And so we return to normality. After a Royal Ascot beyond recent compare, it’s worth reflecting on the events of last week. I’ll leave the elaborate prose to more illustrious and eloquent scribblers than your humble host and, instead, focus on some performances on the track which might well be worth noting for another day.
As the title of the piece relates, I’m going to mention ten horses: five winners, and five losers. I suspect all of them to be worthy of note in their upcoming starts. Let’s start with the ‘obvious’ ones…
Five Royal Ascot Winners to Follow
Tuesday – Coventry Stakes – War Command
You don’t need to be Einstein to see that this dazzlingly impressive Coventry victor should be kept on side in subsequent runs. He was simply in a different class here. waltzing away from Parbold and the rest by six lengths.
The last two Coventry winners to flaunt such dominance over their field were Canford Cliffs and Three Valleys. Both went on to be very good indeed.
Canford Cliffs won this by six lengths as well, back in 2009. He was beaten on his next three starts, two of them in Group 1 company, before going on to prove himself a champion miler in due course.
Three Valleys also succumbed to defeat on his first post-Coventry run, before winning the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes (subsequently disqualified for a banned substance – how little changes…). The following year, he was sent to the States after disappointing in the Guineas, and went on to win three more races over there before becoming a popular enough stallion.
Both of these two wide margin Coventry victors were beaten on their next start, which does sound a note of caution about piling in next time, but both turned out to be very good – Canford Cliffs, extremely so – and War Command could well follow them.
Prior to Ascot, he’d run just the once, at Leopardstown and, having watched that race again, he hints at the withering turn of pace he showed when cutting down down the Coventry field there too. He’s bred for a mile and fast ground, so quotes of 8/1 (Ladbrokes) might be of interest to some, though not to me.
This was a big effort, and it might take some time for him to get over it, but I’d be pretty hopeful that War Command will take high rank among this season’s juvenile colts.
Wednesday – Prince of Wales’s Stakes – Al Kazeem
Al Kazeem was antepost favourite for this race for some time and yet, come post time, he’d been usurped at the top of the market by Camelot, readily despatched by Roger Charlton’s five year old the last day in Ireland. If that was surprising, the weak enough performance of Camelot in the race itself was not. Clear pick of last year’s Classic crop, that is damning Camelot with faint praise indeed as – especially on the male side – they were/are a very, very moderate lot.
Indeed, of the 27 four-year-old males to run in all age Group 1’s in Britain and Ireland this year, just one has won. That was Declaration of War in the Queen Anne Stakes, and he didn’t make his three-year-old bow until September last year, six days before Camelot was just failing to land a Triple Crown in the St Leger.
Back to Al Kazeem, an alumnus of the Classic Class of 2011, but – like Declaration Of War – another horse to have side-stepped the Classics as a later developer. He’s been quietly creeping up the rankings, and has now won his last four, the second pair in Group 1 company, and she showed a most willing attitude to cut back the enterprisingly-ridden Mukhadram here.
Mukhadram was part of last year’s Classic crop but, like Al Kazeem and Declaration Of War, he too has progressed later in his career. I’ve long been an advocate for moving at least the Oaks and Derby to later in the calendar in order to allow horses to further mature, but this anachronism looks set to stay. At the very least, we’re starting to see a way as punters to exploit it.
Al Kazeem may well take in the King George and Arc and, with the mile and a half trip holding few fears, he should be tough to beat in the former if not the latter (where I hope French filly, Treve, will run… and win!)
Thursday – Norfolk Stakes – No Nay Never
Thursday was one of those ‘live long in the memory’ days. It will be remembered for the cheering fandom of Her Majesty as Estimate trumped her rivals in the Gold Cup; it will be remembered for the peerless bravery of Lady Cecil as Riposte was led into the Winners’ Enclosure; and, by some, it will be remembered as the day a two-year-old freak called No Nay Never, rocked up and beat the living daylights out of his rivals in the Norfolk.
Quite simply, I’ve never seen anything like it. Not the performance of the horse, though that was stellar, setting a new juvenile course record despite missing the break by half a beat. No, the sheer brute physicality of a two year old that looked liked a six year old. Imagine turning up for the dad’s race on school sports day, and seeing Usain Bolt limbering up next to you. That was No Nay Never against these.
Hailing from the Southern Californian barn of Wesley Ward, a winner at the Royal meeting before, this son of Scat Daddy was lavished with praise by his trainer, who said, “He is the most talented horse I’ve trained”. More tellingly perhaps, when he learned that No Nay Never had broken the course record for juveniles, he merely shrugged, and said, “That’s what we expected”.
He was heavily backed, presumably by people who’d seen Usain Bolt turn up for the dad’s race on school sports day, or those who knew Usain Bolt was showing up, and he was simply too strong and too fast for decent rivals.
The plan is to come back to Europe for the Prix Morny, over six furlongs at Deauville. Soft ground would have to be a concern, but on good or quicker, the extra furlong is unlikely to trouble this extremely precocious baby. For my part, the slot I’d love to see him in is the Juvenile Sprint on Breeders Cup Friday. It looks like that race has been de-categorized from the Breeders Cup race calendar, but will surely be run on the undercard and this fellow will have no problem with dirt, based on breeding.
In any case, on fast ground and over five or six furlongs, there isn’t a two-year-old in the world that will mature to his level of physicality by the end of this year, and he should be followed.
Friday – Albany Stakes – Kiyoshi
Four of my five winners to follow in, and it’s a third juvenile: this time a filly. Kiyoshi was a striking winner of the Albany, for two reasons. Firstly, she won by over three lengths; and secondly, she did that despite veering violently from the stands rail to the far rail. Whatever the reason for that, possibly the cheering crowds, her performance can be marked up – if she’d run straight, she’d have won by six or seven lengths from all the ‘right’ horses.
This form looks rock solid and, assuming it wasn’t an ailment which caused her speedy side-stepping inside the distance, she’s likely to take high rank among the young ladies this term. She’s by Dubawi out of a Sri Pekan mare, and that means she’s bred for a mile. No wonder then that she’s as short as 7/1 for the 1000 Guineas. The best price is 10/1 – again with Ladbrokes – and that is no more than fair value in my view.
Samitar won the Albany in 2011 before taking the Irish 1000 Guineas, and Cuis Ghaire won this in 2008 prior to running second in the Newmarket version. But it has been a few years since an Albany winner won the 1000 Guineas at HQ.
Be that as it may, she looks certain to stay at least seven furlongs – something plenty of Albany winners haven’t done – and she remains one to follow.
Saturday – Wokingham Handicap – York Glory
This may ‘only’ be a handicap, but there’s little doubt about its role as a stepping-stone for future Group sprinters. It takes a pretty smart one to win this most years, as Dandy Boy (fourth in a Group 1 since winning this last year), Deacon Blues (winner of four straight Group races after his Wokingham success), and High Standing (winner of a Group 3 on his next start), have proved.
York Glory was, like the above, awaiting his ‘breakthrough’ career success, and it was gained here in emphatic fashion. Apparently the horse is often too laid back before his races, and sort of lollops out of the gate. This day, he was buzzing and fair flew by them late in the race, in the manner of a very good horse.
Incredibly, his overall record suggests he might be better over five furlongs than six, and he obviously won’t be stopping at that distance if they go rapido from the traps. He has a seriously progressive profile (Class 6, 5 and 4 wins in 2011; two Class 3 wins in 2012; and two Class 2 wins this year), and his conditioner, Kevin Ryan, thinks he’s now ready for Group class. It’s hard to disagree on the evidence of a dazzling final furlong.
The top sprint races have been up for grabs for a couple of seasons now, with no horse bar perhaps Society Rock making any sort of a claim to the crown. Perhaps York Glory – or that other impressive Saturday sprinter, Lethal Force – can grab it and keep it.
Five Royal Ascot Losers to Follow
Tuesday – St James’s Palace Stakes – Mars
This was a very good race over a mile, as it generally is. And the finish was fought out by two of three market – and form – protagonists, with Dawn Approach just resisting Toronado. Magician, who had had some issues prior to the race and arguably shouldn’t have been declared, ran like a horse that had issues and shouldn’t have been declared. (Apparently he bruised a leg, and then when in the swimming pool, got spooked by a bird that flew onto his head, and he tried to leap out of the pool bruising his other three legs).
The tussle at the front of this Group 1 perhaps masks a career best effort from the third placed horse, the always well-regarded (though not previously by me), Mars.
Disappointing in the Guineas on just the second race of his life, Mars ran really well in the Derby to be beaten less than four lengths. And, dropped back to the Guineas trip here, he again ran with great credit to claim bronze. With Magician disappointing, it’s debatable what he actually beat, but my suspicion is that he was running over a seriously incompatible distance.
This fellow is bred for middle distances, and will surely prove better at a mile and a half – perhaps even in the St Leger – than at this mile trip, so he ran well despite the inadequate range. With just four runs under his belt, three of them in Group 1 races, I can now see why the Ballydoyle brigade have been so keen on this chap, and he’ll definitely be of interest to me over more extreme stamina tests. He’s 20/1 with Sporting Bet for the St Leger, and that wouldn’t be the most preposterous ante-post voucher to hold.
Wednesday – Prince of Wales’s Stakes – The Fugue
This was her first run of the season. It was also her first run against the boys. In such a context, The Fugue acquitted herself admirably, and looks one to follow through the Summer, presumably when back against her own sex.
Ten furlongs is her trip, and I’m hoping she ducks the Eclipse, and instead sticks to ladies only races, as I don’t think she can beat Al Kazeem, even with the fitness upgrade she’ll receive from this fine effort.
She was given an awful lot to do here – I assume Buick was expecting the pace setters to come back – and the other trio in the first four home were all ahead of The Fugue by at least three lengths (to Camelot, four Al Kazeem, and seven to Mukhadram), so her staying on effort, under a 95% drive, offered plenty of promise for the battles to come.
Clearly held in high regard by Johnny G – or she wouldn’t have been pitching up in this one – she’ll be winning soon enough, though perhaps not in the Eclipse.
Thursday – Britannia Stakes – Wentworth
This horse should have won. He’d been ridden like a non-trier at Goodwood over six furlongs the time before, and he was just ridden into trouble here before flying into fourth late. Richard Hughes didn’t have his best Royal Ascot ever, and this might be one of a few rides he looks back on with less than fond memories.
With just six of the 27 behind him at the two furlong pole, he had eight in front of him by the furlong marker, but still a lot of ground to make up. At the line, he’d closed to fourth, a mere length and three-quarters back on the winner, and he’s surely a winner waiting to happen.
It’s hard to know what the handicapper will make of this, and I suspect he’ll leave Wentworth on a mark of 94. If he does, payback must be close at hand, and it could be at any trip between six and nine furlongs, though around a mile is most likely (this fellow was strong enough to win over a mile as a two year old).
Friday – Wolferton Handicap – Sheikhzayedroad
Only second here, that was an impressive performance from his car park draw in fourteen and over a trip which might have been on the short side for him too. Sheikhzayedroad had run just twenty days previously, when victorious over the peaks and troughs of Epsom’s famously quirky pistes, and this was his fourth run since the end of April.
He showed no signs of fatigue, however, spotting the winner many lengths from his position in last at the turn for home before closing strongly in the last quarter mile. The winner, Forgotten Voice, was fit from a successful hurdling career where he’d won at Grade 2 level, and he operated at that level on the, erm, level when last seen back in 2010. So, racing in a Listed handicap was something of a class drop for him.
Back in third, and only a short head back as well, was the even worse drawn – 15 of 15 – Bana Wu, on which Richard Hughes rode a very good race (credit where it’s due). Although he’s unlikely to be 16/1 next time, he has a good chance to win from a better draw, assuming the handicapper’s intervention is not too swingeing.
Sheikhzayedroad will presumably have a break now, but he’ll be of interest over ten to twelve furlongs when he returns, especially if he can still be found a handicap opportunity.
Saturday – Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap – Highland Castle
The first quartet of nominees were all beaten short margins in 3rd, 3rd, 4th, and 2nd. The final entry was beaten fifteen lengths in twelfth, and could clearly offer the best value wager in upcoming starts. Of course, he might be the least likely to win as well, though I don’t necessarily think that’s true.
Highland Castle is a hold up horse, and these often struggle around the turn here at Ascot, as there are plenty of horses in front, and a few of them are not really stopping, such is the quantity – and quality – of the Royal racing.
This chap was enormously impressive last time when coming with a merciless last-to-first run to nail Handsome Man on the line. Here, he never really had any sort of chance to make such a manoeuvre, as the door was closed on him time and time again.
Steered to the wide outside after being badly squeezed two furlongs out, he ran on from second last to pass a couple, but without further strong urging once his chance had gone. As a David Elsworth inmate – Elsy training right next to the July Course at Newmarket – he’ll probably be found a handicap there next month, and I’ll be very interested in his chance, especially if the ‘capper drops him a couple for this apparent clunker.
Forgive and forget this one, highland Castle will be back.
So those are my ten to follow. Which horse stood out for you? Leave a comment and share your ‘will win next time’ nag. 🙂
On another note, 65 of you registered for the Royal Ascot tipping league, and well done to the fourteen of you who made a profit: it wasn’t easy! Top of the pops though, and the winner of £100 free bet, thanks to our mates at BetVictor, is JimBob.
JimBob’s performance was impressive, notching four winners from ten bets, at odds of 9/1, 10/3, 9/4 and 5/4 for an overall profit of 491.5 points on a stake of 500. That’s a stonking 98.3% ROI, and JimBob, I seriously hope you invested some real money on those fine returns.
Well done, I’ll be in touch.
Now then, we’ll be getting into the swing of monthly competitions from the start of July – i.e. next Monday! (where has the year gone?!) – so do make sure you’re registered by signing up here.
And feel free to have a practice, and figure out how the interface works, between now and Sunday. Your scores won’t count to the prizes, but you can get yourself on the league table leaderboard, and bask in the associated kudos (such as it is!) in readiness for the prizes that will follow.
Finally, it was a marathon preview fest last week, and my sore digits took most of the weekend off. Finding winners at Royal Ascot is always hard, but I at least managed to steer readers a bit closer to profit this year than in the recent disastrous past. It’s been my bete noir meeting, but better discipline, and some very good tote returns helped yours truly to a good profit this time around.
Specifically, landing 5x the placepot on Thursday (dividend £63), 9.6x the placepot on Friday (dividend £195.20!), and 1x the placepot on Saturday (dividend £844.90), made it miles of smiles by yesterday..!
Although I took some slight deviations from my published perms on here, the last three were all profit-making for followers, including Friday’s all A’s, which returned £390.40 for a £20 stake).
Although the racing will be fairly quiet this week, we’ve got it covered here at geegeez. As well as our super-fast racecards – click here – and a full results service, including all of the day’s results visible on a single page – click here – we’ve also got top free racing tips, all accessible from that single link…
And of course, loads of editorial. As well as my verbosity, there’s Tony Keenan’s Punting Confessional; ‘the Godfather’ Tony Stafford’s Sunday Supplement; in-depth racing reviews from shrewdies, Dan Kelly, and – joining us this week – Ben Aitken; and, well, lots more besides.
It’s all free, and it always will be. We hope you find something you like. 🙂