Royal Ascot 2021: Day 4 Preview, Tips
Day four of five, Friday, at Royal Ascot features a brace of Group 1's, the Commonwealth Cup and Coronation Stakes, as well as the usual smattering of inscrutible juvenile dashes and impossible full field handicaps. We're guessing on the ground a little at this stage (Wednesday lunchtime) and, given the forecast, I'm working on the basis of somewhere between good to soft and soft. [Why can't it ever just be dry all week for Royal Ascot?]. Let's crack on...
2.30 Albany Stakes (6f, Group 3, 2yo)
Juvenile fillies stretching out to six furlongs opens the Friday card and 15 are due to go to post. With no Wesley Ward wepwesentation, it's an Anglo-Irish affair, the Irish component brought by O'Brien's Senior (Aidan) and Junior (Donnacha). Aidan brings Prettiest, an atypical fast starter for him, who made all at Navan just over a fortnight ago. Indicative of a thawing in the cold war between Darley and Coolmore, she's a Dubawi filly out of, naturally, a Galileo mare - and not just any Galileo mare, but three-time Group 1 winner, Alice Springs: nice pedigree! Prettiest is bred to get further in time but she's also bred to be very, very good.
Donnacha's Elliptic was a winner over five on debut before being given a little too much to do from the back of the field in a six-furlong Curragh conditions event. By first season sire Caravaggio, she'd be a terrific early notch on his score card if prevailing though she looks to have a bit to find on that Curragh effort for all that the stiffer six here may suit.
Hello You would be a significant scorer for the nascent Amo Racing ownership team, spearheaded by football agent, Kia Joorabchian. He has invested significantly, as Tony Stafford alluded to earlier in the week, and an early success on the big stage would doubtless trigger further welcome loosening of the purse strings at a time when a number of racing's wealthiest ownership entities have lost their figureheads.
Getting back to Hello You, she was mightily impressive in sprinting more than six lengths clear of what looked a competitive field in a Wolverhampton novice last month. If you're a little sniffy about it being an all weather race, then note that last year's Albany winner, Dandalla, also won her sole previous start on the all-weather, as did 2014 Albany winner, Cursory Glance; and 2017 Coventry winner, Rajasinghe.
We can see from her running lines (on the 'show sectionals' component of the inline form on the race card) that she was seventh, more than four lengths behind the leader at the second point of call (half a mile from home), and she was still four lengths back in fifth at the two pole, the third call point in the image. A furlong later, the fourth call point, she'd taken a narrow lead which, by the line (another furlong later) she'd extended to six and a half. She's smart.
Team Crisford, father Simon and son Ed, send out Flotus, a daughter of the once subfertile but now fully loaded (!) Starspangledbanner. She was most of five lengths ahead of her closest pursuer in a Goodwood novice run on soft ground. She'll handle conditions and looks to have plenty under the bonnet.
Oscula, the Woodcote winner, has been impressive on the helter-skelter cambers and undulations of Brighton and Epsom the last twice so is clearly a well-balanced and talented filly. Whether she has the same degree of progression of some of her rivals here is another question, as is the expected slower turf. Still, she's answered all questions thus far and adds to the puzzle.
Not many win Newmarket six-furlong novices on decent ground by five lengths-plus, which is testament to the ability of Cachet, a Highclere Thoroughbreds daughter of Aclaim, himself a very good seven furlong horse. That said, the Newmarket form has taken a few knocks, the second, fourth, fifth and seventh all off the board at least once since.
Andrew Balding won the six furlong Coventry on Tuesday and runs Kirsten Rausing's Bobby's Kitten filly, Sandrine. She won a Kempton novice on her only start and had Oscula back in third as well as a next time winner a place behind her. Balding's juveniles usually improve for their first run. Geegeez-sponsored jockey David Probert rides.
The Gosdens' Qatari-owned Sunstrike was nine lengths behind Hello You on debut before winning by a small margin at Kempton; she has plenty to do to reverse places with Hello You.
Albany Stakes tips
The daily jelly-nailing exercise that is a) pinning down the novice form in the book and b) isolating those with most progress to come. It was impossible not to be taken by Hello You's debut in a race where plenty were backed and perhaps she will be the big winner Amo seek after their Mojo Star ran that incredible second in the Derby. The purply-bred Prettiest (5/1) is another expected to be on the premises, and perhaps 16/1 Sandrine can reward each way support at a double figure price and give David P a big winner. I'm sticking mainly with 5/1 Hello You here.
3.05 King Edward VII Stakes (1m4f, Group 2, 3yo colts & geldings)
A three-year-old Group 2 over a mile and a half for the Ascot Derby, as the King Edward VII Stakes was originally known.
Eight go to post one of which, Gear Up, ran in the actual Derby. He was well beaten off there having led and looks to have a fair amount on his plate again; that said, he did win a French Group 1 last October when the going was heavy so might bounce back.
The favourite is Alenquer, who continued his upward trajectory when beating subsequent Derby winner Adayar in the Sandown Classic Trial. That form is working out well further down the finishing order, too, the likes of Sir Lucan scoring in Pattern company since. Alenquer had run two good races on soft ground last term and racing manager Armando Duarte is bullish about his chance. But then, I suppose he would be.
Back in third at Sandown, less than a length behind the winner, was Yibir. He's been beaten twice since, on the quirky pistes of Goodwood and Chester, so while this more conventional circuit might suit better he looks opposable.
A horse I quite like is Sir Mark Todd's Tasman Bay, apple of the former-showjumper-turned-racehorse-trainer's eye (ah, hyphens). A big chap, Tasman Bay was impressive when scooting clear of his rivals in a Newcastle novice, and gallant in defeat to first Hurricane Lane and then John Leeper, both of which contested the Derby (the former finishing third). He has more on again here but is expected to improve with time and racing and he could hit the board.
From the Roger Varian stable comes Title, a maiden winner at the third time of asking three weeks ago at Yarmouth. He did that well having failed by fine margins twice previously and, as a son of Camelot, might appreciate the slight step up in distance and easier ground. He has a bit to find on the book with some of these but should bridge at least some of that gap.
The Coolmore entry is The Mediterranean, a - you guessed it - son of Galileo. He was a close second in a Listed race at Leopardstown over this range a fortnight ago and is another with more to offer.
Gloucestershire, the horse not the county, takes a giant stride up in class from the Kempton maiden he won on his lone juvenile racecourse visit. Trainer Martyn Meade must be pleased with how he's working at home to tackle a gig like this but he will need a chunk more than he showed at Sunbury.
The octet are completed by Belloccio, a Listed winner on soft ground last backend who was well behind Alenquer in the Sandown Classic Trial and Hurricane Lane in the Dante. A return to softer footing may bring him closer to his Esher rivals but it is hard to envisage a full reversal of placings.
The projected pace looks even:
King Edward VII Stakes tips
ALENQUER could be a very good horse and 2/1 understates that a touch for me. He met with a setback which removed any notions of a supplementary Derby entry and yet he comes here bidding to frank the Derby form in a roundabout way. There are others sure to be capable of more but so is the favourite who starts from a higher level of demonstrated ability. I expect he'll just about win.
3.40 Commonwealth Cup (6f, Group 1, 3yo)
A brilliant addition to the Royal Ascot Group 1 roster is this six furlong sprint for three-year-olds only. This year the market is headed by a pair of overseas raiders, one from America and one from France.
French sprinters are not typically as good as British and Irish ones - see the roll of honour for their Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye for confirmation of that (they did get the winner last year) - but our Gallic cousins have a fast filly in the form of Suesa. She is unbeaten in four starts ranging from five and a half to six furlongs, all on softer than good and all at Chantilly, most recently in a brace of Group 3's. She seems tractable in terms of run style, having raced very prominently and from midfield, and has a fine turn of foot albeit that French races are often a little steadier in the early furlongs than this is likely to be. Suesa looks the real deal and has a strong chance of completing the five-timer.
The American runner is Campanelle, Wesley Ward's 2020 Queen Mary and Prix Morny winner. Those two victories prove she can handle this track, soft ground and Group 1 company (at Deauville in the Morny). She ran with credit while not quite getting home in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and this will be her first run since that early November effort. That means we have to take both fitness and progression from two to three on trust; on the flip side, the very fact she's here implies ticks in those boxes: in Wez we truzt.
The shortest of the domestic party is Dragon Symbol, Archie Watson's Cable Bay colt having all but won a Haydock Group 2 last time. That was on heavy ground and it was a first defeat in five races. Oisin Murphy takes over from Adam McNamara and any give in the track is expected to suit.
Supremacy was a good winner of the six furlong Middle Park Stakes, Group 1, last autumn where he beat the proven Group 1 horse, and St James's Palace Stakes second, Lucky Vega. But he clunked last of eight on his 2021 debut having been sent away a shade of odds on. He gets first time blinkers here which is interesting, not necessarily in a good way. This Mehmas colt likes to lead in his races, but so do a few others.
Also prominent in the Newmarket autumn Group 1's last term was Miss Amulet, Ken Condon's filly running second in the Cheveley Park. She followed that up with a fine third - one place in front of Campanelle - at the Breeders' Cup before, as with Supremacy, blowing it big time on seasonal bow. But, unlike that one, Miss Amulet was stretching out to a mile in a true run heavy ground Irish 1000 Guineas. She patently failed to stay under those much more testing conditions than the tight turning firm ground mile at Keeneland. This straight six with a bit of ease might be ideal and she is expected to bounce back to some degree.
Measure Of Magic had fair form as a juvenile and she's won a couple of six furlong good ground Listed contests already this campaign. A step up is required to challenge the pick of these but she's moving in the right direction. Similar comments apply to the Ado McGuinness-trained A Case Of You, winner of four of his five starts either side of the turn of the year. That quartet includes a Group 3 verdict over Lipizzaner, and another G3 score last time out. His run style is just off the pace so this could set up if he's good enough. Soft side of good looks a prerequisite.
And I must mention a favourite of mine, Laws Of Indices, who was less than a length behind A Case Of You last time and has plenty of solid Group 1 form. The harder they go the better it will suit this second string to Ken Condon's Commonwealth Cup bow.
Most of the others don't really look good enough.
The pace map suggests plenty of early sizzle spread right across the track:
Commonwealth Cup tips
A great race which could easily go the way of one of the overseas pair of Campanelle and Suesa. But I'm going to roll the dice each way with a couple of longer prices in the shape of 25/1 Miss Amulet and 16/1 A Case Of You. The former is dropping back to a more suitable trip and the latter looks really nicely progressive and has optimal conditions. A penny win and place on 28/1 Laws Of Indices, too, because he might just bag one of these big ones. Every chance the trio fail to cut any ice but they're a scintilla of value in a very open race. Should be a cracker.
4.20 Coronation Stakes (1m, Group 1, 3yo fillies)
The scene for the second Group 1 of the afternoon is the round mile over which Classic generation fillies will strut. The winner of the 1000 Guineas (and second in the French 1000) takes on the Irish and German 1000 Guineas winners in a proper smash up for mid-season mile primacy.
Mother Earth deserves her place at the head of proceedings having beaten all bar Coeursamba in two Classics. She was convincing on good to firm at Newmarket, and also quickened well in soft ground to lead at Chantilly before being run down by the winner that day. However, she only just got best of a four-way photo for second while the Newmarket Guineas form received no boosts from either the Oaks or the Irish Guineas.
That Irish equivalent was snatched on the line by the fast finishing Empress Josephine who needed every single yard to get by better fancied stablemate Joan Of Arc. Soft ground and a well run race were a feature of the Empress's two wins (from four starts) and she may get at least most of what she wants again here. Ryan Moore cannot defect from Mother Earth but he will be acutely aware that this filly, ridden as at the Curragh by Seamie Heffernan, may once more prove an unwelcome thorn in his side.
If those are father Aidan's duo, sons Joseph and Donnacha are both represented, too. Joseph sends last year's Group 1 Fillies' Mile winner Pretty Gorgeous to the party; that G1 triumph was on soft ground and while she was only seventh in the Irish 1000, she was beaten just three lengths after a difficult transit. Stripping fitter here, she'd be another credible player if getting back to her Fillies' Mile level. Frankie Dettori rides.
Donnacha's Shale has the outside post, 13, which will not help but she did beat Pretty Gorgeous twice last season - as well as losing to her twice - including when claiming the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes over seven furlongs. Her two verdicts over PG were on good ground, her two defeats to that one on softer, the balance of her form suggesting she might not want too much rain (for all that she outclassed her rivals on soft to heavy in her maiden).
The Jenny Come Lately is Ed Walker's Primo Bacio, who was fourth in the Fred Darling before seeming to take a big step forward in a York Listed contest over seven furlongs. That was her first attempt at a mile and it was also on good ground; she's yet to race on anything more juicy than that. She looks short enough in the market.
Rejoining the Guineas thread, Novemba is a dark horse having made all in the German 1000, with fully seven and a half lengths back to the second. Dusseldorf, like this race, is a right-handed round mile and stall one will allow David Egan to pursue the same tactic if connections wish to. It's pretty hard to quantify that form but she did quicken smartly and may just be capable of going wire to wire.
The unexposed trio of Alcohol Free, Snow Lantern and unbeaten dual wide-margin winner Potapova are others with bits of chances in a fascinating and seemingly well up to scratch renewal.
Here's the pace map, excluding the overseas raider Novemba who is drawn 1 and will go forward:
Coronation Stakes tips
A great race in prospect. Luck in running could be a factor and one who will probably be out of trouble up front is 14/1 Novemba. She seems to have matured well from two to three and will give us a run for small money. If Novemba is taken on for the lead the likelihood is that this will be quite a test, as it was when Empress Josephine ran down Joan Of Arc at the Curragh. Her quote of 6/1 is slightly more tempting than the 7/2 about Mother Earth. It wouldn't be a surprise to see 6/1 Pretty Gorgeous go close but she won't be on my ticket this time.
5.00 Sandringham Stakes (1m, Class 2 handicap, 3yo fillies)
Despite the big field in a handicap on the straight track this typically goes to a filly at the top of the betting lists. Or at least it did prior to 2017, when the previous nine winners were priced 11/1 or shorter. Since then, we've had winners at 20/1, 11/2 and then 33/1 the last twice. And this time it's 12/1 the field. TWELVE to one. Hmm.
Those two double carpet pokes were both trained by Charlie Fellowes and ridden by Hayley Turner so, while Charlie has nothing this time, Hayley rides Professional Widow. Second in three maidens, the Widow made no mistake at Nottingham on handicap bow (1m, good to soft) off 80 last time and is up just three pounds for that.
Jockey braces is a feature of the past six Sandringham winners: before Hayley, Jamie Spencer rode two and before him Frankie Dettori rode two. And, actually, in the four years before that, Richard Kingscote rode two.
Many people are now aware of Jamie Spencer's record on the Ascot straight mile; it sets up perfectly for his patient pace judgement. And, while it always looks dreadful when it doesn't quite come off, that's the nature of the riding style and all punters backing Spencer should know it comes with the territory. For me he's one of the best riders in the weighing room and has one of the best clocks of any jockey riding in Britain: excellent on the front end, excellent (in the right circumstances) from the back.
Let's put some factual meat on that rhetoric bone: since 2008, Spencer has ridden 33 horses in 20+ runner Ascot straight mile handicaps. He's won on four of them (+28 at SP) and made the first four on eleven occasions (each way +64.75). In the same time frame in all field size handicaps over the same course and distance, he's won 12 of 59 (+70.5) and placed on 26 (each way +124.68).
The Charlie Hills-trained Prado gets Spencer's services this time and she's a 33/1 chance at time of writing. It's easy to make her case: in four career starts she won a Salisbury novice before running (a distant) second in a soft ground Group 3 and then a respectable sixth in the Group 2 May Hill Stakes. Her most recent, and only 2021, spin was fourth over the round mile here, a piece of form that ties in with Primo Bacio in the previous race through Creative Flair. We know she'll be held up, as she has been in all her races to date. No better man and all that.
One who showed impressive acceleration in her most recent two races is Glesga Gal. She was flagged on the Fast Finishers report for the second of the pair as a result of the first, and she again showed that rapid last section as can be seen in the image below.
The three coloured blocks relate to 'OMC' sections, which is simply shorthand for the Opening, Middle and Closing parts of the race. As can be seen, in this case over seven furlongs that equated to the start to five furlong pole (S-5), five out to two out (5-2), and two out to the finish (2-0). The top trio of blocks are the RACE sectional data, and the trio inline against the winner are the RUNNER sectional data.
The green shades at the top indicate a fairly evenly run race. Compare against that the dark orange for Glesga Gal's closing quarter mile which she completed in 22.99 seconds and a finishing speed (i.e. the time of that section compared with the time she took to complete the whole race) of 107%. That's impressive.
Finally, look at the running lines bottom left in the image - the five bold figures with superscript numbers adjacent. These equate the five 'call points' - simply points during the race - and we can see what they are from the remaining data in the same row as the running lines, namely S-5, 5-4, 4-2, 2-1, and 1-0. Anyway, from the running lines we know that she was more than three lengths back in fifth at the third call (4-2, so the two furlong pole), had closed to within half a length of the leader by the furlong pole before running away by most of four lengths at the line.
Hopefully for some readers that was worth teasing out, because I strongly believe sectional timing information is a powerful attribute in the form reading kit bag.
Long and short, if she can transfer that acceleration from a turning all weather circuit over seven-eighths to a straight turf mile she'll be a player.
One other to mention in a race where I could mention 16 and miss the winner is Friendly from the Ballydoyle team. She was 'just another' filly from that top tier production line prior to the Irish 1000 Guineas where, as a 100/1 shot, she ran to within three lengths of the winner, eventually finishing sixth. She's still a maiden and this would be a great race in which to break her duck. A mark of 102 and top weight won't make it easy but a replication of the Guineas effort would probably be just about enough.
Sandringham Stakes tips
12/1 the field says it all. My three off the tee - all each way with as many extra places as you can find - are the Jamie Spencer-ridden Prado (33/1), the sectional fast finishing filly Glasga Gal (14/1), and is-she-or-isn't-she-really-as-good-as-she-appeared Irish 1000 Guineas sixth, Friendly (12/1).
5.35 Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (1m4f, Class 2 handicap, 3yo+)
A big field mile and a half handicap which is framed by one of those counter-intuitive draw biases with which regular readers will be familiar. How is it that a turning track favours middle to high stalls over the lowest berths? Part of it is to do with low numbers either doing too much too early or getting caught in traffic, I guess, but whatever the reason it's a 'thing' and it might impact the chances of runners here. Note, as ever, that nothing is cast in stone and horses have won from all draws; so don't be tearing up the rule book if trap one gets it done!
Overlaying draw awareness onto the pace map gives this technicolour yawn of a visual:
The green zone is middle but not held up and I'll work loosely in that section for my guesses.
Tritonic was a Grade 2 winner over hurdles in the spring on good ground and has Ryan Moore in the plate. He was fifth in the Triumph Hurdle and, before hurdling, he was a consistent handicapper at this level.
Ben Coen was a bit too far back last time aboard Mirann for his guv'nor Johnny Murtagh but that run showed this lad's suitability for a job like this. He won't mind any ease in the turf and looks well-bred (by Motivator) for a step up to a mile and a half.
The favourite at time of writing is Aaddeey, trained by the Crisfords and ridden by James Doyle. A lightly raced hold up horse he bounded away from his field when trying this trip for the first time the last day; he's up nearly a stone for that but it might not be quite enough. He looks a Group horse for all that he might need luck to show it today.
Zabeel Champion, trained by Mark Johnston, was 'rewarded' for winning his last three races by receiving the unkindest cut of all. Gelded first time, then, he's expected to be close up and may hang on for a place.
Winner of three of his last four, Dark Pine deserves his place. Those victories were all at shorter trips and, as a son of sprinter Dandy Man, I'd have some reservations about stamina for this assignment.
No such reservations with the Gosdens/Dettori entry, Grand Bazaar, who has won a similar race at Newmarket and is closely pegged with Zabeel Champion on his most recent outing.
One with the wrong run style and drawn low is Valyrian Steel. In spite of those potentially insurmountable negatives, I was really taken by this horse when he won on debut at Newcastle. Eight and a half lengths off the lead at the first call that day, he won by half a length going away. He followed up in less flashy fashion next time and has since won two of four further starts. A big strider I feel like this could be his kind of thing.
As always, every chance the winner has eluded me in the above.
Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes tips
Very tricky. Too tricky, really. I want a tiny tickle on 12/1 Valyrian Steel, and another little bit each way on 11/1 Tritonic, and a third little bit win only on 13/2 Aaddeey. Interest bets only, though.
6.10 Palace Of Holyrood Stakes (5f, Class 2 handicap, 3yo)
A five furlong sprint handicap to watch somewhere with the wallet safely locked away. 25 three-year-olds spread across the track and hurtling licketty-split for the jam stick. This, my friend, is a cavalry charge!
Get It is an interesting pace horse in the low numbers. Fourth in the Windsor Castle last year over course and distance he won a small field novice at Wolverhampton on his sole spin this term (first off a wind op) and it looks as though trainer Clive Cox and connections have tried to protect his mark for this.
Even lower in the stalls is Caroline Dale, third in last year's Group 2 Queen Mary at the Royal meeting, and the Group 3 Princess Margaret over six here, and in a Listed contest at Newbury (soft). This will be her first run of the season so fitness is taken on trust, but she's quick and proven over course and distance.
23 others who could win...
Palace Of Holyrood Stakes tips
Too hard, but I'll have a florin each way on 20/1 Get It and 33/1 Caroline Dale and watch the high numbers sweep the board!
And that's that for our preview pieces this week. I hope you've been entertained if not informed by them, and that your betting has been both fun and profitable. It's not easy at Royal Ascot, nor is it supposed to be! Saturday is a day for you to find your own way (assuming you haven't been already), and I wish you luck with that when the time comes.
For now, though, thank you very much for reading.