With the Royal Hunt Cup and Windsor Castle Stakes set to be entertaining if complete basket cases for betting purposes, we focus on the day’s other four races as day two of the Royal meeting brings us more value punting opportunities.
Sir Michael Stoute is the leading trainer here and he could be in for a very big day, but we start with an American speed freak who may be able to get us off to a flying start in more ways than one.
2.30 Ascot (Queen Mary Stakes – Group 2) – KIMARI
Naturally this is an incredibly difficult race to solve on the face of it; 28 runners, 5/1 the field, little form to go on and pace spread across the track. Tons of these fillies look capable of running within a few pounds of each other here with Divine Spirit and Anna’s Fast bound to be especially popular in the ring.
Kerrin McEvoy’s riding style suits Ascot and a fast-run race and so it’s hoped he can get the best of out Divine Spirit, the Godolphin filly having looked particularly good when winning on debut at Windsor recently and seemingly having plenty of improvement to come on her second start.
Wesley Ward is already a past master in these juvenile races and his Anna’s Fast is sure to go well under Tyler Gaffalione having made a great debut at Keeneland over 4½ furlongs, but it could be the American’s other horse who proves to be a class above.
Taking a line through Lady Aurelia, Shang Shang Shang and others we can take a leap regarding how much improvement is shown from these American debuts when they hit the track at Ascot, and if it happens again to the same extent then Kimari could be on another level and she is taken to score at a nice price.
3.05 Ascot (Queen’s Vase – Group 2) – WESTERN AUSTRALIA
While we should see some improvement from Jalmoud after his French success and Mark Johnston’s Nayef Road is rock solid and should keep the field honest, this race looks fairly likely to go to Aidan O’Brien and in fact he has two outstanding candidates.
Ryan Moore has been given the job of riding Norway, a Galileo colt who won the 1m2f Zetland Stakes last season and seems sure to stay. He was well beaten by Sir Dragonet at Chester and finished 8th in the Derby so is a little way down the Ballydoyle pecking order, but he can go forward from here over this trip and can yet reach a good level.
He may have it all to do to get past his stablemate Western Australia though. Like Norway he is a Listed winner, but he was also close up with Magna Grecia last season at Group 1 level, has more improvement in him and has not had the hard race in the Derby that his pal has had.
Donnacha O’Brien takes the ride and should get a good toe into the race before being likely to have enough in the tank late on to see the race out.
3.40 Ascot (Prince of Wales’s Stakes – Group 1) – CRYSTAL OCEAN
The feature race has been moved forward by 40 minutes to ensure that Japanese viewers can watch the race before midnight, but I’m not sure their representative Deirdre can take a hand in the finish.
The market for this has been all about the fillies, even without the presence of Enable who waits for Sandown, with Aidan O’Brien’s Magical topping the list having landed a hat-trick for the year already when scoring easily in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup.
She had no real credible opposition that day though and has in fact beaten the same horse three times and could be found wanting against the colts despite her 3lb sex allowance.
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runner-up Sea Of Class looks a genuine stayer to me, so despite her obvious ability trying to beat a good field over this trip first time out could be really tricky and she is also passed over.
Prix Ganay winner Waldgeist is no forlorn hope in this race for Andre Fabre but he too has often been found wanting when up against proper Group 1 types, and all this could leave the way clear for Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Ocean to land a first top level success.
Second to Cracksman in the Champion Stakes, the son of Sea The Stars was pulsating in the Gordon Richards Stakes before scoring in the Aston Park and will have been prepared to peak specifically at this meeting.
He could have gone for a second Hardwicke Stakes buts it’s very prevalent that his masterful trainer wants to go for this race instead with a career best performance on the cards, something that would ensure victory.
4.20 Ascot (Duke of Cambridgeshire Stakes – Group 2) – RAWDAA
Before we even mention form it speaks volumes that, with Crystal Ocean well fancied in the Prince of Wales’s and Veracious very much a leading contender for this event, Sir Michael Stoute has nominated Rawdaa as his best winning chance of the week.
Pretty Baby was workmanlike at Lingfield but hated the ground at Lingfield and will come on a ton, the aforementioned Veracious is reaching a peak and could just about turn the tables on Epsom scorer Anna Nerium, but they have already shown roughly what level they can get to and therefore may not show as much progression as the selection.
Frankie Dettori has been booked to ride the Teofilo filly and he is ideal for her; a versatile runner who since her debut second has never been beaten by more than 1¾ lengths and that was behind Agrotera at Listed level around Kempton.
She stepped up markedly on that form when a close second to Lah Ti Dar at York in the Group 2 Middleton Stakes and this stiff mile will be even better for her.