Royal Ascot 2016: Day 4 Preview - Coronation Stakes, Commonwealth Cup
The penultimate day of Royal Ascot 2016, and the hors categorie action just keeps coming. Friday's card features two Group 1's, the Coronation Stakes and the second running of the Commonwealth Cup, both for three-year-olds.
It's a juvenile heat to start, however, the Albany Stakes, at 2.30...
2.30 Albany Stakes (Group 3, 6f, 2yo fillies)
The 15th running of the Albany. All 14 winners to date had ru either once or twice previously (from 72% of the runners), and 40 of the 42 (95%) placed horses had run less than three times (from 77% of the runners).
The favourite, Cuff, has had three starts to date and is thus bidding to be the first winner of this race with so much experience. She has good form - won a Listed race at Naas that has worked out well so far last time - but is susceptible to a less experienced improver. She's drawn two, which might be on the wrong side, given the next six in the betting are drawn 7 or higher (four of them draw 12 or higher).
Wesley wuns Create A Dream, yet another fleet filly. Once raced, she won a conditions race over five furlongs here on her debut. That she was brought to England unraced is a measure of the trainer's belief in her, and he was apparently toying with the Coventry for his daughter of Oasis Dream. She was lucky to beat David Evans' Deningy (since sold to Godolphin) there but will have improved for the run.
And, though her breeding suggest six furlongs will be fine, she was all out in that career bow. Apparently she took time to acclimatize after travelling over, so it is possible - likely even - she's improved physically since the end of April. She will have had to.
Richard Hannon's unbeaten-in-two Grizzel looks quick. She won the Hilary Needler last time, beating Clem Fandango who herself was third to Lady Aurelia in Wednesday's Queen Mary Stakes. Grizzel looked to need every yard of the five at Beverley, and should appreciate this extra furlong. It's hard to know whether the daughter of Kodiac will like soft ground, but Ardad - a son of the same sire - won the Windsor Castle on Tuesday, which offers hope.
One I was taken by at a price is Bletchley. Sent off at 25/1 in an above average looking maiden for the track, she was all at sea before cottoning on to what was required. As soon as she did, she rattled home to see off Reeh (midfield in the Queen Mary), the rest of the field well strung out.
That was on good to firm, but breeding suggests she may be less well suited to this softer turf. If she does act on it, she could run well at a price.
Queen Kindly is attempting to become the first Pattern race-winning offspring of the sensational Frankel who, thus far, has had four winners from five runners in Britain. She was unflashy but much the best when making a winning debut at Catterick, and I suspect her famous father may see her sent off a touch shorter than she ought to be. Certainly the bare form is not all that for an 8/1 third favourite.
Very hard to get a true handle on the form, though the juvenile races that have taken place already suggest Grizzel could be smart and, in what should be an open race, her price of 11/1 looks a spot of value.
3.05 King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2, 1m4f, 3yo)
Sometimes referred to as the Ascot Derby, this has thrown up some pretty good winners - though few top-notchers - in recent times. The exception to that might be Nathaniel, who was very smart.
Derby form is represented by the fifth, Humphrey Bogart, and the well beaten Across The Stars. The former won the Lingfield Derby Trial prior to his gallant Epsom run, and that is probably as good as he is: capable of challenging for minor honours here if over the exertions of two weeks ago.
Across The Stars was behind Humphrey at both Lingfield and Epsom so, while it is possible that this more conventional track will suit him better, I'd not be betting on him reversing form let alone winning, even allowing for Sir Michael Stoute's very good record in the race.
'Stoutey's' six wins are more than any of his peers, but John Gosden's three have come since 2005, suggesting a second glance at his pair of apparent rags is prudent. Eagle Top had a similar profile, and was a similar price, to the lightly raced Muntahaa, a son of Dansili. He should handle the groun, and looked one to follow when bolting up at Kempton by six lengths last time.
Top of the market is Aidan O'Brien's Beacon Rock but, after seven runs, and with an official rating just three pounds higher than the next best, and within five pounds of five other runners, it would be a slight disappointment if something couldn't improve past his level of form. He's the yardstick in the race but is probably only as good as he's already shown.
9/2 second favourite, Carntop, has had just three runs, the most recent of which was a close second to Humphrey Bogart at Lingfield, form which is good but limited in the context of a race like this. He has scope but didn't necessarily look a natural to see out twelve furlongs in a well-contested Group 2.
There are others whose merit is very hard to gauge - such as Choreographer and Lustrous Light - in what is an unattractive betting heat.
On modus operandi, Johnny G's pair are interesting in a guessers' race. The unexposed Muntahaa might reward each way support.
3.40 Commonwealth Cup (Group 1, 6f, 3yo)
Just the second year of this Group 1 sprint and, if the inaugural running is any barometer, this will be a highlight of the week. Muhaarar was a stunning winner in 2015, hurtling away from the likes of Limato, Anthem Alexander, and horse called Profitable back in fifth. That lad won the Group 1 King's Stand earlier in the week, attesting to this contest's status as an incubator of future champion sprinters as well as announcer of the pick of the Classic crop of speedballs.
Karl Burke's Showcasing filly, Quiet Reflection, is favoured, at shy of 2/1. Unbeaten in her last four, including two Group 3's (one of them on heavy ground) and a Group 2 last time out, she is a progressive filly who has unequivocally trained on. She is also officially top-rated on 117.
Compare that with second top, Buratino, on 116. Winner of the Coventry and a close second in the Middle Park last season, he was no match for Galileo Gold in the 2000 Guineas first time out in 2016. Connections dropped him back to sprint trips last time, in the Group 2 won by Quiet Reflection, and he was four lengths inferior by the line. Buratino has a fair bit to prove just now, though odds of 16/1 may overstate that a touch.
Donjuna Triumphant has been a cracking buy for Middleham Park Racing, racking up almost £200,000 in prize money so far. He was no match for Quiet Reflection, but half a length in front of Buratino, in the Sandy Lane, that ubiquitous Group 2 to which I refer, last time. If coming on for that seasonal bow, however, he ought to get a touch closer to the jolly.
Illuminate is an interesting filly. Exciting at sprint distances as a two year old, when she won the Albany at Royal Ascot, Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket and was second in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes, she failed to stay in both the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and the 1000 Guineas.
Of course, it is also possible she hasn't trained on, which is why she's 20/1 in a place. She does also have to demonstrate a liking for soft ground, though it was on the yielding side of good in Keeneland where she was beaten less than three lengths.
La Rioja's form is good, and includes a soft ground Group 3 win over six furlongs. But her trainer, Henry Candy, is having a torrid time of it at the moment - just one win, four places, from 37 runners in the last month - and that deters any notion of a wager on his filly.
The busiest of these last term was Log Out Island, whose form included second in the Norfolk Stakes at the Royal meeting. He's since won or placed in six Listed or better races, winning both the tote Two-Year-Old Trophy and the Carnarvon Stakes. He has form on soft ground but would perhaps prefer it a touch quicker, his best runs having come on good.
The pick of the pair of French entries may be Cheikeljack, according to the betting at least. He is three from five in his career, including a seven furlong Group 3 win on heavy last time. Yet to race at shorter than that distance, it is uncertain whether he has the gears for a contest where Log Out Island is likely to go very hard from the gate; especially so when his normal run style is to lead early. A top priced 14/1 is fair enough, I suppose.
At a massive price, one who got closer to Quiet Reflection than second favourite Donjuan Triumphant, and on heavy ground too, is Money Maker. The gelded son of American Post loves the mud, and has little find with some of these on this season's form. He's a 50/1 shot who could offer something of a run for small money.
QUIET REFLECTION has a very good chance of extending her unbeaten run to five and is priced accordingly. It is not impossible that either of Buratino or Illuminate could reel back to the pick of their juvenile form, which would make them contenders. And a throwaway punt on Money Maker won't be the worst bet I've made this week!
4.20 Coronation Stakes (Group 1, 1m, 3yo fillies)
A strong-looking renewal of this mile Group 1, with Jet Setting the clear form pick. Adrian Keatley's filly was a bargain buy for the Equine Growth syndicate at last year's October sales, costing just eight grand. Fast forward eight months, and she's won a Classic - the Irish 1000 Guineas - and been sold on for £1,300,000. That's the dream for us all, and it's delightful to realise that it actually is possible.
To the form book: Jet Setting, now running in the colours of the China Horse Club after Monday's sale, was a game winner of the Irish Guineas, beating this year's pre-eminent filly, Minding, in the process. Regardless of rumours that Minding banged her nose on the stalls, the fact is that Jet Setting won, and put an amazing ten lengths between herself and the third horse, the re-opposing Now Or Never.
Keatley's filly needs soft ground to show her best, and gets that here. She will be very, very tough to beat and, if she was a Ballydoyle filly, she'd be close to odds on. She was 8/1 at the beginning of last week, and that simply ignores her credentials. Yes, she was only ninth at Newmarket but here is a filly whose form on soft ground is in a different parish to quicker terrain.
Third to La Cressonniere on heavy on her last juvenile start, that one went on to win the French 1000 Guineas; and this season the daughter of Fast Company is unbeaten in three on softer than good. I think she'll win.
Jeremy Noseda is his normal bullish self about Nemoralia, and she is a smart filly on fast ground. But this is slow ground, and that's not the same. She was impressive at York last time, several grades below this, and her Keeneland run was good as well. But, on soft ground prior to that, she was whacked by a filly called Nickname who'd be a 16/1 shot here. She's not for me.
French filly, Qemah, was third to La Crossenniere in the Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) and has won well on soft. She might be the biggest danger to Jet Setting on a line through the Deauville winner, though her jockey, Gregory Benoist, is not to everyone's tastes. Ahem.
John Gosden's Nathra is unbeaten in two runs on soft, was a length second in the Pouliches and was in front of Jet Setting at Newmarket. But we know that wasn't the Irish Guineas winner's running in the 1000 Guineas, and though I'd respect a Blackpool donkey trained by Johnny G, I don't think she'll beat Keatley's girl.
Alice Springs finished in front of Nemoralia when second at the Breeders' Cup, and in front of Jet Setting when third in the 1000 Guineas. But she was beaten six lengths be the latter on heavy in between times, and the ground has probably gone against her a touch once more.
Of those who have run against JET SETTING, it is hard for this scribe to see any finishing in front of her on soft ground. I can't have Nemoralia on this turf and think she may even be opposable for a place. Qemah and Alice Springs may fill out the frame, the latter a backable each way price at around 12/1.
5.00 Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (Class 2 Handicap, 1m4f, 3yo+)
22 runners around the turn for this valuable prize. I'll be trying to oppose inside drawn horses again - see the 5.35 preview yesterday for reasons - though only in terms of getting through the placepot, something which has proven impossible for me in the first two days (at time of writing).
Having said that, the inside four stalls will all have forward-going types so perhaps this race may take a more natural shape.
Top weight, Elite Army, won the three-year-old equivalent of this last term off an 11lb lower mark. He also won over course and distance last time off just a pound lower. Clearly, conceding weight all round will be tough but he's a winning machine - four wins from six career starts - and as unexposed type could still be capable of more. He's better than a handicapper.
Notarised is thoroughly exposed, but he likes soft ground, rocks up in Festival handicaps regularly and rarely runs a bad race. Silvestre de Sousa will have him handy from stall two, and he'll not have the hard luck story that some in this field will be relating to connections post-race. His form over 1m4f on softer than good is 22135 and he rates a reasonable each way ticket.
The lightly raced Rare Rhythm was an emphatic four length scorer on just his fourth racecourse visit last time, in a Class 2 handicap on the soft side of good. A ten pound rise looks extravagant by the handicapper but this is a colt bred to be very smart at the trip - by Dubawi out of a Singspiel mare - and he should improve with age, too. The current 14/1 will probably be shorter on the day. It should be, in my view.
Sir Michael Stoute's record in this is incredible. Since 1997, he's run 15 horses, five of which have won and another four have made the frame. Given that it's perennially a 20+ field that's a quite remarkable effort, and makes Kings Fete a certain shortlist candidate.
Although all of Sir Michael's previous fifteen runners in that time were aged four, Kings Fete missed last season and is, therefore, a "logical four-year-old". He was fairly tenderly ridden when a three length fifth in Listed company last time, and the quarter mile further here will suit much better. It is worth recalling that he was only a 12/1 chance in Kingston Hill's 2014 St Leger.
Obviously bundles more with chances that I haven't mentioned.
I think Ryan Moore and KINGS FETE will almost certainly be involved here. The horse has a smattering of class and the fact he's been kept in training as a five-year-old, and is his trainer's chosen representative in a race in which he has such a stellar record, speaks a lot for his retained ability. He'll do for me.
5.35 Queen's Vase (Listed, 2m, 3yo)
If Sir Michael Stoute has a fine record in the previous race, Mark Johnston trumps him in the Vase. His 21 runners this century have produced seven winners. He has two this year, at 20/1 and 25/1.
Both were well beaten last time, where Johnston's winning septet were top three finishers on their prior start; and both ran over ten furlongs or shorter, where Johnston's winners ran over at least 1m3f. Of the pair, Soldier In Action has soft ground form and is better than he showed last time. Beaverbrook was fourth in the Coventry last year (!), so this is a quirky place for him to turn up.
Top rated on 100 is Ormito, ridden by geegeez-sponsored jockey, David Probert. He's been running on over trips around a mile and a half, and has form not many lengths behind the Derby winner. In a race where most are handicappers he'll go close if he stays, having won his maiden by seven lengths on soft. Come on David!!
There are plenty of dark horses to take him on, and the market is headed by Ebediyin of Dermot Weld's. Rated 97 by the Irish 'capper prior to duffing up Kellstrom and co in a four-runner twelve furlong conditions race, he's closely related to top class stayers including The Queen's Gold Cup winner, Estimate.
Aidan O'Brien runs three, and when he runs three he sometimes hasn't got any that can win. None has especially attractive chances in relation to its price, breeding and form. Perhaps Landofhopeandglory, who has been plugging on over ten furlongs, will find this extended trip more to his tastes. He's the most credible of the trio, I fancy.
David Simcock runs Goldmember, presumably named after subscribers to Geegeez Gold rather than a certain film starring Mike Myers. The horse has only won a maiden, by five lengths, in three starts to date; and his aptitude for soft ground has to be taken on trust. With very few miles on the clock he has bags of scope to improve.
I really, really hope ORMITO gives Andrew Balding and David Probert another big day. By association, geegeez will get a bit of reflected glory, due to David's sponsored breeches, but that's completely peripheral. Anyway, the horse has a fine form chance and conditions should be right up his street.
The biggest danger is probably Ebediyin, though Landofhopeandglory will do well to find his normal trouble in running in a contest where they'll be strung out over two furlongs by the finish.