Royal Ascot 2021: Day 2 Preview, Tips
Wednesday, day 2, and another heptagon of sides to take or, in plain English, seven races to decode. Just seven sides to take in the feature Group 1, the Prince of Wales's Stakes at 4.20 also, but they promise a superb race. That main course is for later, before then we've some delicious-looking amuse bouches through which to work...
2.30 Queen Mary Stakes (5f, Group 2, 2yo)
Juvenile fillies over the minimum kick us off and, this being Royal Ascot, Wesley has a live one at the top of the 22-runner list. She's called Twilight Gleaming and she'll be ridden by the brilliant Puerto Rican jockey John Velazquez. Second on the main (dirt) track at Keeneland on debut, she was an easy seven length winner when switched to the turf course at Belmont next time. You can watch that race here. It is hard to say what she beat, but the time was good even allowing for her being eased down.
As with most Wes runners she's fast from the gate, leading early at Belmont through an opening quarter in 22.22 seconds (they do have 'run up' so that's not from a standing start). She'll get the stiff Ascot five, will probably lead early, and will take some pegging back. Ward is 4-from-13 in this, and has amassed a further three placed runners.
Aidan O'Brien meanwhile is 0-for-15 - Aidan O'fer as my US pal DiLo likes to call him. O'Brien has saddled five placed fillies but, since Sophisticat (who?) was placed in 2001, his record reads 0000842909. And yet, here's Yet, a beautifully-bred daughter of War Front exiting a Dundalk maiden and currently second favourite. Only two horses have emerged from that contest, beaten off the board three times between them. In Yet's defence, she and the second (the reopposing Orinoco River) were seven clear of the rest and the second has not raced since either. We've kind of seen this show before, though, haven't we?
More credible of the Irish, but also more exposed, might be Quick Suzy, representing predominantly jumping trainer, Gavin Cromwell. She was touched off in a Naas Group 3 over six furlongs (soft) last time, when leading but not quite getting home. The winner was a 50/1 poke, the third was almost six lengths away and the 2/7 favourite was fourth. She'd previously won a six furlong Curragh maiden (yielding) by almost six lengths and she arguably brings the best established form to the party. But she's yet to race on fast ground. The drop back to a stiff five might be fine if she can handle the firmness; she won't probably have as much improvement as some of her rivals but they still have to show they can get to her level let alone beyond it.
Nymphadora, trained by Andrew Balding, emerged from arguably the hottest maiden of the year so far. That Newmarket race won by Desert Dreamer has thrown nine UK winners from 21 subsequent starters:
Nymphadora's part in upholding the form was snugly winning the Listed Marygate Stakes at York. The Marygate has been the springboard to Queen Mary success for four fleet fillies.
That maiden's winner, Desert Dreamer, lines up here having won again since, over six furlongs (good, Newmarket). The form is working out well enough with second placed Dashing Rat beaten only by subsequent Woodcote winner Oscula, and third placed General Panic winning a novice next time. Oisin Murphy will ride and I think his filly's chance is understated in the market.
There is a second US raider in the line up, and Frankie steers her. She's called Artos and is trained by George Arnold. Beaten far enough on debut the daughter of Kodiac got the verdict in a tight picture on her sole subsequent spin. That was over five and a half furlongs at Churchill (firm), so she ought to see this out. Whether she's good enough is another matter entirely.
Nick Bradley Racing are one of the owners of the hour, and they've done brilliantly with their buying. Mas Poder was a 22/1 first time starter when only two lengths fourth to Nymphadora in the Marygate and, having run green there, she might narrow the gap with her debut vanquisher.
There are others who deserve their place here, too.
Queen Mary Stakes tips
I imagine Wesley's filly, Gleaming Twilight, will go very close here, and 7/2 is probably fair enough. She might be an in running back to lay for those into such things as it will be a bit of a shock if she doesn't lead. After her I'm inclined to swing at prices in the form of 14/1 Desert Dreamer and 20/1 Mas Poder. There are plenty of extra places if you shop around and want to roll each way.
3.05 Queen's Vase (1m6f, Group 2, 3yo)
A three-year-old Group 2 over the St Leger trip these days, and a strong trial for that final Classic as a consequence. Aidan O'Brien has won half of the last 14 renewals, so no 'ofer' gags here. And this is a race that perennially goes to a fancied runner, 19 of the last 24 winners returning at 6/1 or shorter.
That gives a shortlist of one: Wordsworth, the Aidan O'Brien-trained 11/4 favourite. Second in two of his three runs either side of a big field ten furlong Curragh maiden win, he was last spotted straining to within a neck of the fairly well-touted Sir Lucan. He has progression and proven stamina on his side, and the fact Ryan Moore has opted for this one over Arturo Toscanini implies he's stable first string (though we all know that supposedly lesser runners from the yard usurp their better-fancied barn mates frequently).
Arturo for his part was a never nearer second of nine in a ten furlong Group 3 at the Curragh, which suggests this sort of range should enable him to conduct himself (geddit?!) meaningfully.
I mentioned Joseph's Royal Ascot blank yesterday and, while that might already be consigned to the dustbin of history, it remains a factor in my considerations as I write this (Monday afternoon) with regards to Ruling, a thrice-raced maiden albeit most recently when staying on over a mile and a half in a Leopardstown Listed.
Perhaps the biggest threat from the home team will be progressive handicapper Dancing King, a well-related but cheaply-bought-as-a-yearling (ah, hyphens) son of Free Eagle trained by the former Mr Queen's Vase, Mark Johnston. He, like Aidan, has seven wins in the race to his name; but unlike Aidan the last of them arrived in 2014. Since then, eight of Johnston's nine Vase runners have been double digit odds; he's still managed a 20/1 fourth and a 16/1 third.
Dancing King is battle hardened, progressive in small field handicaps and stays well. That might not be quite enough against some regally-bred and thoroughly unexposed rivals, but he'll give a run for pennies.
Possible pace map looks as follows, though plenty of these could run to a different style being so lightly raced:
Queen's Vase tips
I've been burned opposing APOB hotpots in this a number of times in the past decade, and I've finally got the message... in time for him to clunk no doubt! But it's easy to see the case for Wordsworth finishing "lonely as a cloud" in front of his field. 11/4 is all right based on trainer records.
3.40 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes (1m, Group 2, 4yo+ fillies & mares)
The more seasoned ladies step to the fore in this Group 2 the favourite for which is Lady Bowthorpe. That looks spot on after Lady B, trained by William Jarvis, ran closest to none other than Palace Pier in the G1 Lockinge a month ago. Prior to that she'd won a nine furlong Group 2 at Newmarket, a fair leap from the Class 4 all weather handicap she took this time last year. That's the best piece of form in the field.
That is, arguably, unless you take a literal perspective on the Middleton Stakes where Queen Power bolted up by eight lengths. With a couple of the beaten mares there running second in Group 3's since, there is at least some substance to the literal case. But that was ten furlongs. She'd previously been second to Lady Bowthorpe in that nine furlong Dahlia Stakes, and was third in this last year - beaten three lengths - when seeming to lack the miler's gear change. It feels like this might be the wrong slot for her though I fully appreciate that Sir Michael Stoute has been at this game a minute or two longer than me.
Perhaps the most interesting contender is the wildly progressive Double Or Bubble. She's had just four races, with only one horse finishing in front of her and that on debut. The Chris Wall charge was a four length scorer in a Class 2 handicap last time over seven furlongs, though beaten horses from there are 0 from 19 since the race which dents the form somewhat. There's plenty of stamina on the dam's side (by Dalakhani) so she ought to stay the mile.
Onassis won the Sandringham last season at 33/1 and also bagged a heavy ground Listed race two back. She's a likeable and versatile filly but doesn't look good enough. Lavender's Blue has little to find with Lady Bowthorpe and Queen Power on Dahlia form - she was a half length third - which makes her ostensibly interesting at double figure odds. She's run plenty of good races in defeat but was thumped in this last season.
Champers Elysees was a huge flag bearer for the emergence of Johnny Murtagh as a trainer last season, winning the Group 1 Matron Stakes, but she's dipped below that high water mark in a trio of fourth placed efforts since. A return to a sounder surface could see her improve on recent efforts and she's a square price.
And one other at hail mary odds is Indie Angel, trained by the Gosdens and ridden by Frankie Dettori. Surely that already means she can't go off at her current quote of 20/1. She wasn't far back in the Dahlia and the fact she's pitched in here might be a bit of a clue.
The Duke Of Cambridge Instant Expert looks like this - remember, green is good, amber OK, red not so hot (and don't totally believe small sample sizes)
Duke Of Cambridge Stakes tips
This revolves around Lady Bowthorpe, who laid to rest any suspicions that she could only operate at Newmarket when giving Palace Pier a race in Group 1 company at Newbury last time. She's not the wrong price at 2/1 but nor is there much margin for error. No, I'll watch her win while backing a 'value alternative'! Most appealing in that context is 14/1 Champers Elysees, a Group 1 winner over a mile just four starts ago. She has to defy the G1 penalty but gives only two pounds to the most credible of her rivals, and five to the rest. If the faster ground wakes her up, she's a big player. If...
4.20 Prince Of Wales's Stakes (1m2f, Group 1, 4yo+)
A cracker for the day's highlight, the Group 1 Prince Of Wales.
Love has been backed in the early wagering skirmishes as though she's as least as good as last season. We have a lot in our lives - a lot of horses in our lives - so it's worth a quick refresher as to Love's 2020. It was only three races but, like, WoW!
First up, she sizzled more than four clear of her 14 rivals in the 1000 Guineas. Then she romped nine - NINE - clear of the rest in the Oaks (seems like small beer when next to Snowfall's 16 length destruction in the same race this year!). And finally, in the Yorkshire Oaks, she cruised to a five length verdict. Nothing got even remotely close to her.
But. But... now she goes against the boys and she rocks up to the racetrack for the first time in exactly 300 days. In a hot renewal of the Prince Of Wales's Stakes. She will need to be on song.
Last year's winner, by almost four lengths, Lord North defends having won the Group 1 Dubai Turf in his previous run. He was beaten a few times in between and overcame a shallower field than this a year ago. It's not good general practice to oppose Frankie and Johnny (and Thady) but I'm against at the price.
Aidan O'Brien saddles Armory as well as Love. Short enough at around 3/1 he won the Group 2 Huxley Stakes at Chester and the Group 3 Royal Whip at the Curragh either side of his best effort, a two length third in the Irish Champion Stakes. He was a 66/1 chance that day, a price in line with his form either side in the context of that championship race, and I don't really believe it. Again, you pays your money and you takes your chances.
Audarya won Group 1's in France and America last autumn, and this being her seasonal debut implies a similar campaign awaits. I love James Fanshawe and I love this mare; but I don't think she'll be quite ready this time.
I'm struggling to make a case for the 114-rated My Oberon who would look badly handicapped off that mark if eligible for such races. He was whacked in the Lockinge, was whacked in a Redcar Listed as 11/8 fav, and was second in a pair of Group 3's last year. He did win a four-runner Group 3 on good ground when trying a trip beyond a mile for the first time and that must be the key to his case: the step up to ten furlongs is credible on pedigree (Dubawi out of a Sea The Stars mare). If so, they've taken long enough to get there and are hardly pitching in half-cocked in this top rank Group 1. Again, connections are greatly respected but this looks a tough task.
Similar comments apply to Sangarius. And yet I've had a small each way ante post (three places, burglary). Sir Michael Stoute is justly renowned for taking his time to allow horses to achieve their optimum performance levels as they mature, and this chap looks off that production line for all that he showed some precocity at two. As a juvenile he won twice before a midfield effort in the Dewhurst, finishing the season on an official rating of 106. At three he had just two starts, winning the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes over course and distance on the second of them (having prepped on the Sandown Brigadier Gerard card), and ended the season rated 113. Last year brought a further brace of efforts, again winning on the latter occasion, this time in Listed grade. End of season rating 114.
He still has seven or eight pounds to find with the pick of his rivals, but in each of the last two years he's progressed to win. He was three lengths behind Armory on debut this term (remember, that one is 3/1 here) and four lengths behind Euchen Glen at Sandown in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes last time in a mad (seriously, watch it) prep for this. Today is his big day and, if Sir Michael has it right, he might get into the frame especially if granted the easy lead he sought but did not get at Sandown. Colin Keane is a very interesting jockey booking, though may be Juddmonte's retained rider in Ireland (I probably should know that, apols).
Desert Encounter completes the seven and is a great globe-trotting money-spinner. the now nine-year-old gelding has never won above Group 3 level in Britain and yet has amassed £1.1m in total prize money. Well played! He's been second a fair bit in the past year but he won't be second here. Nor first. Wish I owned ten per cent of him: the days they've had around the world. Lovely stuff.
The pace map, based on UK and Irish form only, looks thus:
Prince Of Wales's Stakes tips
A few imponderables in what could be a cracker. If LOVE is on her A game, she ought to win. She's top on ratings after her sex allowance is accounted for and, unless the three-year-old fillies were a rotten lot last year - not impossible - she could be a fine sight. But she's been off a good while and this is deep. Lord North is well suited to the matter at hand though I'm not completely convinced of his credentials; similar comments apply to Armory except that I'm not at all convinced of his credentials (cue easy win).
I suspect Audarya will have her days later in the year, I don't like My Oberon though expect the trip will eke a little more, and Desert Encounter has no secrets from any of us. That leaves Sangarius as a bet without the first two if you can find it. At time of writing one firm is 22/1 without Lord North, and I'd take anything 8/1 and up without LN and Love, especially if someone offers each way 1/4 1-2.
5.00 Royal Hunt Cup (1m, Class 2 handicap, 3yo+)
The mother of all head scratchers is the Royal Hunt Cup, a straight mile handicap with thirty runners, and three reserves in case any of the main field try to escape and make life easier for punters! Trends time...
Horses priced above 20/1 are 5/402 in the last 24 years (thanks to horseracebase.com) and -£261 to a £1 level stake. I'll go with the 20/1 or shorter group, who are 19/292 (-£38, so still some work to do. Duh!)
No horse has shouldered more than 9-05 to victory during that time. That's numbers saddle cloth numbers 1 to 5 semi-arbitrarily excluded.
The draw is seemingly against the lowest numbers though I don't have data to bear that out. However, perception is reality and if trainers and jockeys decide low is unfavoured they're likely to race middle to high. Self-fulfilling prophecy thereafter for low, forfeiting ground.
Indeed, in 16+ runner handicaps over a mile on good or quicker, either flank has been beneficial. More material by far is that midfield and held up horses have significantly out-performed those presented more forwardly.
So I want a late runner.
Ignoring those already eliminated, the pace map looks a little like this:
The favourite currently is Finest Sound, a Varian/Atzeni entry and respected very much as a consequence. Stall nine is fine and his form - notably when second in the straight mile Britannia last year (soft) - looks progressive and relevant. There isn't a ton of pace on quick ground, so perhaps a prominent to midfield run style will give his rider options depending on how fast they go in front of him. Obvious player.
But the one I'm most interested in is Irish Admiral. Trap six might put a few off but it shouldn't; so too might a fifth place finish last time, that too is a red herring: the Epsom handicap he contested then was a muddling affair (first three home 12/1, 12/1, 20/1) where the speed held sway, the winner going gate to wire. Unless Maydanny gets a total freebie - possible - this should play to later runners and Irish Admiral protected his mark in failing to land a blow on the Downs. This will be just his sixth lifetime run so there is sure to be more to come.
The Hambleton Handicap at York has been a good pointer to the Hunt Cup historically, and a few from there appear here. They include the very unlucky Brunch, whose second places this season have been in two of the North's most prestigious mile handicaps, the Hambleton and the Lincoln. Up three pounds for a neck defeat last time doesn't help, but this strong travelling hold up type has everything in his favour for another 'in the mix' effort.
Of those in behind, What's The Story (too much weight?) and Ouzo (not good enough?) are overlooked but Matthew Flinders enters calculations. He wasn't persisted with when his York chance had gone and remains on the same mark. Drawn bang in the middle, he'll be looking for gaps from the two pole; Oisin Murphy is better than most at threading the needle in these types of race.
The Irish don't run too many in the Royal Hunt Cup but they're two from seven in the last five years. They have three entered this year: Pepperoni Pete and Bowerman look poorly handicapped but Lafayette is interesting for Noel Meade. Consistent in big field mile handicaps on soft ground he won his maiden on good to firm and has been in the frame in eight of ten starts following his debut.
Royal Hunt Cup tips
Wide open. Obviously. Lots of bookies offering place concessions which is a solid alternative to splitting stakes win only in a race like this. I'll take a small win bet on Finest Sound as insurance and then try a few at bigger prices each way with many places. Irish Admiral at 12/1 and Lafayette at 20/1 are compelling in the latter scenario, as is 16/1 Brunch who will surely be within spitting distance of the first past the post. So many more to consider and that's why they're all big prices!
5.35 Windsor Castle Stakes (5f, Listed, 2yo)
A lesser juvenile race, at least in the context of Royal Ascot juvenile races, and often a big priced winner - 100/1 Flashman's Papers anyone?
Those with two or fewer runs to date are the place to focus, and top four last time out. That leaves plenty but it eliminates some, which is a start!
In the last five years, Aidan O'Brien, Charlie Appleby and John Gosden have won this, with horses priced at 7/1, 12/1 and 20/1. Clearly they all stepped up on what they'd shown theretofore. Wesley Ward, meanwhile, won this twice between 2009 and 2014, but has gone 506000098 since then, all bar one returning 10/1 or shorter. Small samples, yes, but perhaps a reason for caution.
WW's Ruthin is favoured, the once-raced daughter of Ribchester a runaway trap to line victor at Keeneland. Like many Ward Royal Ascot entries, she is electric from the stalls and looks set to take the field along from her middle draw in 12. After that, I haven't really got much of a clue.
Horses exiting the National Stakes at Sandown, the Hillary Needler and Two Year Old Trophy at Beverley, and Epsom's Woodcote have been fair portents of good runs. That brings in Tipperary Sunset and, to a far lesser degree, Guilded, both from Beverley; Bond Chairman and Chipotle from Sandown; and Dusky Prince and Flaming Rib from Epsom.
Cutting to the chase, I'm quite interested in Tipperary Sunset who was game on the front and is now two from two. He's made all on softish turf both spins to date and this will be quicker ground and a quicker tempo; but he looks quite relaxed in his races so probably doesn't need the lead. The Two Year Old Trophy he won was run about six lengths faster than the Hillary Needler in which Guilded was second: she'll have to improve a ton to beat him.
But this is too hard for me.
Windsor Castle Stakes tips
I'll try Tipperary Sunset each way at 12/1 or so with extra places aforethought.
6.10 Kensington Palace Stakes (1m, Class 2 handicap, 4yo+)
A new handicap on the round course for older fillies and mares. Easy enough, eh? Sheesh.
There could be a lot of pace here and, on the round course, that should make for a strung out field and my guess is advantage midfielders.
Roger Varian has won three Royal Ascot handicaps in the last two years from ten runners. What is more remarkable is that eight of the ten have made the frame. With that in mind, the inside drawn midfield runner Waliyak gets a check. Closer inspection reveals that, although she is making her seasonal bow, she was second in the (straight mile) Sandringham last season and has run over ten furlongs with credit since. She's not appeared to be quite getting home in truly run mile and a quarter races, so if this is the fast pace I expect it to be it could set up for her. Surprising that she's as big as 16/1 for all that she might prefer a bit more juice in the turf.
Lights On and Dreamloper are closely matched on their straight mile 1-2 last time here: there was a short head between them that day, three lengths back to the rest. Both raced handily there, a repeat of which would give them first run on presumed fading leaders but may also leave them susceptible to a mid-pack closer. That said, Lights On's draw in 17 of 18 means Ryan Moore may be forced to ride for luck whereas Oisin Murphy sends Dreamloper from eight which gives him options.
The unpronounceable Dalanijujo is fairly wide but quickened up well at Yarmouth last time off quite fast early fractions. She'd been racing at ten furlongs previously and the drop back to a well-run mile obviously suited; this will be that and William Buick is a jockey positive on the round course.
Naturally, lots of others with prospects.
Kensington Palace Stakes tips
I think Waliyak is a heck of a price if she handles the ground. Roger Varian's recent Royal Ascot handicap record is unsustainably good but this mare has draw, run style, profile and a fine young rider in her corner. I've backed her at 16/1 which is widely available at time of writing. And I've also had a go at Dalanijujo (I don't have to be able to say it to bet her!) each way at the same price. If they don't go fast early, another will probably win. But I'm expecting this big field on the round course will be a fun, but potentially frustrating, wagering watch.
And that's how Day 2 looks from this corner. Sam is taking over for our Thursday (Day 3) preview, and I'm back on Friday. As ever, it's every person for themselves on Saturday.