2:30 Albany Stakes
A huge field of 24 two-year-old fillies line up for this 6f contest, 14 of which won last time out and nine of which are unbeaten, but strong trends are thin on the ground (first run 12 years ago). Eleven of the 12 Albany Stakes winners contested a maiden race last time out with seven winning and six winners were having just their second career start here.Dealing with the nine unbeaten fillies first and Patience Alexander is the form choice having beaten the Queen Mary Stakes second, Tiggy Wiggy, in what looked a good running of the Marygate Stakes at the Dante Meeting in which Appleberry is held in fourth. She would have been an obvious player in the Queen Mary herself but her owner had the even-speedier Anthem Alexander to run at the meeting and the decision was that Irish-trained filly would take in the Queen Mary, which she won, leaving Patience Alexander to step up in trip for the Albany. If she handles 6f as well as 5f then she is the one to beat and, judged by the way which she travelled at York, that looks likely. Both wings of the Godolphin operation unleash an unbeaten-in-one filly as Charlie Appleby runs Bitter Lake who struck at Newmarket on soft ground over 6f and Saeed Bin Suroor runs Elite Gardens who won over 5f at the Guineas Meeting but the runner-up was beaten at odds of 1-4 next time out. Most of the Appleby two-year-olds this season have been improving notably on their second start so it was encouraging that Bitter Lake could win on her debut. William Haggas sent Effusive all the way up to Carlisle to get off the mark on debut. That could suggest he didn’t rate her as Royal Ascot material but the filly she beat by a head, the odds-on Free Agent, is pretty useful. James Tate doesn’t run Free Agent here but he does let Secret Liaison take her chance after she made a winning debut at Thirsk where she made all.
Sticking with northern form and Richard Fahey runs Bond’s Girl who is 2-2, notably when she beat Kasb at Pontefract but he didn’t do much for that form when only 13th in the Coventry Stakes. Hughes has picked up the ride with Dettori claimed by the owner for the Hannon representative, Osaila. Roger Varian lets Cursory Glance take her chance after justifying favouritism on her only start at Kempton. Varian also won that maiden for the previous two years including with Princess Noor who went on to win the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes and finish second in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes last year so the suspicion is that he likes Cursory Glance. Olly Stevens trained a juvenile winner at Royal Ascot in his first season last year and he runs Peace And War who beat five rivals on her debut at Lingfield as favourite three weeks ago. Sleepy Dust is also 1-1 having made a winning debut for Sylvester Kirk at Newbury as a 33/1 outsider. Slowly into stride and running green during the race and hailing from a yard not noted for winning debutantes, therefore her win can be marked up.
Five other last-time-out winners take their chance who were beaten earlier in the season headed by the Wesley Ward-trained Sunset Glow. Her connections seemed pretty sweet on her when interviewed on The Morning Line on Thursday morning and she is likely to be quicker out of the gates than their Queen Mary runner judged by Victor Espinoza’s comments that she trapped very quickly when winning at Belmont earlier in the month. Last week’s sound bites form Ward where that his Queen Mary filly might be his best chance this week but he has already won the Windsor Castle with Hootenanny and the latest comments re Sunset Glow suggest he might have been keeping his lid on his enthusiasm for this filly at the media day last week. Bazzana was a respectable third on debut to a useful filly at Newmarket before winning her maiden by as much as ten lengths next time out for Martyn Meade on soft ground at Windsor at odds-on. Testing ground can accentuate superiority and the opposition was probably poor but, even so, that was impressive. Expensive Date improved on her debut fourth for Paul Cole when winning at odds-on at Brighton, which is a not a course I associate future Royal Ascot winners with. Ralph Beckett runs Gold Waltz who came on a bundle for her debut when winning narrowly at Warwick so she too has to improve plenty again.
The same comments apply to the Gary Moore-trained Showcard who after finishing fifth in an Ascot maiden on debut was then a narrow winner at Goodwood.
As with all two-year-old races at Royal Ascot, Mick Channon’s contenders need to be viewed closely and he was won three of the 12 runnings of the Albany and was also responsible for the 1-2 in2003 when Silca’s Gift beat Tolzey. Take note that two of his winners have also been upsets striking at 40/1 and 16/1 plus four of his other nine runners have all run creditably too finishing in the first six in what is well-contested event so although Malabar is a maiden having finished second on her only start when soft ground may have been against her as favourite at Haydock, she is probably a deal better than that.
She would be my idea of the best maiden in the race ahead of Osaila for Richard Hannon who finished second to Blue Aegean (only beat one home in the Queen Mary) at Nottingham on her only run with Fujiano back in fourth and Sexy Eyes who David Wachman sends over from Ireland having been beaten a nose on her only start at The Curragh in a race where the Queen Mary winner, Alexander Anthem, was back in sixth. Clearly Alexander Anthem has improved massively since then but the probability is that was a useful maiden race.
CONCLUSION - Patience Alexander would have been my Queen Mary filly had she headed for the 5f race and as I don’t see 6f being a problem, she is now therefore my Albany filly though I respect Sunset Glow, Cursory Glance and Bitter Lake in what has to be the most competitive ever running of this race.
3:05 Wolferton Handicap
Ideally what we want is a low-drawn four-year-old so the lowest-drawn quartet of Bold Sniper (1), Saxo Jack (2), Sennockian Star (3) and Hall Of Mirrors (4) interest me most, all also being aged four. The reasons being that seven of the last nine winners at Ascot were drawn in what are now single-figure stalls (in fact, the winner and runner-up were both drawn in single-figure stalls on five of the occasions) confirming that the long way round from a high draw is hard to overcome over this trip in a big field as they meet a bend just over a furlong into the race, and four-year-olds have won ten of the last 13 runnings. What is now a low draw since the switch of stall numbers three seasons ago, has been a significant advantage over this 1m2f trip on the round course in a biggish field in recent seasons. When high-drawn horses dominated in 2011, it is important to note the race was run on rain-softened ground which helped to negate the draw advantage. On good ground or better, low numbers should be favoured again.
Looking at the lowest-drawn four horses first who also just happen to be four-year-olds, Ryan Moore might have the toughest job as Bold Sniper is drawn right on the inside so will require luck in running. Beaten a length off a mark of 90 last season in a Royal Ascot handicap over another 2f, his return-third at Newmarket over 1m1f suggested this drop back in trip should not present a problem and he can be expected to improve for that run. Bold Sniper then won at the King George Meeting here so he is 12lb higher than last year however. Saeed Bin Suroor and Kieren Fallon team up on Saxo Jack who has not run for 111 days following three runs at Meydan. It’s hard to know what to make of him since he moved from Ger Lyons for whom he won twice last season. Sennockian Star is hiding nothing from the Handicapper on his 30th start and he won a handicap here last season (albeit beating just three rivals) and the City & Surburban winner back in April needs to up his game having beaten just two horses on his last two starts. This is Royal Ascot however and Mark Johnston prepares his horses for this week and they can often leave poor runs behind. Johnston had the winner and third in 2006. Hall Of Mirrors is the most interesting of the four-year-olds however for Aidan O’Brien. No great shakes as a two-year-old, he then missed all his three-year-old campaign and returned by finishing third to Magician in an uncompetitive Group 3 before finishing tailed off in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup in a first-time visor. They revert back to cheekpieces today which he tried once as a juvenile. He is clearly not straightforward but it interesting Coolmore have persevered with him.
With regards to the four-year-olds not drawn very low, Just The Judge is the class act in this handicap having won last season’s Irish 1000 Guineas after finishing second in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and that class could tell. If you have told connections she would be racing in a handicap just over a year later, their jaws would have dropped and that is the concern. She was done for toe by Thistle Bird at a crucial stage in the Diomed Stakes last time out so this extra 2f is what she is crying out for now as is the stiffer course and I can see her running a big race at this trip though stall 13 is a concern. Cafe Society has recently been moved to Australian trainer Gai Waterhouse and the bottom weight arrives here off the back of a win in a moderate Windsor handicap. I quite fancied him for a 1m4f handicap at the Guineas Meeting but he could never really get competitive under Spencer who gave him plenty to do and Jim Crowley keeps the ride. Baltic Knight is the Hannon representative but it would worry me for his chances that Hughes rides the six-year-old, First Mohican, for Alan King instead so Jimmy Fortune rides. Contributor (15) has his handicap debut after contesting Group races and Ed Dunlop has a good win-and-place record in this race and the admirable but fairly-exposed Boomshackerlacker (16) are drawn widest of all.
Of the older runners, it is interesting that Hughes rides First Mohican and not the Hannon horse, and it is also interesting that he is tried in blinkers for the first time. His close-up third to the classy Mount Athos two starts back was a good run but he is in and out and the combination of a fast-run race with Hughes riding in first-time blinkers might just turn him on and being drawn 8 is not a disaster by any means. John Gosden has won the Wolferton Rated Stakes twice in the last three years and four times in total in addition to supplying the runner-up in 2006 and he runs Dick Doughtywylie who is also not badly drawn in stall 7. He has been restricted to all-weather courses for his last five runs where he won a Listed race and was only beaten a head by Grandeur. He was only 14th in this race last year however when drawn in stall 1. Being on a lightly-raced horse during the current season is also advisable as 15 of the last 19 winners had run no more than twice which is against Edu Querido and Rebellious Guest in addition to Sennockian Star, Baltic Knight, First Mohican and Paxo Jack. The field is completed by the globetrotting seven-year-old, Wigmore Hall, who is on the downgrade, the course winner Fattsota having his seasonal debut and the 2012 King George V winner at this meeting, Energizer, when trained in Germany and wearing a first-time hood and is now with Charlie Appleby.
CONCLUSION - it wouldn’t surprise me if the combination of Hughes and blinkers works for First Mohican or if Just The Judge appreciates this drop in class allied to a step up in trip so I can make a case for both of those but the combination of a low draw and four-year-olds is my main angle and therefore Hall Of Mirrors interests me most and I can see a return to form for Sennockian Star who is interesting each-way at a big price.
3:45 King Edward VII Stakes
The King Edward VII Stakes has been a punter-friendly race with 14 of the last 20 winners starting favourite or second favourite and it’s a case of perm any two from Adelaide, Western Hymn and Snow Sky as to who will occupy those positions. The Aidan O’Brien-trained Adelaide is currently favourite after wins in a Group 2 at Longchamp and a Group 3 at The Curragh this season (surprisingly only three of the last 18 winners had won a Group race before) but the Irish have only mustered one win in the last 39 years (in a very poor five-runner renewal) and Aidan O’Brien has been responsible for losing odds-on favourites in the last two runnings with horses who ran big races in the Derby. The fact Adelaide bypassed the Derby means I would sceptical about judging his contender this year based on the stable’s other failures in the race. With regards to the Derby as a guide, Western Hymn (6th) is the only representative. Many punters will latch onto that form first but, coming so soon after what is always a tough race, contenders from the Epsom Classic usually fail to give their best. Cacoethes outclassed his rivals at odds of 8/13 when winning in 1989 having finished third in Nashwan’s Derby but the only other horse that had a hard race at Epsom to score subsequently was Storming Home (fifth in the Derby).
Papal Bull didn’t have the guts ripped out of him when finishing tenth at Epsom before he won here in 2006. Western Hymn was doing his best work late on but was never really a factor and this more conventional course is likely to be in his favour as he didn’t appear to handle the course. Hughes is an interesting booking as Buick would normally ride the stable first string but he rides Eagle Top. Last year Hillstar was giving Sir Michael Stoute his fifth winner since 1991 adding to the successes of Papal Bull, Balakheri, Foyer and Saddlers Hall (should have been six as Conduit was given too much to do) and his Lingfield Derby Trial winner, Snow Sky, will be a popular order having been forced to Epsom with a minor problem even if Western Hymn took his measure at Newbury comfortably in April. Three of the last 13 winners ran in the Lingfield Derby Trial.
Of the last 19 winners, only four had failed to visit the Winners’ Enclosure earlier in the season which is against the Dante fifth, Bunker, who needed the run but he didn’t shape like he wanted a step up in to me, Scotland, who was behind Western Hymn and Snow Sky at Newbury and didn’t really build on that when beaten 8l in the Chester Vase (a race that has featured two of the last 13 winners) and Seagull Star who was a further 2l adrift in that same Derby trial on the Roodeye.
As with the Ribblesdale Stakes (the fillies’ equivalent of this race at Royal Ascot), proven two-year-old form counts for little as this has proven to be very much a race for unexposed horses likely to show their true potential when sent over this trip for the first time and 16 of the last 18 winners had not previously won over 1m4f so the majority were unexposed at this trip. Miner’s Lamp is the only winner at this distance. The Italian Derby (Group 2) winner Dylan Mouth is an intriguing challenger being unbeaten in five races and Stefano Botti even supplemented him to run but he has a 3lb penalty for that success which wouldn’t equate to a Group 2 standard race over here. Odeon and Eagle Top complete the ten-runner field. Odeon was not disgraced when a 3l fourth in the Dante won by the subsequent French Derby winner, The Grey Gatsby. Eagle Top would appear to be the Gosden second string even if Buick rides but after a taking maiden win at Newbury, he was beaten in a Leicester handicap off 92 so is up against it.
CONCLUSION - Snow Sky makes most appeal to extend Stoute’s excellent record ahead of Adelaide.
4:25 Coronation Stakes
A below-par renewal not featuring any of the 1000 Guineas winners from England, Ireland or France. There have been some surprise results but normally this Group 1 affair goes the way of The Form Book and especially of late with 11 of the last 14 winners starting at no bigger than 6/1 with eight starting favourite or joint market leader.
Of the big three European versions of the 1000 Guineas, the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket has wiped the floor with its Irish and French equivalents in recent years being responsible for eight of the last 11 winners and seven of those finished in the first six at Newmarket. Lightning Thunder (2nd), Euro Charline (5th), Rizeena (7th), Sandiva (9th), Lucky Kristale (16th) and Tapestry (last of 17) represent the race this time. I feel that fifth is probably as good as Euro Charline is and similar comments apply to the Nell Gwyn winner, Sandiva, who was ninth but there is surely better to come from Rizeena, Lucky Kristale and Tapestry. Rizeena was ante-post favourite but never looked happy during the race for whatever reason, maybe she needed it being a big filly on her seasonal debut? She beat Tapestry by ¾l to win the Group 1 Moyglare who was eventually sent off favourite for the 1000 Guineas and she clearly had an off-day when the O’Brien yard weren’t firing to finish last, allowed to come home in her own time when beaten.
You will need to be very forgiving to back her after that run and I suspect longer trips is when we will see the best of her. There was a stamina doubt regards the Duchess Of Cambridge (beat Rizeena) and Lowther winner Lucky Kristale before the 1000 Guineas as they were both over 6f so when she pulled too hard early on, that was the end of any chance she had of getting home. I was against her in the 1000 Guineas due to stamina concerns so have to be against her again over the same trip today. After a hard run at The Curragh on testing ground in a poor renewal of the Irish 1000 Guineas in my view, I have my doubts that Lightning Thunder will give her best so I fancy Rizeena most of those who ran in the 1000 Guineas back to this course where she is 2-2 and looked so good in the Queen Mary over 5f for a horse who stayed well enough to beaten a length in the Fillies’ Mile to the subsequent Breeders’ Cup winner, Chriselliam.
The Irish 1000 Guineas has not been that special a guide of late but if we analysed results over a longer period of time, seven winners have followed up in the last 28 years. Katies, Al Bahathri and Sonic Lady struck successive victories here between 1984-1986 after Classic success at The Curragh followed by Kooyonga, Ridgewood Pearl, Crimplene and Attraction. However, this season’s winner, Marvellous, misses the race so Lightning Thunder (2nd) best represents the race but she did have hard race on soft ground.
The French 1000 Guineas has held up okay given it wouldn’t have the same representation and four of the last 19 Coronation Stakes winners previously finished second at Longchamp. None of the placed horses take their chance here but the race is still represented by the Fred Darling winner, J Wonder (7th) and the disappointing favourite, Lesstalk In Paris (12th) who had previously won two Group 3 races either side of finishing second in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac.
Arguably the two most interesting horses are the seasonal debutantes, My Titania and Kiyoshi, who were both 1000 Guineas fancies but missed the race through late setbacks. My Titania is a 3yo Sea The Stars filly and I have been keeping them onside this season, who showed a great attitude when winning a Group 3 on her last start at two and had the Oaks second, Tarfasha, 5l back in third. At around double her price however is Kiyoshi who I think could be a little under-rated. She was my each-way fancy at 16/1 for the 1000 Guineas after the 48hr decs until her setback and she looks decent each-way value again now her connections have gone for this race rather than the Jersey Stakes. I do like previous Royal Ascot form and she was impressive when winning a strongly-run and deep running of the Albany Stakes and the faster they go the better her chance.
Fallen For You was an unusual winner two years ago as she became the first filly to take a more softly-softly approach and bypass all the Guineas’ since Balisada in 1999. Radiator fits that profile and it is interesting that Stoute and Juddmonte have switched her to this Group 1 race as the original plan after she was second in a Listed race at York (went into my Horses To Follow afterwards but I wasn’t expecting her to being running in a Group 1 so soon) was the Sandringham Handicap on Wednesday. The same connections did a similar thing last year chancing their luck with Pavlosk in the Coronation Stakes after she won at York but she was outclassed. Sir Michael Stoute has won four runnings however so the fact there has been a change of mind means that she is entitled to each-way respect. The American raider, Rosalind, completes the field and Kenny McPeak has booked Kieren Fallon. She dead-heated for first in a Grade 1 at Keeneland in April on polytrack and is not used to turf so it is hard to know what to make of her. She has been beaten in four other Grade 1s though.
CONCLUSION - this is wide open but I so like Kiyoshi’s each-way chance, respect My Titania, can see Radiator out-run her odds and fancy Rizeena to come out best of the 1000 Guineas runners.
5:00 Queen’s Vase
Surprising this 2m event for 3yos has been downgraded to Listed status this season despite the last two winners going on to win the Ascot Gold Cup and Ladbrokes St Leger! A mighty good race for followers of the market with 17 of the last 19 winners starting in the first four in the betting (the other pair were no worse than sixth-favourite) and just one winner during that time period was allowed to start at double-figure odds and he was only an 11/1 shot. In victory last season, Leading Light was the seventh winning favourite in the last 14 years. It will be a surprise if the top four in the betting are not Marzocco, Hartnell, Century and Min Alemarat. Marzocco heads the market for John Gosden following two second-place finishes this season, beaten no more than a neck each time over 1m4f in the weaker Derby trials at Epsom and Goodwood. That form leaves him 3lb shy of the top rated Hartnell who has the added bonus of being trained by one Mark Johnston who has remarkably saddled six of the last 13 winners of the Queen’s Vase. Hartnell was third of 12 in a Group 1 in France in November and has since finished just behind Marzocco at Epsom before running Snow Sky to 2l in the Lingfield Derby Trial. Century is the Aidan O’Brien representative who has won three of the last seven runnings. He finished last in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy before returning with just an okay fourth of seven in the Dee Stakes. Of the likely front four in the betting, only Marco Botti’s Min Alemarat did not race as a two-year-old. This is relevant as the most surprising statistic with regards to Queen’s Vase winners since 1996 is that as many as seven winners were unraced at two, though it must be stressed not for the last five seasons. That remains an exceptionally-high percentage though considering such runners make up a mere fraction of the total runners. He has improved with each of his three starts this season culminating with a 7l win in a Haydock maiden last month.
Other contenders that did not race as two-year-olds are The Corsican and Hatsaway. The Corsican made his debut at Salisbury for David Simcock where he finished third but 7l behind Min Alemarat before he won at Kempton so he has plenty to find with the Marco Botti runner. Hatsaway represents Clive Brittain and is a maiden after two starts finishing third and fourth in what looked two above-average Newmarket maidens.Loving Your Work is by far the most exposed contender having his eleventh start finally getting off the mark last time out in a handicap off just 66 so he is up against it. The next most experienced contender is God’s Speed having his seventh start and who was well beaten off 84 in a Pontefract handicap last time so he too has plenty to find. John Gosden gives a sixth start to Anglo Irish who won two all-weather races before beating just one home at Chester last time out. I prefer more lightly-race contenders so will pass all three over.
The remainder are headed by Gold Approach and Montaly. Gold Approach won a Lingfield maiden by 5l last time out on his fourth start for William Haggas when upped in trip from 8/9f to 1m3f but this is another big leap in trip and being by New Approach (Sire Index of 9.3f) he is no cert to stay and of Queen’s Vase winners since 1992, just three winners were sired by a stallion with a Stamina Index of less than ten furlongs. This isn’t surprising given that two miles for three-year-olds in June is a stern test of stamina so horses with plenty of stamina in their pedigree have unsurprisingly come to the fore. That is what also niggles me regards the favourite, Marzocco, as his sire (Kitten’s Joy) has a SI of 9.6f. Montaly won a handicap off 79 three starts back and has been narrowly beaten in two more since off 84 and 86 so that looks his mark, which isn’t good enough (Hartnell is rated 103), so he needs to improve for the step up in trip. Big Orange won a Lingfield maiden last time out but his sire, Duke Of Marmalade, has a SI of 9.7f.
CONCLUSION - I am not convinced that Marzocco is the right favourite and prefer the three behind him in the betting; Hartnell, Min Alemarat and Century in that order, in a race where the top four in the betting have a very good record. Hartnell to win and Min Alemarat each-way.
5:35 Buckingham Palace Stakes
Twenty-nine journeyman handicappers line up for this 7f pin job so good luck especially as this is the weakest trends handicap of the meeting with winners coming from many ages and all over the handicap so we are very thin on pattern-based angles from its 12 runnings to date. Fancied horses won the first four runnings but two 25/1 shots and a 33/1 outsider won the next three runnings followed by five more double-figure priced winners so I would argue this is a race not to go too overboard about on the punting front. Often you can gloss over handicappers aged six and upwards in hot handicaps as they are thoroughly exposed but horses aged six, seven and eight have won three of the last eight runnings so bang goes that theory for this race.
The draw can be helpful as a middle draw in big-field, straight course handicaps isn’t usually a positive. Last year’s winner was drawn closest to the stands’ rail and centrally-drawn horses have struggled of late with winners coming from stalls 29, 6, 29, 30, 11 and 32 in the last six years with only three horses drawn between 11-22 hitting the frame so I will leave the following out of the equation on that basis; Excellent Guest, Hillbilly Boy, Russian Realm (the possible favourite but Sir Michael Stoute has only saddled three runners, all three of which started in the first two in betting and none of which finished in the first ten), Deauville Prince, Heaven’s Guest, One Word More, Jack’s Revenge, Santefisio, Zanetto, Bubbly Bellini, Horsted Keynes and Mabait.
Ascot form is a plus. For example, last year’s winner was second in the big-field handicap for lady riders on King George Day the previous season, the 2012 winner finished fifth in the Royal Hunt Cup the previous season, the 2011 winner was second in the Victoria Cup, the 2010 winner was fifth in a Coventry Stakes, the 2009 winner had finished third in a £100K 7fhandicap at the course the previous season and the 2007 winner was third in the previous season’s renewal. Course winners drawn outside of the middle segment are Pastoral Player (3) who was also third in the Wokingham three years ago and connections may have been using his only start this season when a good sixth here in the Victoria Cup to put him right for this prize and Blessington (27) who won at the April Meeting last time out for John Gosden and, being a four-year-old, there might be more to come from him.
Others I have time for are headed by the former Cambridgeshire winner, Bronze Angel, from stall 30 after his fifth place in a Newbury handicap when backed into favouritism last time out when Hayley Turner committed far too soon. He took a clear lead over 2f out but was reeled in inside the final furlong having must have traded very short in-running. How he didn’t finish in the frame was quite remarkable. In Turner’s defence, perhaps being a Cambridgeshire winner that she felt the need to commit early over 7f but it says much that he was going so well that he could demonstrate such a good turn of foot for a horse who stays further so he is clearly in good heart if they can find the right race and hold on to unleash his turn of foot later. I thought he might go for the Hunt Cup but a mark of 94 would have seen him miss the cut. That mark of 94 is 1lb lower than when he landed his biggest prize so he is handicapped to go very close. The lightly-raced Watchable on his fifth start is another I have time for in a race chock full of exposed horses. It is only a matter of time before David O’Meara notches his first Royal Ascot winner and he is up to 7f for the first time. His only win in four starts was also achieved on decent ground whereas his three losses were with plenty of cut so, who knows, 7f on Good ground could be what he wants.
CONCLUSION - I think this is the hardest race of the week and my four against the field would be Bronze Angel, Pastoral Player, Watchable and Blessington.