Tag Archive for: Commonwealth Cup

Power just Perfect in Commonwealth Cup

Perfect Power finished with a flourish to claim top honours in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

A dual Group One winner over six furlongs last term, Richard Fahey’s stable star won the Greenham over seven on his reappearance, which prompted connections to have a crack at the 2000 Guineas.

Having seemingly had his stamina limitations exposed on the Rowley Mile, the Ardad colt reverted to six furlongs in Berkshire and galloped home on the far side of the track under a power-packed ride from Christophe Soumillon to oblige as a 7-2 joint-favourite.

Flaming Rib and Flotus finished second and third respectively.

Fahey said: “We hoped this lad would stay but he’s definitely happier back sprinting. He’s a great doer and an absolute pleasure to train. You can switch him on and off.

“Christophe doesn’t need any instructions. He loves him and so do I. I think we will stay sprinting with him and probably head for the Prix Maurice de Gheest over six and a half furlongs at Deauville.

“I was further back than I wanted, but Christophe Soumillon is the man.

“It’s fantastic. When you have a great belief in a horse and he doesn’t let you down – it’s fantastic.

“When you’re a small trainer from the north of England, you need Group One horses. He has won three Group Ones now, it will be four soon. He is a special horse.”

Soumillon said: “It’s great. I think the track was a bit fast for him and, with that draw, I didn’t have any chance but to sit back. When I looked around at the two-furlong marker, I saw I had seven lengths to make up. I thought that was a bit far, but in the race before I saw Ryan Moore took the same line and the track was looking good there.

“I’m sure he can be much better on softer ground, so it is good news.

“That is the greatness of a top trainer. We tried to give him more stamina for the 2000 Guineas, and you have to try. Now we know he is a top sprinter. He is a great horse. He has such a big heart and when I came by, I wasn’t sure if he would quicken again and then the last 150 yards he showed another turn of foot.

“It’s great. Perfect Power was the best two-year-old I have ridden in terms of speed and, now at three, he is still giving a great performance. I hope this is just his first Group One of the season and I’m sure if he went to Deauville for the Prix Maurice De Gheest, that would be his race and then maybe at the end of the season we go seven, but the trainer knows more than me.”

Perfect Power came through late to win
Perfect Power came through late to win (Adam Davy/PA)

He went on: “It is very special, that is why you have to be very humble when you come over here as it is the toughest place to win races. When you have the chance to ride a great horse for great owners and a great trainer, you have to put it all together.

“When you ride a horse that gives such big feelings when he accelerates, you want to keep on him all the time. Hopefully I’d like to be available all the time to ride him. For me, it is a proudness and to win here today is amazing.”

Hugo Palmer said of Flaming Rib: “I was nervous about the ground, and James (Doyle) actually said he’ll improve again on better ground.

“He did a piece of work last week which, the horse has never worked badly the whole time, but his work last week was pretty wow stuff, and he beat a horse who is rated considerably higher than him, and did it impressively, and I thought there was just a chance we would have improved a lot today.

“Being second – you’re the first loser; it’s never where you want to be, but I’m very proud of what he’s done.”

Ed Crisford, joint-trainer, said of Flotus: “I was delighted with that – obviously she bounced back to her Cheveley Park form. She’s been a bit unlucky this year, with the stalls at Newmarket, and ran a great race at Haydock, but to see her run like that was fantastic. I’m so pleased.

“We’ll see what there is. I don’t think she even has a Listed penalty now, because she won before August, so we’ve got all options and we’ll see where she is. We’ll pick and choose for her – we’ve got lots of options.”

Commonwealth Cup ‘ideal race’ for Perfect Power

Richard Fahey is excited to see Perfect Power return to what he feels is his natural game in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

A dual Group One winner over six furlongs as a juvenile last season, the Ardad colt successfully stepped up to seven on his return to action in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury in mid-April, prompting connections to roll the dice over the Rowley Mile in last month’s 2000 Guineas.

After travelling well for a long way Perfect Power – who took the Norfolk Stakes at this meeting 12 months ago – faded into seventh place, but having been given plenty of time to recover from those exertions, the three-year-old is reported to be in rude health ahead of his return to sprinting in Friday’s six-furlong feature.

“I feel dropping him in trip is the route he needs to go and I’m not disappointed I missed the St James’s Palace Stakes. This looks the ideal race for him,” said the Musley Bank handler.

“I wasn’t really tempted for the St James’s Palace, not after the Guineas. He didn’t have an easy run in the Guineas, but he has bounced right back and he is in great form. We are very pleased with him.

“I see him as a sprinter now – six or seven furlongs is his trip.”

Fahey is keen to see how Perfect Power fares at Ascot before considering future targets, adding: “There is the Maurice de Gheest, there is a decent seven-furlong at York and there is the Foret over seven furlongs – all the decent sprints.

“Let’s see how we get on and work away from there.”

El Caballo at Haydock
El Caballo at Haydock (Richard Sellers/PA)

Perfect Power is joined at the head of the betting by a fellow northern challenger in the Karl Burke-trained El Caballo, who following four successive wins on the all-weather successfully switched to the turf in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock – a key trial for the Commonwealth Cup.

The only factor tempering Burke’s enthusiasm ahead of El Caballo’s bid for a seventh win from eight starts is fast ground.

He said: “He did his final little blow on Tuesday morning and moved really well – he’s in great form.

“Ideally I’d have preferred good ground, but I’m sure he’ll cope with it as he is a very good horse and ground permitting I think he’ll step up on his run in the Sandy Lane.

“He slightly goes under the radar because he only just gets the job done each time, but I think he’s still on an upward curve. We went into the Sandy Lane with a couple of niggles about him and I’m pretty confident he’s improved again.

“If it was good or good to soft ground I’d be very bullish.”

Go Bears Go (centre) winning at Ascot earlier this season
Go Bears Go (centre) winning at Ascot earlier this season (John Walton/PA)

El Caballo renews rivalries with the second, third and fourth from the Sandy Lane in the Hugo Palmer-trained Flaming Rib, Clive Cox’s Wings Of War and Go Bears Go from David Loughnane’s yard.

The latter beat Perfect Power by a head when landing the Norfolk Stakes at last year’s Royal meeting and connections are optimistic he can at least close the gap on El Caballo.

Emily Scott, racing manager for part-owners Amo Racing, said: “It was really unfortunate when he fell to his knees coming out of the stalls at Haydock last time and I think had that not happened he would have finished much closer, if not won.

“He loves the track and he’s in great form, so we’re really excited to see him run again.

“To win an elusive Group One would be very exciting.”

The shortest-priced Irish raider is Michael O’Callaghan’s Twilight Jet, who made an impressive start to his campaign in the in the Group Three Lacken Stakes at Naas.

O’Callaghan said: “He arrived in on Wednesday morning and we’re very much looking forward to it.

“He’s in the form of his life and I think he’s going to run a big race.

“He’s come out of Naas that well and is working that well, whatever beats him will win.”

Other hopefuls include American challenger Slipstream (Christophe Clement) and the first six home from the Carnarvon Stakes at Newbury where the first and second, Tiber Flow (William Haggas) and Ehraz (Richard Hannon), were split by just a short head.

Royal Ascot 2022: Day 4 (Friday) Preview, Tips

The fourth of five days at Royal Ascot, Friday, has a 'get set for the weekend' vibe about it, and the weather is forecast to be joining in, too. Bring your sun lotion and some shades, then, to enjoy seven more top tier tussles headlined by a brace of Group 1's for three-year-olds only, the Commonwealth Cup and Coronation Stakes. It's the young guns that get us underway, in the...

2.30 Albany Stakes (6f, Group 3, 2yo fillies)

The Albany Stakes, for two-year-old fillies, has run since 2002 when it was a Listed contest. It was promoted to Group 3 status in 2005 and, though it is considered an early opportunity for potential 1000 Guineas types, no filly has yet achieved that double.

Usual challenge with two-year-old races is trying to guess which horses' debut wins were the more meritorious and, on top of that, which might have the most improvement to display this time. In other words, pass the hammer while I attempt to secure this blancmange to the wall.

The market is a guide. Five of the 20 Albany winners were clear favourite and just about broke even. Meditate bids to make it 6 from 21. She's an Aidan O'Brien / Ballydoyle / Ryan Moore unbeaten-in-two filly with a regal pedigree comprised of speed on the sire side (No Nay Never) and stamina on the dam side (Dalakhani mare). And she was a comfortable winner of a 6f G3 last time. She sets the standard.

Saeed bin Suroor, who is having a great week, saddles Mawj, the first of numerous unbeaten-in-one to line up. She's only won a novice, but that was over this distance at Newmarket in a field of ten, and by nearly five lengths. The second has won her sole start since and the third was another three lengths - eight in total - behind the winner. Mawj must be smart.

The Amo Racing-owned Queen Olly has a pure Coolmore pedigree - No Nay Never out of a Galileo mare - and cost €300k as a yearling. Her York debut suggested that expenditure was not completely blown as she strolled clear of a promising group of novices by nearly four lengths. That form hasn't yet worked out but it is still hard to crab the winner.

Fully Wet is the Gosden runner and she won her Goodwood debut; what is noteworthy is that John Gosden has not typically had a terrific debut strike rate, and those that do win on their introduction tend to be pretty smart. Obviously, she's up against any number of other 'pretty smart' types, and the bare form is nothing to get fanatical about.

An early 2yo winner was Powerdress, whose Newmarket five furlong score came in mid-April. She's not been seen since but the form has had a chance to get interrogated, and has fared at least all right. The second and third have won since as have the fifth and eighth. None has taken a good step forward ratings-wise, but she is entitled to improve plenty if she's not a pure five furlong filly: her pedigree is total speed.

Lots of others who are exciting for the future.

The market probably has this right, and Mawj is a much more playable price than Meditate for all that her form is not yet as good as the favourite's. Her debut was a powerhouse performance and if she can move forward even a bit she'll take some beating. She's 4/1 or so.

3.05 Commonwealth Cup (6f, Group 1, 3yo)

One of the newest and, in my opinion, best races at the Royal meeting, the Commonwealth Cup is a six furlong sprint for three-year-olds. It is unique in that it is the only race in the history of the European Pattern to have been inaugurated with Group 1 status. And it has been a cracking addition to the Royal Ascot menu, this year's renewal in no way deviating from that general observation.

A phalanx of fast horses will go to post, headed - in market terms at least - by Perfect Power. Trained by Richard Fahey to win two Group 1's over this trip as a juvenile, he also won when stretched out to seven in the Greenham. That emboldened connections to have a crack at the 2000 Guineas in which he was a patent non-stayer. Nevertheless, he still beat more than half the field and has shown he's trained on, a reservation with some of his rivals.

His ability to get seven furlongs will be an asset over a stiff and fast-run six, and firm ground holds no fears either. He has an excellent chance of another G1 victory. Stall 1 puts him on the rail.

El Caballo has won all six starts since a debut second. They include the 3yo All Weather Championships race and the Group 2 Sandy Lane. He's untested at Group 1 level but is certainly ready for the challenge. Ehraz, meanwhile, is a similar price with some good form at the distance, almost all of it in defeat. He might appreciate a faster run race than he's largely encountered hitherto, but I'm struggling to see his case as clearly as a number of his rivals. He has the widest stall, 20, which may not be ideal.

One of the pace angles is Flaming Rib, co-owned by Michael Owen and trained by Hugo Palmer. He was just behind El Caballo last time having won six of his eleven prior starts. He's very consistent and has been a brilliant horse for connections; it's not impossible that he could find more again.

Michael O'Callaghan has marked himself out as a bit of a sprint king on both sides of the Irish Sea, and he saddles Twilight Jet. Prior to his final 2yo start, this lad had won just one of his eight starts but, since then he's come home in front in both races either side of his winter holiday. His performance in the G3 Lacken Stakes first up this season was particularly impressive; he's another front-runner in a field that is not overloaded with early dash.

Flotus is the out and out pace setter having led in each of his last four runs, winning a Listed and finishing second in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes last term. She's not quite been at the same level in two starts this season so has a little to prove for new owners who paid a million for her in December. If nothing else, she'll be an exciting broodmare prospect in due course.

Christophe Clement, the US-based brother to French trainers' association chairman, Nicolas, sends Slipstream across the pond and has enlisted Joel Rosario, one of the very best Stateside, to do the steering. Unusually for an American sprinter at Royal Ascot, he's typically a hold up type, though he has won from the front also - just not recently. He's won three either side of a non-staying effort in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (mile) and got the better of a smart Wesley horse, Twilight Gleaming, last time. He'll jump from box 18, close to El Caballo but wide enough on the flank.

Go Bears Go booked his ticket with a 'win and you're in' verdict in the Pavilion Stakes, a trial for this, in late April. He's since run only fairly behind El Caballo at Haydock but we know he handles conditions.

One more to mention is Sacred Bridge. Ante post favourite for the 1000 Guineas at one point, she fluffed her lines spectacularly at Newmarket in the Cheveley Park and was again outstayed in the Ballylinch behind Homeless Songs. Dropped back to sprint trips she won a Listed race at Cork last time. If she's not regressed she has back class to give her a shot at a big price. She has stall three.

An exciting race in prospect with draw likely to play a part. The speed horses, Flotus and Twilight Jet, are drawn right in the middle while plenty of fancied runners are berthed on the wings. Not ideal, probably. The one with the best post of the top of the market is probably Flaming Rib and he could be an each way play as a result. I think Perfect Power is probably the best horse in the race, but I worry about the draw, likewise El Caballo and Slipstream could be drawn inconveniently. Sacred Bridge is another for whom a wide post is suboptimal but, at 25/1, I can't resist a little tickle. [Full disclosure: I backed her ante post for the 1000 Guineas so am almost certainly seeking some affirmation - aka throwing good money after bad]

3.40 Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (1m4f, Class 2 handicap, 3yo+)

A mile and a half handicap for three-year-olds and up, but due to the King George V Handicap being run over the same course and distance for 3yo's only, it's rare to see one in this contest these days; older horses it is, then. We do have the same quirky anti-low draw bias in play: since the track was relaid and Ascot returned from its one year roadshow to York in 2006, all bar one of the 15 winners emerged from a double digit stall. Backing them all would have produced nearly 30 points profit at SP!

The well fancied favourite, Just Fine, is in stall 7; second choice, Trawlerman, is in stall 3; and the well fancied Mashhoor is in stall 1. If the double digit draw theory holds for one more year we'll be on the side of one at a price at least.

Contact is the first on the list. Trained by the Barrons, David and Nicola, they're an unfashionable enough team in the Royal Ascot context but are eminently capable as has been shown with this chap. A good handicapper last term, he has improved 12lb in three runs this season; from a 2022 debut second to Tuesday's Copper Horse Stakes winner, Get Shirty, to a brace of Class 2 handicap wins at this trip, he looks like he has more to give.

William Haggas has Candleford in stall 18. Last seen 219 days ago when beating Coltrane - Tuesday's Ascot Stakes winner - three lengths in a Class 2 all-weather handicap, a literal interpretation of that would put him squarely in the mix. He has turf form, too, having been third in the Old Rowley Cup at Newmarket last October, and was second over this course and distance before that (subsequently disqualified because the jockey weighed in light). Haggas has a 24% hit rate with horses off a 60+ day layoff so I'd not be unduly concerned by that.

Ever Present is a six-year-old, which is normally older than ideal (though a seven-year-old won in 2020), but in his case he has had only four starts in flat races having formerly been a bumper horse. Switched to a Leopardstown maiden last June he won by six lengths over 1m7f, and followed up in a conditions race over the same track and trip. He beat all bar one in a small field on his handicap debut before making no mistake in a huge field in the Premier 'Petingo' Handicap on Irish Champions' Weekend last September. He's not been seen since, 279 days, though again the trainer's ability mitigates any ring rusty reservations.

And, because his trainer(s), Mark (and Charlie) Johnston, has won this four times, State Of Bliss is another to look at more closely. He's a course and distance winner, in the Shergar Cup last summer, and will love the hurly burly of a race like this. He looks exposed but has shown that these conditions are his optimum.

The top trainer, though, is Hughie Morrison, who has won the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes four times - including last year - from just eight runners, and had another one placed. He saddles the poorly drawn Stay Well, who it should be assumed will do just that. It is noteworthy that Morrison elected to run this one from the options he had available. Stay Well has two mile and a half wins to his name from four such races but has been campaigned at shorter in a brace of outings since the second of his twelve furlong victories. He looks a good old Hughie plot perhaps undone by trap two.

Lots more with chances granted a smooth passage, which many will not be. I'm taking three darts here: 11/1 Candleford, whose form is strong if he's fit and ready; 14/1 Ever Present, who is unexposed for one his age; and 25/1 in a place Stay Well, because Hughie.

4.20 Coronation Stakes (1m, Group 1, 3yo fillies)

The Coronation Stakes was incepted in 1840 to commemorate the ascension to the throne of Queen Victoria in 1838. It brings the form lines of 1000 Guineas fillies from across Europe together for the first time and establishes the natural order among that cohort in the same way the St James's Palace Stakes does for the colts.

This year's renewal is a fascinating international smash up between UK, Ireland, France, and the USA, and features the 1000 Guineas winner (and French 1000 runner up), Cachet; the French 1000 Guineas winner, Mangoustine; the Fillies' Mile winner and runner up, Inspiral and Prosperous Voyage; Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, Pizza Bianca; and an unbeaten dark horse from America in Spendarella. Throw in two further juvenile Group 1 or 2 winners with scope for further progression in Discoveries and Sandrine, and, "phew, what a scorcher!" as the soaraway currant bun might have it.

Despite the depth in the field, Inspiral, absent since early October last year, is a clear favourite. She was untouchable as a two-year-old, with daylight verdicts in a Newmarket maiden, Sandown Listed and Doncaster Group 2 en route to running away with the Fillies' Mile back at Newmarket. Prosperous Voyage was second in that race with Cachet third, and those two reversed placings in the 1000 Guineas to give the Newmarket juvenile form a rock solid look, more so with sixth placed Concert Hall taking bronze in the Irish 1000 Guineas.

Cachet has since just failed to repel another big field in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, the French 1000 Guineas, where Mangoustine ran her down in the closing metres (they don't do imperial across la Manche). It is quite hard to know why Mangoustine, a progressive filly and winner of all bar her comeback prep this season of five starts is twice the price of Cachet.

Ralph Beckett's Prosperous Voyage has only won one of her seven races and yet she has legit claims to be in the top five three-year-old filly milers: as well as that close up and closing second in the 1000 Guineas, she filled the same position in the Fillies' Mile and the May Hill Stakes, both times behind Inspiral. She has been prominent or on the lead each time, and I wonder how things might play out here with Cachet also looking highly likely to push the pace.

Spendarella is a third front-running option, the American raider having shared the lead at least in her last two of three career starts. It's very difficult to gauge the level of her performances, though we know she, like Inspiral, has been a daylight (i.e. by more than a length) winner of each race she's contested, up to Grade 2 level. Trained by British ex-pat Graham Motion, who brought Sharing, in the same Eclipse Thoroughbreds silks, over to finish second in the 2020 renewal of this, connections have a handle on what's needed to go close and as such she is respected.

While Spendarella doesn't have the same level of form in the book as Sharing did, fellow long-hauler, Pizza Bianca, does. She showed an excellent turn of foot to win the race Sharing won, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, and she did it on fast ground and on a track, Del Mar's inner turf, that makes Ascot's turning course look like the vast expanses of the Serengeti. Moreover, who was in fourth that day? None other than Cachet, who must be an absolute dream to train and, especially, own. Cachet led there, as she tends to do, and Pizza Bianca needed a charmed run to get to the front. Here's what that looked like:

That's pretty cool, huh? I think it was down to Nathan Horrocks and his team to put that content together, and it really adds another dimension post-race.

In any case, we can see that Pizza Bianca had a ground-saving trip on the rail for the most part and that when the splits came she was fast enough to go through them. That alone makes her a runner in the Coronation for her celebrity chef owner, Bobby Flay, and French ex-pat trainer, Christophe Clement. Her form this year has been at a lower level in two starts, second to the sometimes very useful Consumer Spending (trained by Chad Brown) and then an easy winner of a conditions race; this has been the plan.

And still the good ones come. Discoveries was a highly touted juvenile, winning the G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes on Irish Champions' Weekend before a flat effort in midfield in the 1000 Guineas. She was notably weak that day, having been strong in ante post lists through the winter, so perhaps she just needed the run there. Freshened up since, if she's trained on - and she has yet to prove that, though market confidence suggests she has - she is yet another contender. She's still to win over a mile but her pedigree implies it ought not to be beyond her reach.

David Probert, sponsored by geegeez, rides Sandrine, a Group 2-winning filly at two, as well as a Royal Ascot winner (G3 Albany) and a staying on fifth in the 1000 Guineas. It is possible she was merely passing more serious non-stayers that day at Newmarket, but she showed she's trained on and retains her class; this turning track might help her get home, too, and it would be a fairy story for her rider if he could register the first domestic Group 1 of his career on the Royal stage. He has a squeak.

But wait, where's the Ballydoyle runner? We have to go down to the ninth in the current betting lists to locate Tenebrism. A winner twice at two over sprint distances - notably in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes over six furlongs - she was behind Cachet, Prosperous Voyage, Sandrine et al when only eighth in the 1000 Guineas. Her pedigree - by Caravaggio out of a Pivotal mare whose family have all run no further than a mile - suggests this is a stretch.

Mrs Tabor and Mrs Magnier take on their 'other halves' here, too, with Grande Dame, trained by John and Thady. She's only raced twice, winning on Ascot trials day in April and running a close second in a York fillies' race in May. She's going to be a better filly than she's shown to date but this is a deep race and she needs to step forward more than a stone on ratings even if the rest don't improve; that seems unlikely.

It's a proper Bobby Dazzler of a Coronation Stakes, undoubtedly one of the races of the week for me. Tactics and luck in running add to the puzzle, with the likely pace horses (Spendarella, Cachet, Prosperous Voyage) drawn 8, 9, and 12 - and with Mangoustine in 1 capable of pushing on, too. That quartet are expected to be prominent if not leading and may be joined by Discoveries (also wide in stall 10) and, if they're not outpaced/outclassed, Honey Girl (11) and Rolling The Dice (3). Meanwhile, searching for a run at the business end will be Inspiral (5), Sandrine (6), and Pizza Bianca (7). The cleanest trip may win the races.

On reflection, I think Cachet and Spendarella are likely to take them along, with Inspiral sure to make a bold bid if fit enough and if getting a run. Those two if's make 2/1 skinny enough and the horse I think is over-priced is Pizza Bianca. Non Wesley Ward-trained US turf horses tend to be under-rated when they come to Ascot but they've a good record: as well as Sharing, Tepin won the Queen Anne in 2016, and Artos was 4th in the Queen Mary last year from just a handful of runners. This filly has the race smarts to negotiate a passage on a tight turf track, and the finishing speed to take advantage of it. It will be her first time going right-handed but at 16/1 she's worth a go in a brilliant, and open, renewal.

The French 1000 Guineas winner, Mangoustine, is also worth a second look. She'll probably be behind the speed and in front of the late finishers so she may at least get first run on those closers, something she did when scoring at Longchamp last time. 10/1 looks too big.

5.00 Sandringham Stakes (1m, Class 2 handicap, 3yo fillies)

This was historically a race for the top of the market, fillies returned at single figure odds winning seven of the eight renewals between 2009 and 2016; but since then there have been two 33/1 winners and a 20/1. Hmm. Probably just ignore the market and go with what you fancy then... This is a straight track mile rather than the preceding fillies' mile run on the round course, so luck in running is less of a factor while stamina for the trip is a fundamental prerequisite.

Although most of the last 14 winners were unexposed in handicaps - half were making their 'cap bow, another two were second start in a handicap - it is those with more experience that have the best strike rate, and they tend to be a better price as slightly less sexy plays. Focusing on a minority subset of winners means what follows probably won't identify the first past the post, but if it does we'll be rewarded for our nonconformist perspective.

It will come as little surprise that, of the five more exposed winners since 2008, they all finished first (four) or second (one) last time. Looking solely at last time winners to have raced in two or more handicaps, four of the 18 rocking up in the Sandringham won it. And perhaps it could be called the sand-ringham, because three of those four were all-weather winners, an observation made elsewhere by cleverer people than me who contend that the straight track has a sandy composition not dissimilar to those golden surfaced racecourses. Such matters are way beyond my compass, but in the land of the blind and all that...

Long and short, there are four horses that fit this (tenuous) bill: Golden Spice, Gatecrasher Girl, Washraa, and Tamarama.

Golden Spice has won four of her last six, leading each time, and has two verdicts apiece on turf and all-weather with the turf wins on straight tracks. However, all wins were over seven furlongs and in single figure field sizes.

William Knight trains Gatecrasher Girl, a filly who has won all three of her starts this year, all at a mile. The fact she tends to get up close home has perhaps made it hard for the handicapper to assess her ability and she is still on an upward curve. She won over a straight mile at Doncaster last time so there are no reservations on that score.

Owen Burrows, for whom life has been more challenging since the reorganisation following Sheikh Hamdan's passing, has a chance to once more advertise his abilities, courtesy of Washraa. She's had five races, four on the all-weather, and two wins, on both her handicap spins, one turf and one all-weather. On both occasions, she was doing the good work very late on and is another who could be a step ahead of the 'capper. She'll naturally need to be.

And Tamarama rounds out my quartet of 'hopeful no-hopers'. David Probert gets the leg up on Charlie Hills' bid for a second (at least, writing before Thursday's card) handicap winner of the week after Dark Shift bagged the Royal Hunt Cup on Wednesday. Tamarama has won two of seven - the most recent two - and was previously placed in an all-weather maiden on her only attempt off the lawns. She tends to race forwardly and has done her winning in small fields so she has a bit to prove in these conditions; but she'll stay, and connections are very much respected.

Of course, there are battalions of others with chances, most of them at shorter prices. But in what is a very tough heat to deconstruct, I'm speculating wildly for sticky bun stakes; and I'm siding each way with 22/1 Gatecrasher Girl and 22/1 Washraa. Get six or more places. I'll probably have tiny bets on the other two, Golden Spice and Tamarama, as well.

5.35 King Edward VII Stakes (1m4f, Group 2, 3yo colts & geldings)

A disappointing turnout for the 'Ascot Derby', both in quality and quantity terms. Of the six to line up, only one - the exposed looking Changingoftheguard - has a rating higher than 102. Trying to polish a, well, you get the gist, Changingoftheguard is a worthy 110 and was a creditable fifth in the Derby having previously won the Chester Vase.

In opposition, there are at least some improvers, the pick of which might be Ottoman Fleet, the only one in the line up yet to receive an official mark. He followed up a debut second at Newbury that has worked out well (third placed Lionel won the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes next time) with a 'just about' verdict in the Listed Fairway Stakes at Newmarket. That was ten furlongs and he seemed to need further - he's by Sea The Stars out of a Motivator mare - and gets a quarter mile more runway to work with this time.

Lysander doesn't look quite the same level: a debut 3rd on heavy was followed by an eight length stroll in a Newcastle novice over 1m2f. None of the six runs from horses out of that race have registered even a placed effort so the form is dubious. More materially, Lysander was beaten by Lionel in the previously referenced Cocked Hat Stakes, notwithstanding that it was a narrow defeat. He might relish the extra furlong here though that's not been totally obvious either on run style or pedigree: he's by New Approach out of a Shamardal mare. To be totally fair, there is stamina in the dam's family including dam Darting herself who was moderate but won over 1m4f.

Grand Alliance looked a promising horse when bidding for a hat-trick in the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom. Only half a length behind Nahanni, that was a creditable performance, and the Derby obviously didn't go to plan: he was beaten a long way. But if we lob that G1 effort his profile retains an ascendant hue though he has plenty to find on the ratings.

Dark Moon Rising, a Night Of Thunder colt, steps up to a mile and a half for the first time having been comprehensively thumped by Desert Crown in the Dante at York. That in turn was a first attempt at beyond a mile so he's got to find some stamina from somewhere.

Completing the line up is Savvy Victory, trained by Sean Woods. He's already been separately duffed up by Changingoftheguard and Ottoman Fleet and appears to be outclassed.

In terms of how the race will be run, Changingoftheguard is the obvious pace horse: he tends to go forward and is proven at the trip. Dark Moon Rising also goes forward often but, with stamina not assured, he might be more patiently ridden (and he might not, obvs). Lysander is expected to track the pace with the other three biding their time and hoping not to be caught out of their ground. I can see Ryan Moore looking to dominate from the get go, gradually winding up the tempo and hoping to draw the sting from his rivals; he would look susceptible in that scenario, however, and perhaps the virtually-guaranteed-to-improve Ottoman Fleet at 9/4 is the answer to a fairly uninspiring affair.

6.10 Palace Of Holyroodhouse Stakes (5f, Class 2 handicap, 3yo)

The Friday nightcap is a great time to go to the bar. Thirty-odd three-year-old sprinters, many of them making their handicap debut. This is perhaps the ultimate guessers' race at the meeting, and your guess is as good as - very likely better than - mine.

My three guesses then: Shamlaan is quick and wins quite often, usually in smaller fields. Importantly, he's 20/1. And I've always loved the very fast two-year-old, now three of course, Navello. He's dropped a few pounds in the handicap and can go a bit. He, too, is 20/1. And then there's the Wesley Ward wunner, Wuthin - sorry, Ruthin. She was seventh in the Windsor Castle last year, either side of Keeneland scores and, what makes this part of the guessy play, is that Wes has a handicap winner at the meeting from just three attempts (Con Te Partiro in the 2017 Sandringham - I backed her, so probably another bias in play here). She's 10/1 in a place.


Good luck if you're betting this race, or indeed any of the races on Friday. And I hope you've enjoyed my gallops through the form for the four week days of Royal Ascot. As ever, 'Heath' day, as it once was, is time for me to reacquaint with the family - they seem like nice people, so why not? - so the best of British (or Irish or French or Australian or American) to you with your weekend wagering. Win or lose, it's been a fantastic week's sport. Thanks for following some of it here on geegeez.


Zain Claudette on course for Commonwealth Cup return

Zain Claudette will have her first run of the season in next week’s Commonwealth Cup, trainer Ismail Mohammed has confirmed.

The three-year-old daughter of No Nay Never is a course-and-distance winner, having taken a Group Three six-furlong prize at Ascot last July on her third outing.

She backed that up with success in the Group Two Lowther at York in August, giving her handler – and jockey Ray Dawson – the biggest success of their respective careers thus far.

However, she has not run since finishing 10th of 12 to Tenebrism in the Cheveley Park at Newmarket a month later, with plans for a subsequent trip to the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar shelved.

Currently a general 25-1 shot for the Group One contest at the Royal meeting, Mohammed feels bookmakers are underestimating her.

“She is in at Ascot over six furlongs,” said the Newmarket handler. “She is doing well. We have tried to do a lot of hard work with her.

“We gave her a two-month break in the paddock last year after she did well, winning a Group Three and a Group Two. We needed to give her a break. She is in great form, doing very well.

“I saw she was 25-1 for the Commonwealth Cup. I don’t know why her odds are so big. Maybe it is because she has not run up to now, but I think when they see her declared, they will be changing those odds! She is a good price now.”

Though the Saeed Al Tayer-owned Zain Claudette did not appear to handle the ground after a sluggish start in the Cheveley Park, Mohammed believes she has strengthened up over the winter having been accorded plenty of time.

“She did not start very well in the Cheveley Park and did not run her race,” he added. “We worked her before we were going to take her to America, but I was not happy to take her there. I said it was better to give her a break and keep her fresh for this season.

“There are a lot of races for her. People ask why we will not start her off in a Listed race or Group Three, and why should we start her off in a Group One, there are no (suitable) races for her before Ascot. I think Ascot is a good spot for her.

Ray Dawson gained the biggest win of his career in the Lowther at York
Ray Dawson gained the biggest win of his career in the Lowther at York (Tim Goode/PA)

“The owners will enjoy it and we have given her so many workouts. She has galloped with older horses and she is flying.”

Future plans are fluid for the filly, who tackles top-class company for only the second time next week, having won three of her five starts last term.

“I have to see what the owner wants to do,” said the trainer. “He wants to have fun and win with her. She is only three and the owner is not keen to sell her – he wants to breed from her and she is well-bred.

“There are options. Maybe a Breeders’ Cup at the end of the season, but that is something we need to discuss.”

Perfect Power pleasing Fahey ahead of Royal Ascot assignment

Richard Fahey is confident Perfect Power is firing all cylinders ahead of the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot next week.

After registering a narrow verdict over Go Bears Go in the five-furlong Norfolk Stakes 12 months ago, the Ardad colt went on to claim successive Group Ones over six furlongs in the Prix Morny and Middle Park Stakes.

A comeback victory over seven furlongs in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury encouraged connections to have a crack at the 2000 Guineas – and while he was not disgraced in being beaten just over six lengths into seventh place, Fahey feels the Rowley Mile Classic exposed his stamina limitations.

“We tried him in the Guineas and I think I was quoted as saying we were just trying to stretch the elastic band too far. I’m more comfortable training him as a sprinter than I was a miler and he’s probably happier what I’m doing with him now,” Fahey told Sky Sports Racing.

“It was an extremely difficult decision (to run in the Guineas). We all had a chat and rolled the dice. We weren’t missing anything by having a go and while I’m not saying I’m pleased we had a go, it’s taken the question mark away from whether he stays a mile or not.

“He’s in great order. He worked on Sunday and we were delighted with him. We’re really looking forward to the race.”

The Musley Bank handler has adjusted Perfect Power’s training regime ahead of his return to six furlongs on Friday week and could not be happier with how he has been performing on the gallops.

He added: “We were working him from the seven (furlong marker) rather than the five-and-a-half and now we’re building his speed back up. We were trying to take the speed out of him, if that makes sense.

“He’s happier training as a sprinter and his work has improved a lot more because we are taking the stamina out of it – he’s training exceptionally well.

“He likes to run quick and he is quick. I was very happy going into the Guineas, but you can tell he’s bouncing at the moment.

“I’m happier and he’s happier and God love anybody that’s trying to beat him.”

Perfect Power is the undoubted star of the Fahey squad bound for the Royal meeting, but he also has high hopes for a couple of exciting two-year-olds.

Clearpoint, who made a huge impression over six furlongs on his racecourse debut at Ayr, is set to drop back to the minimum distance for the Norfolk.

“If there was one I could pick out of the two-year-olds, he’s the one that I do like,” said Fahey.

“It’s just a bit of a shame that we tried to run him three weeks ago and he just scoped a little bit dirty, which stopped us from racing him.

“To get one run into him was fantastic – I’d have been disappointed if he didn’t go (to Ascot).

“He won well (at Ayr) and we expected him to win to be honest – his work has been extremely good.

“I’m going to drop him back for the Norfolk and he’s one I’m really looking forward to.”

Richard Fahey is looking forward to Royal Ascot next week
Richard Fahey is looking forward to Royal Ascot next week (Julian Herbert/PA)

Since shaping with promise when third on his Leicester introduction, Rousing Encore has won at Beverley and Pontefract and is set to line up for the Coventry Stakes.

Fahey added: “He’s progressed really well. His first run he would have needed badly, he ran a good race and he’s improving hand over fist.

“Every time I see him he looks better and his run the other day at Pontefract for me was very good.

“He’s done nothing really and we’ll aim him at the Coventry.”

Twilight Jet rockets to Lacken Stakes victory

Twilight Jet made a winning reappearance when making every single yard in the Group Three Goffs Lacken Stakes at Naas.

Michael O’Callaghan’s Twilight Son colt finished down the field in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint in his final start at the end of a busy juvenile campaign, but victory was never in doubt in this six-furlong event.

Sent off a 9-2 chance the three-year-old took an easy lead, with the hat-trick-seeking New York City and Ger Lyons’ Straight Answer tracking behind, but his pursuers had no answer once jockey Leigh Roche cranked up the engine and turned on the afterburners at the business end.

Twilight Jet and connections following victory in the Goffs Lacken Stakes
Twilight Jet and connections following victory in the Goffs Lacken Stakes (Gary Carson/PA)

He pulled three-lengths clear of the Aidan O’Brien-trained 6-5 favourite New York City, who in turn was almost the same distance clear of Saliteh who claimed third at 125-1. Betfair responded by slashing the winner into 14-1 from 40-1 for the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

O’Callaghan confirmed he believes the horse has shown enough to justify targeting that Group One contest next and was relieved to see his Cornwallis Stakes winner back to his best.

He said: “It was impressive and a relief as well. He missed six weeks in the spring, we just swam him for six weeks, and if this was three weeks ago he wouldn’t have been ready.

“He’s just come right and that makes it all the more impressive to me, knowing how his prep went during the spring. He always looked like one that could improve with time, he’s a fine big horse. He has a bit of class and has a lot of natural speed.

Naas Races – Sunday May 15th
Michael O’Callaghan hopes Twilight Jet can prove to be a Group One performer this season (Donall Farmer/PA)

“He’s going to improve for the run today, I’ve no doubt Leigh is going to tell me that he had a blow. He took plenty of pulling up and galloped down to the third fence down the back before he got him pulled up.

“I think he has strengthened up enough this year to get six furlongs. In the Middle Park last year he showed his class but just didn’t see out the six furlongs. I think this year he looks strong enough to go to Royal Ascot for the Commonwealth Cup with a big chance.”

O’Callaghan is prepared to put a line through his disappointing showing at Del Mar at the end of 2021 and was delighted that the horse could get back on track in the colours of new owners, who had signed for a share in the horse prior to that trip across the Atlantic.

He continued: “The Cornwallis was his ninth run last year and he went to the Breeders Cup’ after that.

“Michael and Julia Iavarone, whose colours he runs in, used to own Big Brown who won the Kentucky Derby and they bought into 50 per cent of him to go to the Breeders’ Cup.

“I’m just delighted that he’s come out this year as a three-year-old and he’s furnished and he’s gone and done it.

“We always thought he was probably a Group One horse. He’s trained on now over the winter and proved that he justifies being classed as something that’s maybe a Group One horse this year.”

Pizza Bianca poised to set up Royal Ascot adventure

Christophe Clement is hoping his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Pizza Bianca can book her Royal Ascot ticket when she runs at Pimlico on Preakness weekend later this month.

The Del Mar scorer holds an entry in the Coronation Stakes at the showpiece summer meeting, and while beaten on her three-year-old reappearance in Aqueduct’s Listed Memories of Silver Stakes she nevertheless ran a race full of promise.

The three-quarter-length winner of that $100,000 event was Chad Brown’s Consumer Spending, who was beaten by Pizza Bianca at the Breeders’ Cup, and Clement reports his filly to be working well ahead of her next run.

The New York-based trainer told PA Media: “She is very well, she will have two works now, one on the grass this weekend and another next week and then we’ll run her over here in a mile Stakes race at Pimlico on the weekend of the Preakness. As long as she runs well and we’re happy with the performance, we plan on bringing her over to England.”

Pizza Bianca accounted for many of the best fillies in Europe during her Del Mar victory and her Paris-born handler is delighted to see that form is being franked at all angles this season – not least in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

“The form from Del Mar is working out very well, I’m delighted that the young George Boughey won the 1000 Guineas and it is all very exciting to see how the fillies develop from two to three,” Clement continued.

Pizza Bianca is a popular horse in America thanks to her owner-breeder Bobby Flay, the US celebrity chef, who served on the Breeders’ Cup board of directors from 2014 to 2018.

Flay’s passion for racing is one of the key reasons Pizza Bianca is making her transatlantic crossing for the Royal meeting and Clement said the owner would play a hands-on role in finalising running plans for his daughter of Fastnet Rock.

“He’s the main reason Pizza Bianca is coming to England! He will be very involved in making the final decision and Bobby Flay is a great, great racing enthusiast and very popular in America, he is a famous chef over here. It is great for racing and makes racing more popular,” explained Clement.

Clement also revealed he plans to run one of his three entries for the Commonwealth Cup, with Slipstream favourite to make the final line-up at this stage. The three-year-old has won three of his six starts and got the better of last year’s Queen Mary runner-up Twilight Gleaming when last sighted in Listed company at Keeneland.

Clement said: “We have three horses entered for the Commonwealth Cup and we intend on sending one of them over. Most possibly it will be a colt called Slipstream, who won his last race very impressively.”

Stack outlines Commonwealth Cup target for Castle Star

Castle Star will have the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot as his “prime objective”, trainer Fozzy Stack has confirmed.

The speed-laden son of Starspangledbanner won the Group Three Marble Hill Stakes at the Curragh last May and finished runner-up to Go Bears Go in the Group Two Railway Stakes thereafter.

He was narrowly beaten by Perfect Power in the Middle Park Stakes on his final outing of the year – his first run outside Ireland – and currently holds an Irish 2,000 Guineas entry.

However, the Tipperary handler sees the Craig Bernick and Antony Beck-owned Castle Star as a sprinter, who will be targeted at the six-furlong Group One sprint at the Royal meeting.

“He is in good order,” said Stack. “I’m happy with how he has wintered and the prime objective will be the Commonwealth Cup.

“We will probably give him a run or two beforehand. There are a couple of options at Naas and Navan, or there’s a race at Ascot (Commonwealth Cup Trial) beforehand. It will be one or two of those.

“I don’t think the plan will be to run in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. I can’t see that. I think he is a sprinter.

“He ran a cracker at Newmarket on his last run, but I don’t see him getting a mile at that level.

“The race at Navan at the end of April is a possible starting point and there is a race at Ascot at the end of April. It will probably be one or two of those and if he ran at Ascot, he will probably just do Ascot and then Royal Ascot.”

Commonwealth Cup result unchanged following appeal

Connections of Dragon Symbol have lost their appeal against the decision of the Ascot stewards to award the Commonwealth Cup to Campanelle.

The pair fought out a thrilling finish to the Group One contest at the Royal meeting, with Oisin Murphy steering Dragon Symbol to a head victory over the Frankie Dettori-ridden Campanelle.

But Dragon Symbol made contact with Campanelle on more than one occasion during the final furlong and a half, with the stewards deeming the interference significant enough to merit reversing the placings.

Dragon Symbol’s owner Yoshiro Kubota and trainer Archie Watson opted to contest that decision via a British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel hearing, which took place on Thursday morning.

The panel viewed recordings of the race from a variety of positions, including head on, side on and from behind the field, as well as hearing extensive evidence from Dettori and Murphy, plus a brief submission from Watson.

In his evidence, Dettori explained he felt there were three instances of contact in the race, that the interference had caused Campanelle to lose her balance and combined with Dragon Symbol’s “intimidation” he had been “unable to win the race” as he was taken off his his true line and “had no chance of keeping my horse straight”.

Dettori was asked by Louis Weston, representing the BHA, to estimate the distance the interference cost his mount and he said: “It’s hard to say, but approximately 15 metres.”

Frankie Dettori at the Commonwealth Cup trophy presentation
Frankie Dettori at the Commonwealth Cup trophy presentation (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Graeme McPherson, for Dragon Symbol’s connections, contested that opinion, suggesting the distance was more in the region of six or seven metres, although all sides agreed Campanelle had moved across by around six horse widths.

Dettori also agreed he had not had to stop riding during the interference, but said his horse had been “intimidated” and “taken off balance” by the incidents.

In a post-race interview on the day, Murphy reported Dettori had said Dragon Symbol was the best in the race, but Dettori insisted Murphy was mistaken.

He said: “There was a conversation, he possibly misheard me or misinterpreted, but I did not say that.”

Murphy reiterated during his evidence the conversation did take place, although he could not recall if it occurred before or after going into the stewards’ room when pressed on the timing.

He said: “After the race, Frankie going into the stewards’ inquiry, he didn’t say to me either way he felt he was going to win the race in the stewards’ inquiry, but he did say to me ‘sorry kid, this is horse racing, you were on the best horse but that’s life’.”

Oisin Murphy celebrates aboard Dragon Symbol before the placings were reversed
Oisin Murphy celebrates aboard Dragon Symbol before the placings were reversed (David Davies/PA)

Murphy outlined in his evidence that he “didn’t want to hit the front too soon” and was mindful of conditions on the day, but “the acceleration he showed when given a little squeeze saw him go from a length or two behind to half a length in front in a short period of time, he showed a real burst”.

Murphy further stated that before he asked his mount for maximum effort, Dragon Symbol drifted right and “almost put the brakes on having gone clear”, the rider saying his mount had “leaned on (Campanelle) fractionally” before “running straight and true again”.

He also added he had no recollection of a third instance of contact, with the last interference occurring more than 100 metres from the line, with Campanelle not heading him inside the final half furlong and feeling his horse was “good value” for the winning distance, with something “still to give while Campanelle had given her all”.

During some sparky exchanges with Weston – who accused the rider of being “argumentative” – Murphy admitted to careless riding – for which he received an uncontested four-day ban – but felt the subsequent interference had not affected Campanelle’s ultimate performance, adding he felt she “had every chance to win the race”.

During his evidence, Watson outlined how inexperienced Dragon Symbol was, progressing in a “very short period of time” and having his first race in front of a crowd of “more than stable staff and connections”.

He added that Dragon Symbol does not hang at home and had not shifted in previous races.

Archie Watson, trainer of Dragon Symbol
Archie Watson, trainer of Dragon Symbol (Simon Cooper/PA)

Having considered all the evidence, the panel, which comprised of chairman HH Brian Barker QC, Tim Etherington and Steve Winfield, dismissed the appeal but the Dragon Symbol team will have their deposit returned.

Written reasons for the panel’s decision will be provided in due course, but in summing up Barker said: “We have given careful attention to the rules and guidelines and taken great care to consider the factual matters and arguments placed before us.

“Our conclusion is that the stewards did come to the right conclusion and that the appeal fails.

“In our view this was absolutely a debatable appeal, something which should have been given careful consideration and in our view the deposit should be returned.”

Royal Ascot day four – Ward hoping to carry on Camp-ing

A searing Royal Ascot week moves into a fourth day – and the Group One action on course shows no sign of letting up in the Coronation Stakes and Commonwealth Cup.

But the big question on Friday is if the weather will stay on message and, crucially for punters, keep the ground quick or if forecast thunderstorms will drastically alter the terrain.

As the three-year-olds take centre stage in both feature races, uncertainty over conditions is a potential game-changer for all concerned – be it the cream-of-the-crop fillies over a mile in the Coronation or the speed generation in the Commonwealth.

Aidan O’Brien supplies two Classic winners at the top of the market in the former – Mother Earth, superior on Newmarket’s good to firm ground in the 1000 Guineas but then only second in the French equivalent in more testing environs, and the supplemented Empress Josephine who came out narrowly on top in the mud at the Curragh.

Among their principal opposition, the ground is perhaps an imponderable for home hopes Primo Bacio and Alcohol Free – but at bigger odds, Fev Rover’s contrasting fortunes in the English and Irish Guineas indicates a definite preference for a sound surface.

Many of the Commonwealth speedsters’ connections will doubtless curse the rain if it comes in great quantity – although hot favourite Campanelle, bidding to double her Royal Ascot tally after last year’s Queen Mary Stakes victory, did also win on the Group One Prix Morny in the soft at Deauville.

The juvenile fillies kick off the quality as the card opens with the Albany Stakes – and after the three-year-old middle-distance colts have also done battle in the King Edward VII, handicap conundrums abound in the final three races.

For punters, the weather warning applies throughout – to make sure they are not on shaky ground.

The key to the Coronation?

Aidan O’Brien supplies the two likely market leaders in the Group One Coronation Stakes
Aidan O’Brien supplies the two likely market leaders in the Group One Coronation Stakes (PA)

It is four years since Aidan O’Brien last won the Coronation Stakes, with Winter. He has given himself an outstanding chance again this year, though, by supplementing Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Empress Josephine to join stablemate and Newmarket Classic winner Mother Earth. There will be plenty second-guessing what that could mean – as it did, in different circumstances, when Ballydoyle’s potential six-strong Derby team was pared down, to no avail, to just Bolshoi Ballet. O’Brien is covering two bases this time – but his sons Joseph and Donnacha may yet outdo him, respectively with Pretty Gorgeous and Shale. The home defence, meanwhile, appears well-served too with Primo Bacio, Alcohol Free and several others.

Speed queen Campanelle back for more

Campanelle and Frankie Dettori won the 2020 Queen Mary Stakes
Campanelle and Frankie Dettori won the 2020 Queen Mary Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

American challenger Campanelle proved herself for the compelling Royal Ascot combination of trainer Wesley Ward and Frankie Dettori in last year’s Queen Mary Stakes. They conquered France in the Prix Morny too, but could not make it a top-level double at the Breeders’ Cup. She faces a field full of rivals with strong form and major potential – but she and the Ward-Dettori axis will be very hard to desert for many. Ward is famed for his winners here, but has so far had a disappointing week. Perhaps his luck will change.

Alenquer – can we trust the form book?

Alenquer (left) just got the better of Adayar in the Classic Trial at Sandown
Alenquer (left) just got the better of Adayar in the Classic Trial at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Alenquer’s Sandown success from subsequent Derby hero Adayar makes him the outstanding candidate in the King Edward VII Stakes. The latter’s impressive Epsom performance was a revelation – but the question facing those trying to assess the likely outcome here is how much Adayar improved in his Classic victory. Alenquer beat him half a length back in April, but the reopposing Yibir was just a further neck back in third. Messages are therefore mixed.

Ascot arrival for Boughey in Albany?

George Boughey (centre) celebrating Oscula's victory in the Cazoo Woodcote EBF Stakes at Epsom
George Boughey (centre) celebrating Oscula’s victory in the Cazoo Woodcote EBF Stakes at Epsom (Mike Egerton/Jockey Club)

Newmarket trainer George Boughey is making a big name for himself in a breakthrough season, especially with his two-year-old string – three of whom are among the front eight in the betting for the Albany Stakes. It is surely a matter of when, not if, he opens his account at Royal Ascot. As Boughey nears 50 winners for this year, having already progressed exponentially from two in his debut campaign  in 2019, any one of Cachet, Hellomydarlin or Epsom winner Oscula could prove the first of many on this famous stage.

Flying filly Campanelle in good shape for Royal Ascot repeat

Wesley Ward is anticipating a big run from Campanelle as she bids for back-to-back Royal Ascot victories, this time in the Commonwealth Cup.

The three-year-old was triumphant in the Queen Mary Stakes last season and followed that up with a Group One win in the Prix Morny at Deauville.

A bruised heel has prevented Ward from running the bay this season, but the trainer is not concerned by her interrupted preparation and is backing the filly to perform on her first run of the campaign.

“She’s working fantastic,” he said.

“Frankie (Dettori) sat on her the other day and he was happy – once Frankie is happy, I’m happy.”

Campanelle and Frankie Dettori winning the Queen Mary Stakes
Campanelle and Frankie Dettori winning the Queen Mary Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We gave her a little time to get those heels back in order and every work she has done since has shown that she belongs in this race, Frankie worked her last Sunday and was all smiles when he got off her.

“The fact she has not had a prep race is no issue at all for me, my sprinters generally come off the bench fresh and fire first time out.

“Everything about this race looks real suitable for her.

“We know she likes the track and the distance, and even if the bit of rain materialises she won’t mind it.”

Representing French trainer Francois Rohaut is the unbeaten filly Suesa, who has a perfect record of four victories from four runs at Chantilly.

That form culminated in two comfortable Group Three wins in both the Prix Sigy and the Prix Texanita, with the three-year-old steered to success by Oliver Peslier on both occasions.

Complications caused by Covid-19 mean that Peslier has been forced to hand the Ascot ride to William Buick, who will take to the saddle to guide Suesa through her first run on English turf.

“This has always been the plan for her and everything has gone fine so far, she hasn’t done much wrong,” said James Wigan, racing manager to owner George Strawbridge.

“She’s won on heavy going, but her last win was on better ground and Olivier felt that she appreciated it.”

Clive Cox is set to saddle just Isabella Giles, after heavy overnight rain turned the ground soft and resulted in the absences of Diligent Harry and Supremacy.

The Lambourn trainer made it clear conditions will suit his remaining contender when he assessed her chances before the rain arrived.

“Isabella Giles would need easier ground,” he said.

“But as it’s such an important race and there’s a threat of thunderstorms, we’ve just left her in there as an insurance.”

Eve Johnson Houghton has a chance in the shape of Group-level debutant Jumby, who was last seen winning a competitive six-furlong handicap at Newmarket in May.

“I’m thrilled with him,” she said.

Jumby could give Eve Johnson Houghton a second winner of the week
Jumby could give Eve Johnson Houghton a second winner of the week (Mark Cranham/PA)

“He’s a really good horse and hopefully he knows enough, he won really well at Newmarket and the form is working out well so fingers crossed.”

Elsewhere on the Friday card, Alenquer heads the market for the Group Two King Edward Stakes after his victory in bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown.

The colt beat subsequent Derby hero Adayar during that performance, with Godolphin stablemate Yibir, who reopposes, finishing third before his losing efforts in the Listed Dee Stakes and Cocked Hat Stakes.

“If you are Stuart Williams you say ‘Yibir got stuffed, that race was no good’ but if you are Michael Bell you say ‘he beat the Derby winner, he must be a certainty’ – it just depends what angle you take!” Haggas said.

“He’s a nice horse and he’s done well, he had a little issue before the Dante which meant he couldn’t run, but he’s done well since then.

Alenquer is an intriguing runner in the King Edward
Alenquer is an intriguing runner in the King Edward (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s in good shape, he won’t mind what the ground is and I think he wants the trip – not just that he’ll get it – I think he wants it.

“He’s got a chance but it will be competitive.”

Roger Varian’s Title takes hi chance after his Yarmouth win in late May and Mark Johnston’s Gear Up looks to bounce back to form after finishing down the field in the Dante and the Derby.

There is further Group action in the Group Three Albany Stakes, run over six furlongs for two-year-old fillies.

Richard Hannon’s Sows carries high hopes after winning on her debut in a five-furlong maiden contest at Nottingham.

“She won at Nottingham in very good time,” Hannon said via his Unibet blog.

Sows could be a filly of some potential
Sows could be a filly of some potential (Tim Goode/PA)

“She is a very nice filly, who would have needed the run at Nottingham. She will have improved, but she will need to have done.

“We have always liked her a lot and then she just went through a quiet spell, two weeks before we did run her she showed signs she was coming back and she could be a very nice filly.”

Simon and Ed Crisford’s Flotus is well-fancied after her taking victory on debut at Goodwood, with Ralph Beckett’s Hello You another sure to be popular after looking equally impressive on her first career run at Wolverhampton.

Campanelle out to conquer Royal Ascot again in Commonwealth Cup

Campanelle will face 20 rivals as she bids to double her Royal Ascot tally, in the Commonwealth Cup.

Wes Ward’s American raider won the Queen Mary at the meeting last year, before going to strike Group One gold in the Prix Morny, but she suffered defeat on her final start of the year at the Breeders’ Cup.

The Kodiac filly will be having her first start of the year in Friday’s six-furlong Group One, which has drawn a strong field.

Clive Cox is triple-handed – with last year’s Middle Park hero Supremacy, All-Weather Championships sensation Diligent Harry and the dual Group-winning filly Isabella Giles.

Archie Watson’s prolific Dragon Symbol also features – along with the likes of Sacred, Jumby, Method, The Lir Jet and Dandalla.

A strong Irish contingent will take their chances too – with Ado McGuinness’ A Case Of You, Laws Of Indices and Miss Amulet from Ken Condon’s yard, Aidan O’Brien’s Lipizzaner, plus Measure Of Magic and Mooneista.

The unbeaten French challenger Suesa is also an interesting contender, for Francois Rohaut.

Derby also-ran Gear Up tops the eight lining up for the King Edward VII Stakes – but all eyes are likely to be on William Haggas’ Alenquer, who beat subsequent Derby hero Adayar on his first start of the year in the Sandown Classic Trial.

Impressive Goodwood scorer Flotus is one of 15 in the Albany Stakes – while Epsom winner Oscula represents George Boughey, along with stablemates Cachet and Hellomydarlin.

O’Brien’s Friendly is top weight in the Sandringham Stakes, for which a full field of 30 plus two reserves has been declared.

There is also a full quota – of 19, plus two reserves – for the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap, with Alounak at the top of the racecard, while 25 are declared for the closing Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes, including last year’s Queen Mary third Caroline Dale, set to mark her first start of the campaign.

Campanelle on course for Royal Ascot return in Commonwealth Cup

Wesley Ward’s Campanelle is among 24 colts and fillies left in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

Winner of the Queen Mary last year, Campanelle went on to take the Prix Morny in France too and then finish fourth at the Breeders’ Cup over a mile.

Clive Cox has a strong hand on Friday – with the improving Diligent Harry and Middle Park winner Supremacy, although the latter needs to put a dismal first run of the season behind him.

There is a strong challenger from France in the shape of Suesa, who has been impressive in remaining unbeaten for Francois Rohaut in four outings to date.

Archie Watson’s Dragon Symbol, narrowly beaten at Haydock last time out, is another well fancied – while Aidan O’Brien could drop Battleground in trip after he disappointed in the 2000 Guineas behind Poetic Flare.

Method, The Lir Jet, Dandalla, Happy Romance, Miss Amulet and Sacred are others who are likely to have plenty of supporters in the six-furlong Group One for three-year-olds.

O’Brien has supplemented The Mediterranean among 15 for the King Edward VII Stakes – from which, as expected, Sir Michael Stoute’s Bay Bridge is an absentee.

The Ballydoyle handler could also run Baton Rouge, Hector De Maris, Kyprios, Matchless, Sir Lamorak and Wordsworth.

William Haggas’ Alenquer will no doubt attract many backers, given he was last seen beating Derby winner Adayar at Sandown.

Sir Mark Todd will be saddling his first Royal Ascot runner in the shape of Tasman Bay, while Mark Johnston’s Gear Up could make a quick reappearance after the Derby.

There are 24 fillies in the Albany Stakes – with a pair from George Boughey’s stable to the fore, in Beautiful Sunshine and Cachet.

Simon and Ed Crisford’s Flotus, Ralph Becket’s Hello You and Ward’s Kaufymaker – who is thought more likely to run in the Coventry Stakes – and O’Brien’s Prettiest all made a big impression when winning on their debuts.

A total of 39 have been entered for the Sandringham Stakes, in which Roger Charlton’s Lucid Dreamer could look to bounce back from a below-par run in the Fred Darling.

The Duke of Edinburgh Stakes has attracted 43 entries – including Favorite Moon, who last ran in Australia for Haggas. Last year’s winner Scarlet Dragon could be back again.

Method on course for Commonwealth Cup

Martyn Meade is excited about running Method in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot following the colt’s belated, but pleasing, seasonal reappearance.

The son of Mehmas ran well for a long way in the Group Two Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock, until the lack of a recent outing told in the closing stages.

Even so, he was beaten only two and a quarter lengths into fifth place behind Rohaan on heavy ground, having been off the track for 225 days.

“I loved that. It will have put him spot on for the Commonwealth,” said Meade.

“It was terrible ground. It was just that he didn’t operate on that.

“He was going to win his race, but in the last furlong or so he was climbing and couldn’t really deal with that. But I was really pleased. He was only beaten a couple of lengths.

“I think if you ran it again it would be a different story.”

Meade is confident too that Method will have an ideal short break before his Group One assignment.

“There is a nice bit of time now to Royal Ascot,” he said.

“He runs well fresh and I think the timing is right, so it’s fingers crossed.”

Suesa on course for Commonwealth Cup date

Unbeaten French sprinter Suesa will head to Royal Ascot in search of Group One glory.

The George Strawbridge-owned three-year-old has a perfect record of four runs and four victories, all at Chantilly.

After winning on her track debut in October last year, the filly took the Listed Prix Yacowlef before she was bought by American owner Strawbridge.

Strawbridge transferred the bay from the base of Carlos Laffon-Parias into the care of Francois Rohaut, and Suesa struck on her first run for her new handler with an easy triumph in the Group Three Prix Sigy, after which she enjoyed another comfortable victory at the same level when winning the Prix Texanita by three lengths.

Royal Ascot now beckons for the daughter of Night Of Thunder, with the Commonwealth Cup on June 18 set to be her first run away from Chantilly.

“She won them very easily,” said James Wigan, racing manager to Strawbridge, of the filly’s successes thus far.

“I don’t know what she beat, but she couldn’t have done it more easily.”

Suesa is currently a 9-2 chance for the Commonwealth Cup, a price that leaves her second-favourite behind only Wesley Ward’s Campanelle.

The presence of Ward’s American runner confirms the race is set to attract high-calibre six-furlong three-year-olds from across the world, and Suesa’s connections are expecting to learn more about her class when she is pitched against them.

“It’s difficult to know because she hasn’t taken them on, the best Irish or British sprinters,” Wigan said.

“But she’s shown herself to be better than what’s available in France.”

Indigo Girl had high-class form as a juvenile last year
Indigo Girl had high-class form as a juvenile last year (David Davies/PA)

Strawbridge also owns the John and Thady Gosden-trained Indigo Girl, who was last seen finishing second in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket in October.

That performance followed two victories, one on debut and one in the Group Two May Hill Stakes, but the daughter of Dubawi is yet to take to the track this season.

A tilt at Newmarket’s Pretty Polly Stakes was suggested as an alternative to the 1000 Guineas, but she did not run in either contest and may head to Chantilly for the Prix de Diane, the French equivalent to the Oaks, instead.

“Her original target was the Prix de Diane,” Wigan said.

“I think that’s probably still the target, unless he (John Gosden) has changed his mind.”