Royal Ascot Preview – Wednesday June 15
Royal Ascot moves into day two on Wednesday and it’s the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes (14.30) that gets proceedings underway.
Legendary American trainer Wesley Ward has been gushing in his praise of Love Reigns, who runs in this and his record when sending over runners merits the utmost respect.
She should relish what looks likely to be fast ground and it would be no surprise if she makes it four Queen Mary winners in seven years for her trainer.
OLIVIA MARALDA looks an interesting competitor, despite arriving as a maiden we know she gets further than this 5f trip but she has shown good speed in both her runs so far and a stiff track like this could really play to her strengths. She is a really interesting each-way proposition at 14/1.
Dramatised was well supported ahead of her debut at Newmarket and did not disappoint. Despite a green start, she made short work of a field of maidens, winning by four lengths over 5f, which is no mean feat. She should give the north and trainer Karl Burke a very good run for their money and is the 5/1 second favourite.
Next up at 15.05 it’s the Queen’s Vase, a Group 2 contest over 1m6f.
NAHANNI probably ran as well as could be expected as a 25/1 chance in the Derby last week, finishing around 11l seventh of the 17 runners, behind Desert Crown. That was still an improved performance and can probably be marked up, given that he was slow to get away from the stalls and jockey Adam Kirby had to sit and suffer towards the back of the field for much of the way.
He’d have been much better suited to being up with the pace there and this step up to 1m6f looks well within his compass. His dam’s sister won over this trip, so his pedigree also hints at that. There’s a smaller field of 12 for him to contend with here, plus a longer trip to help him get into the race and he looks sure to go well.
He’ll face stiff opposition from Baltic Bird for the Gosdens (the great Stradivarius won this race for John Gosden in 2017). He made good progress when getting off the mark at the third attempt in a Yarmouth maiden (1m3½f, good) recently and, like the favourite, he is by Frankel but with a hint of stamina in his pedigree.
Aidan O’Brien has dominated this race in the last decade, winning it five times. He combines with Ryan Moore this time through Anchorage, who has so far won a 1m nursery last season and was most recently stepped up to 1m2f, when under 5l fifth of seven in a Curragh Group 3. He’s a Galileo colt and connections chose to go an extra half-mile here. Given their record in this race, he has to be taken very seriously.
The big race of the day is the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (15.40), a Group 1 for older horses, over 1m2f.
Just five have been declared BAY BRIDGE, who has won 5-7 so far. Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, he is progressive and was last seen winning the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown Park on May 26. He did that impressively, by five lengths and looks the one they all have to beat.
That is to take nothing away from Dubai Sheema Classic, Shahryar, who is trained by Hideaki Fujiwara in Japan. The four-year-old son of Deep Impact has won four of his seven races and was also third in last year’s Japan Cup.
He acts on good ground and if any runner can upset the favourite in this field, he looks the most likely one to do so.
At 16.20, the Group 2 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes sees a field of eight fillies and mares go to post for the straight mile.
The Jane Chapple-Hyam-trained Saffron Beach heads the market for this at a best-priced 9/4 and was last seen finishing fourth in a Meydan Group 1 in March. Already a winner at that level in last year’s Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket, where she beat Mother Earth by three lengths, she carries the highest official mark in this field (115).
Mother Earth reopposes and may benefit from the fitting of cheekpieces. She is actually 1lb better off with the favourite than if this were a handicap and is entitled to go close. Unusually, her trainer Aidan O’Brien has not trained the winner of this race during the past decade but William Haggas has (Move Swiftly, 2019) and he saddles BASHKIROVA, who is a general 9/2 chance.
The Pivotal filly has won four of her six starts and there was much to like about how she won the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom recently. She appears to go on any ground, although her trainer said at Epsom that ideally she’d like some cut.
Even so, she has won on good to firm and it certainly won’t be jarring conditions for a big meeting like this. Although her worst performance last season was then stepped up to this trip, I think that can be written off as too bad to be true and for me, she will be a huge player now trying it again, with another winter under her belt.
The Royal Hunt Cup (17.00) looks as challenging as ever for punters, with 30 runners to decipher over the straight mile.
Not a single favourite has won this race in the last decade, during which time only two single-figure priced horses have come home in front.
That doesn’t augur well for the chances of the Sir Michael Stoute-trained favourite Astro King (6/1) or the improving recent Nottingham winner Dark Shift (8/1), who is in the care of Charlie Hills. However, the latter is 2lb well in on current ratings and little advantages like that are not to be sniffed it.
Although there have been two winners from stall 4 in the last decade, a middle or preferably high draw has generally been advantageous. Dark Shift ticks that box from stall 15 but the one I really like at 16/1 is SYMBOLIZE.
Andrew Balding’s five-year-old is a consistent performer who is proven over C&D. He also has the useful claimer Harry Davies taking 5lb off his back. Stall 29 looks like a berth from which he can launch a big assault on this famous prize and, although much of his form is with cut in the ground, he has won on good to firm.
The Windsor Castle Stakes (17.35) is a Listed 5f sprint for the juveniles and there is a very strong favourite here in LITTLE BIG BEAR, who is yet another with strong claims at the meeting to represent the Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore combination.
The son of No Nay Never went very close to winning a 6f maiden at the Curragh on debut in April, when showing plenty of promise. He delivered on that when dropping back to the minimum trip at Naas last month (5f, yielding to soft) and routed his field by a very easy 3l. That is comfortably the best piece of form on offer going into this and he will take all the beating.
Wesley Ward-trained Seismic Spirit was second in a Churchill Downs maiden special weight on debut but if that trainer thinks he is up to this then he’d have to be respected.
For each-way players, a very interesting runner here is Bolt Action, who dotted up on debut at Leicester and represents the in-form Roger Varian yard. He looks a bit of value at 11/1.
The curtain comes down on day two after the Kensington Palace Stakes (18.10), for fillies and mares of four years and upwards, over the round mile.
Haziya heads the market for this, representing Joseph O’Brien, trading at around the 5/1 mark.
However, of interest here at a working man’s price (14/1) is the David O’Mears-trained IMPROVISED, who was runner-up in a Musselburgh Listed contest (7f, good) last time out, showing improvement in the process.
Not yet fully exposed, she is by Raven’s Pass and looks a sporting bet to find even more now stepping up to 1m for the first time. It’s a trip that should suit and her stall 14 draw, albeit not ideal, is factored into her price. She is due to go up 10lb and this looks a good opportunity to have a big say.