Despite being run behind closed doors, this Royal Ascot meeting is absolutely flying by and we have seen some devastating performances from the likes of Battaash, Lord North and Stradivarius.
There could be at least one more proper top-level showing on Friday’s card too, though it may well not come in the Group 1 race. Everything looks good value today, beginning with one in the Albany for the two-year-old fillies.
1.50 Ascot (Albany Stakes – Group 3) – WILLABELL
John Gosden horses carrying unusual colours and those having not won a race who come into a juvenile event here may lead to some tasty prices, and that appears to be the case with this filly Willabell.
The truth is though that this daughter of War Front is owned by St Elias Stable, a leading American owner with connections to Gosden who previously trained in California, and the race she was a close runner-up in probably represents the best form on offer here.
War Front’s progeny, as we discovered yesterday, don’t need top of the ground as much as many think and with natural improvement from her Yarmouth outing to now she can prove to be the best of these.
It’s close in behind with the likes of Golden Melody, Flying Aletha and Mother Earth all capable but Frankie Dettori’s mount is the value in the race.
2.25 Ascot (Norfolk Stakes – Group 2) – LIPIZZANER
These are the quickest juveniles around at the moment, albeit from a smaller sample than usual following the late resumption of racing, which means normally it would be easy to go along with short-priced favourite Eye Of Heaven after his impressive debut at Newmarket.
That run was on fast ground however and things are different now, while Mark Johnston will have also had him wound up fully for that first race and there may not be as much improvement to come as we’d like.
The Lir Jet broke the course record for juveniles at Yarmouth but that was on very quick ground and he has since been sold to Qatar Racing, but the smart money may well come the way of Aidan O’Brien’s Lipizzaner.
The Ballydoyle juveniles are running well and considering he made an early debut in March before lockdown, this Uncle Mo colt has the rare benefit of having had two runs and will be super fit. He hasn’t won in two tries, but his debut was very good on soft ground and he was unsuited by the faster going last time. He has a huge chance.
3.00 Ascot (Hardwicke Stakes – Group 2) – ELARQAM
Despite being a Group 2 this race usually throws up a proper top-level type and often they are putting up a career best en route to the King George back here in late July. In the shape of Elarqam we have one from a stable in form who loves this ground, wants this trip and has the recent form in the book.
Fourth in a Guineas at three, Mark Johnston’s horse slammed Addeybb on his favoured soft ground before running a relatively unlucky third in that strong Juddmonte International at York last year and he was always fancied to hit the top given his breeding – he is by Frankel out of the yard’s stunning Group 1 mare Attraction.
Elarqam began this season with a staying-on second behind the impressive Group 1 winner Lord North over 1m2f at Haydock and now this looks ideal.
The big danger is Coolmore’s Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, but he hasn’t won since Epsom and was probably flattered just a bit in the Coronation Cup when flying late off Ghaiyyath’s blistering pace.
Morando and at the weights Fanny Logan both have place chances, the latter was never ridden close enough to challenge last time and will do better, while Defoe won it last year but just doesn’t seem the same and this is a better renewal.
3.35 Ascot (Commonwealth Cup – Group 1) – ROYAL CRUSADE
Just a small bet here as we’re taking a little bit of a chance at big prices, but Charlie Appleby does believe this Royal Crusade has a chance and I’d have to agree.
Taking the favourite first of all for reference; Pierre Lapin is two from two having landed first a maiden and then the Mill Reef last year, bringing him into this season rated 110 and with the ground an unknown.
Our boy, who really wants this drop in trip and can improve, reached that same 110 mark during the same month with a good second behind Threat at Doncaster before being sent off favourite for a Group 3 at Saint-Cloud. Both horses are running first time out, but their prices are vastly different.
There are plenty in behind with place chances including Wooded, who was behind Royal Crusade last year but is also a shorter price, Lope Y Fernandez and Millisle. Kimari looks one of many who is too short for what she has actually achieved.
4.10 Ascot (Queen’s Vase – Group 2) – AL DABARAN
A tough staying race for these inexperienced horses over a mile and six furlongs, this will take some getting but it is high quality.
As someone who has backed English King at 66/1 for the Derby a good run from Berkshire Rocco wouldn’t go amiss after his runner-up performance behind Ed Walker’s horse at Lingfield, while Santiago and Nobel Prize from Aidan O’Brien’s yard both need to improve and are probably close in ability.
William Haggas’ Born With Pride won first time out in Listed company and thus has been favourite for three races in a row now, one in which she didn’t run, but she may not be as good as many think.
Godolphin’s Al Dabaran however should have no trouble staying, handles softer ground and on a line through some of the horses he was keeping company with last season he can climb now to a mark of somewhere between 110-115 which should be enough.