap) (CLASS 1)
Thirty three go to post in this annual cavalry charge over the straight mile and I have about 16 contenders for the race that’s how difficult a puzzle it is to solve. I am not going to spend much time reviewing it but in this sort of race it’s useful to have two or three against the field.
The draw can play a big part in the race and 10 of the last 18 winners have been drawn 23 or higher, while 5 winners have come from stalls 3 to 6. Only one of my fancies for the race is in the high numbered stalls and that’s the Karl Burke trained You’re Fired in stall 25, the four year old was a good second at York in a big field handicap on his last start and should give you a good run for your money.
The Brian Ellison trained Baraweez was a recent eyecatcher for me at Chester and is drawn in 17. He looks worth his place in the race and will be suited by the quick going. I think there is a decent handicap in him and I can’t let him go unbacked today. I think good form in big field handicaps here is useful and two that have that are Bronze Angel and Chill The Kite. The former is in stall 5 which may be good or may not be but he likes the C&D, fast ground and the tempo of these big field handicaps. I would liked to have seen him drawn higher but he can run well if his draw is not a problem.
Chill The Kite was second in this race last year, he didn’t get the clearest of passages but would have finished much closer to the winner if he had. He is a 1lb lower today in the weights and looks to have been trained for the race. He has a big chance to go one better today but stall 10 could have been better.
Verdict – Here are my three each way darts at the race You’re Fired, Baraweez & Chill The Kite
5:35 – SANDRINGHAM HANDICAP (Listed Race) (Fillies) (CLASS 1)
The second handicap of the day concludes the card. Seventeen fillies have been declared to go to post over the straight mile.
The unbeaten Godolphin filly Always Smile comes into the race looking for the four timer. She looked to be still on the upgrade when winning last time at Doncaster but at best priced 3/1 I can happily let her win from stall 4. In a race where I don’t have a strong real strong opinion I prefer to look for a couple at bigger odds. The Queen has the Michael Bell trained Touchline who is second favourite in most bookmaker ante post lists and looks better value than the Godolphin horse to me. A winner of Yarmouth maiden last year as a two year old she shaped with real promise on her reappearance over C&D and there should be more to come from her this year.
The other that I like at a bigger price is the William Haggas trained Muffri’ha who was another eyecatcher for me last time out at Goodwood. Highly regarded by her trainer she was given a Group 1 Coronation Stakes entry. After her good run over a mile at Thirsk on her seasonal reappearance. I was little surprised to see her dropped down to 7f at Goodwood. She only finished 6th in the race but she didn’t have the best of passages and was badly hampered on the bend which must have had an impact on her finishing effort. The step back to a mile will suit and I think she can win a handicap sooner rather than later but whether it’s in a competitive race as this is a doubt but she could run into the places at a big price.
Verdict – I am going for Touchline for the win and Muffri’ha each way in what looks a tricky fillies handicap.