SPECIAL NOTE: Part III of THE VAULT’S Royal Ascot coverage will be posted Friday, June 21st and cover the closing day. (The fields are still unconfirmed for several races on the Saturday, making the addition of a third article prudent. AA)
This second of a three-part series covers some of the top races and horses on DAY THREE, Thursday, June 20 and DAY FOUR, Friday, June 21. Please note that the fields in each race covered below are still shifting somewhat, but every effort has been made to focus on top thoroughbreds confirmed in the running at this time, with a particular emphasis on those who are likely to be less-familiar to non-UK viewers.
WHERE TO WATCH: HRTV is covering the key Royal Ascot races, beginning at 9:00 A.M. (approx.) over each of the 5 days.
FOR RACE CARDS and COMPLETE RACE SCHEDULE, please visit LET’S GO TO THE RACES at http://www.letsgototheraces.blogspot.ca
AT THE RACES (UK) at http://www.attheraces.com/ascot/list.aspx?lid=pa+news also offers complete Royal Ascot coverage and will post all races on its YouTube channel by the end of each day.
RACING POST (UK) hosts its own Royal Ascot site, complete with race cards for each race and articles: http://royal-ascot.racingpost.com
The following Royal Ascot races are reviewed below:
THURSDAY, JUNE 20: the RIBBLESDALE STAKES (3 yr-old fillies) featuring ALIVE ALIVE OH, THE LARK, RIPOSTE, SAY, MAGICAL DREAM, JUST PRETENDING; and THE GOLD CUP (4 yr-olds and up) featuring RITE OF PASSAGE, SIMENON, COLOUR VISION, ESTIMATE and SADDLER’S ROCK.
FRIDAY, JUNE 21 : the ALBANY STAKES featuring FRANKEL’S half-sister JOYEUSE and a host of other precocious 2 YR. OLD fillies; the KING EDWARD VII STAKES featuring BATTLE OF MARENGO, MUTASHADED, BRASS RING and DYNAFORMER’S son, ESHTIAAL; and the CORONATION STAKES featuring another anticipated battle between two fabulous files, JUST THE JUDGE and SKY LANTERN.
THURSDAY, JUNE 20
THE RIBBLESDALE STAKES (3 yr-old fillies, Fillies Grade 2. Distance: 1 m 4 f)
This race might be a real corker because, despite the apparent superiority of Alive Alive Oh (2010), all of the contenders do best over soft-yielding turf. At present, it looks as though the turf will be firm-hard, leading several trainers to flirt with withdrawing their fillies from Ascot altogether.
What makes Tommy Stack’s filly a prohibitive favourite is that she’s managed 2 impressive wins in her 3 starts, beating Coolmore-Ballydoyle’s Magical Dream most recently and running third to their very good colt, Magician, in her maiden almost a year ago. Of course, a lot can change in a year, but Alive Alive Oh only seems to be getting better. The dark bay daughter of The Duke of Marmalade (see coverage of him in Part 1, under St. James Palace Stakes) walked away from the field to win brilliantly over Magical Dream in her last outing on May 7th over yielding turf.
The Lark, trained by Michael Bell, is a daughter of the outstanding world-class sire, Pivotal (1993) who had 100 SW in 2012, both fillies and colts. She arrives at Ascot with 4 races under her belt and a record of 4-1-0-2, although her only win came back in October 2012.
Coolmore-Ballydoyle has 2 confirmed entries and may run a third. Definitely in the mix for the Ribblesdale are Magical Dream and Just Pretending. The former, a daughter of Galileo(1998) has a record of 6-2-1-1 but hasn’t chalked up a victory since September 2012. Giant’s Causeway (1997) is the sire of Just Pretending, who has won twice in her 4 starts to date, running third to a superstar in Just The Judge in her last start, the 1,000 Irish Guineas. However, on May 12th (2013) in the Derrinstown Stud 1,000 Trial, under Joseph O’Brien, she came home first in a close finish. Say, another Galileo filly, may also contest the Ribblesdale but we will need to wait until mid-week to know for certain.
Lady Cecil, who has been extended a trainer’s licence in light of the recent death of her husband, Sir Henry Cecil, comes into the Ribblesdale with a lovely Juddmonte filly, Riposte. Sir Henry was still nominating horses to Royal Ascot in the last days of his life and there can be no doubt that Riposte is here because she deserves to be. The daughter of another super sire, Dansili (1996) is, of course, trained by Sir Henry and she will have Tom Queally to guide her home. The filly comes into the race with a record of 2-1-1-0, but the fact she’s been so lightly raced ought to be subscribed to her trainer’s illness and not to her abilities. And: Riposte is the only other serious contender other than Alive Alive Oh to have won over firm – hard ground.
THE GOLD CUP ( 4 yr-olds & up, Group 1, part of the British Champions Series. Distance: 2m 4f)
The Gold Cup is a marathon of a race and this year’s version sees some really good horses entered. Winners here will shout stamina, as did the most famous of all Gold Cup winners, the mighty Yeats (2001) who won it an unprecedented 4 years in a row.
Simenon (2007), a 6 yr. old campaigner and son of Marju (1988), has raced 21 times with 4 wins, one being in the Ascot Stakes over good-soft ground at Royal Ascot a year ago. This fellow is bound to be the sentimental favourite, although he will get some play at the betting pools as well. Interestingly, the gelding has raced over fences too. His last time out, Simenon finished 4th of 17 in the Stan James Chester Cup (over fences). This is one hard-working, talented and gutsy thoroughbred and Yeats would have loved him for it. Fittingly, Simenon stands at current odds of 7-1. Here he is, winning the Ascot Stakes in 2012:
The Gold Cup will also be graced by an entry from Her Majesty the Queen in the form of the filly, Estimate (2009), who is currently the favourite. She was a gift from Prince Khalid Abdullah to Her Majesty as a baby and was selected from Juddmonte’s top breeding stock that year. The daughter of the late great German sire, Monsun (1990) won the Longines Sagaro Stakes her last time out, but also took home the Queen’s Vase at Ascot last year. In 6 starts, Estimate has only been out of the money once, chalking up 3 wins and 2 shows (3rd). No question that this talented lady will be another sentimental choice to take the honours, it being the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
After Simenon and Estimate, the other really good horses running in the Gold Cup seem to pale by comparison. However, expect the 9 yr.old Rite of Passage to run in very good form. Currently the second favourite, the chestnut gelding by Giant’s Causeway is another sturdy character, having started 9 times on the flat(record of 6-0-2) and 3 times over jumps (record of 2-0-1). Versatile as well as talented, Rite of Passage has already won the Gold Cup once — at Royal Ascot in 2010. His last start, in October 2012, was on British Champions Day, where he walked off with the Group 3 Long Distance Cup beating Saddler’s Rock, Colour Vision and Fame and Glory in the process. However, that was over soft-yielding ground and the conditions at Ascot look to favour hard-firm this year.
Co-favoured at 7-1 with Simenon is Saddler’s Rock (2008). Even though he hasn’t had a win since last August, the 5 yr. old son of the fantastic Sadler’s Wells is trained by John Oxx, the man who took Sea The Stars to racing glory. Oxx was already a leading Irish trainer before Sea The Stars, having trained the brilliant filly Ridgewood Pearl, as well as Sinndar, winner of the Investic Derby, Irish Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for Oxx’s main client, the Aga Khan. If the turf plays good-firm, look for Saddler’s Rock to run a blinder.
Last but not least is Godolphin’s Colour Vision (2008), last year’s Gold Cup winner. And even though the grey son of Rainbow Quest(1981) hasn’t scored since Frankie Dettori left Godolphin, he’s a versatile horse who has won over good to soft ground, making him a serious contender in this year’s field.
FRIDAY, JUNE 21st
THE ALBANY STAKES ( 2 yr. old fillies, Group 3. DISTANCE: 6 f)
Excitement will be in the air as Day Four of Royal Ascot kicks off with Frankel’s little half-sister, Joyeuse, taking on a field of fairly accomplished babies. Of course, these are juveniles and have only just gotten started, making the task of choosing a winner pretty demanding.
Joyeuse, by Oasis Dream (2000), broke her maiden at first asking at 6f over ground labelled “good.” Meaning that neither the distance nor the probable state of the Ascot turf should bother her. Joyeuse was trained by Sir Henry Cecil for owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah and will have her big brother’s jockey, Tom Queally, back to guide her. Here’s a look at the compact and feminine-looking filly on her very first time out. Quite apart from the race, the hijinks at the gate and Queally’s struggles keeping Joyeuse on-track — a little like his early battles with Frankel who, like this young lady, just wanted to run — provide a great insight into what it’s like when babies first race!
As much as the fans will be behind Joyeuse and Queally, there are a number of other good fillies running against the pair. From Godolphin comes Fire Blaze, a daughter of Dubawi (2002) and Wedding Ring, a daughter of Oasis Dream (2000), both of whom also won their maidens and like the turf good-firm. In the case of the latter, her win came at 6f and she will be under the excellent tutelage of Mikhail Barcelona. Lady Kristale is undefeated and has started twice; like the previous 3 fillies, she has won at 6f and will like the good to firm going at Ascot.
Trainer Richard Fahey’s Sandiva is by Footstepsinthesand (2002), a son of Giant’s Causeway(1997). Sandiva has been very impressive in her 2 winning starts to date, her most recent win coming in the Coolmore Stud Fillies’ Sprint Stakes at 6f. Expect this baby to be right there in the thick of it. Coolmore-Ballydoyle have entered Wonderfully, as well as Bye Bye Birdie, but it is the former who seems a better bet. By Galileo (1998), Wonderfully’s BM sire is the great Danehill (1986); she comes in off a maiden win at 6f and is still another filly who will appreciate good-firm footing. Last but not least is Princess Noor, By Holy Roman Emperor(2004) who is a maiden winner at 6f on an all-weather surface. Princess Noor will be ridden by William Buick, another fabulous young jockey and one in the same league as either Joseph O’Brien or Tom Queally.
The Albany appears to be a very evenly-matched field and should be a thrilling race.
KING EDWARD VII STAKES (3 yr. olds, Group 2. Distance: 1 m 4f)
Fourth in the Investic Derby to Ruler of the World, but undefeated in 3 starts prior to it, including the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes in May (above) there is no question that Coolmore-Ballydoyle’s Battle of Marengo is the colt to beat in this year’s running of the King Edward VII at Ascot. In his 7 starts, the son of Galileo (1998) has only ever been out of the money in his recent Derby run and has 5 wins to his credit. But the handsome bay won’t be left all alone at the wire.
Roger Varian has confirmed the undefeated Mutashaded, a lightly-raced but competent son of the mighty Raven’s Pass (2005), winner of the 2008 BC Classic. Mutashaded’s 2 wins have come over firm and heavy (wet) turf, showing his versatility. Two other colts that are only getting better are Brass Ring and Eshtiaal. Both have won their last 2 races and Brass Ring seems to do best over good-firm going. Trained by the winning John Gosden for Prince Khalid Abdullah, Brass Ring’s last win came at the King Edward distance, but his competition is a distinct step up for the son of Rail Link(2003), a sire who won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as a 3 yr. old.
Eshtiaal will be of particular interest to North American racing fans. Racing for Hamdan Al Maktoum, the colt is a son of Dynaformer(1985) and his BM sire is Kingmambo(1990). Eshtiaal has won on both soft and good ground, something that bodes well for him. But like Brass Ring, he is taking a huge step up in company in the King Edward.
All in all, this race looks like a romp — albeit a prestigious one — for Battle of Marengo.
THE CORONATION STAKES ( 3 yr. old fillies, GROUP 1, part of the British Champions series. DISTANCE: 1m)
For hard-wired racing enthusiasts, the Coronation is shaping up to be a modern Battle of the Titans between two brilliant fillies: Just The Judge and Sky Lantern.
The Charlie Hills-trained Just The Judge, won the Irish 1,000 Guineas last time out, running the mile on turf that was good-firm. Her career record stands at 5-4-1-0 and she has also handled soft ground with aplomb. Her sire, Lawman (2004), winner of the Prix Matchless at 2 and of the Prix de Jockey (G1), Prix Jean Prat(G1) and Prix de Guiche (G3) at 3, is a son of the great Invincible Spirit (1997). Just The Judge is his second highly successful filly in earnings, after Forces of Darkness (2009) who began her career in France like her sire before moving to the USA this year.
Sky Lantern, trained by the excellent Richard Hughes won the QUIPCO 1,000 Guineas, beating Just The Judge by a nose, in her last start. Piloted by the talented Richard Hughes, the grey filly has a career record of 7-4-3-0. She prefers the ground to be good-firm, but has also won over a soft surface. Her sire, Red Clubs (2003) is a son of the late, prominent sire Red Ransom (1987) who produced more than 100 SW’s. Red Clubs continues the Roberto bloodline in style, having won the Cartier European Champion Sprinter in 2007; at stud, he has also sired two other champion fillies, The Gold Cheongsam (2010) and Vedelago (2009), who races in Italy.
But why say more? Below are Just The Judge and Sky Lantern in each of their winning 1,000 Guineas races. Clearly, their encounter at Royal Ascot will bring the kind of suspense and drama that makes thoroughbred racing so thrilling.