Royal Ascot Day Two Preview

Courtesy of Becky Johnston

The monkey is officially off the Americans’ back as Strike The Tiger and John Velasquez carried Wesley Ward’s silks to victory in the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes at 33-1 (18-1 in the U.S.).  Strike The Tiger is a gelding by Tiger Ridge out of the In Excess (IRE) mare R Lucky Strike.  Strike The Tiger won a maiden claiming event at Churchill Downs but a look at his pedigree and you will see top European performers Storm Bird on the sire’s side and Caro and Nijinsky on the dam’s side.

The day saw fancied horses winning up until the American win, therefore bookies are gasping.  Gladiatorous (USA) was proven something less than the world’s best horse, Australian sprinters still reign, Johnny Murtagh remains a focus of the stewards (7-day total tally for rides on this day), Mastercraftsman (IRE) and Delegator (UK) put on the show many expected and one wonders just how good Canford Cliffs (IRE) can be.  Will the Heffer Syndicate remain the owners or will big dollar offers be too much to pass up?  Canford Cliffs was rated one of the top fifty horses in Europe in Steve Taplin’s book, Two Year Olds of 2009.

Finally, is it possible that the hat that is too small for Todd Schrupp got switched with the hat that is too big for Simon Bray?

Royal Ascot Day Two Preview

Group 2 Jersey Stakes

The day kicks off with the Group 3 Jersey Stakes for three-year-olds at seven furlongs.  This race was inaugurated in 1919 and named for the fourth Earl of Jersey.  Past winners include Aqlaam (UK) from 2008 who ran a good third in the Queen Anne Stakes today behind Paco Boy (IRE).

This is a competitive, if not a top-rated group,  top to bottom.  It does boast the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Donativum for Godolphin and trainer Saeed Bin Suroor.  He has run only once since that win, with a fourth place listed stakes effort at Newmarket.  

The team will try to recover from their bitter disappointment in the Queen Anne Stakes today with a two-pronged attack.  In addition to Donativum (UK) (Cadeaux Genereux (UK) - Miss Universe (IRE)  by Warning (UK) they will enter Ashram (Ire) (Indian Haven (UK) – Tara’s Girl (Ire) by Fayruz (UK).

Ashram was a Group 3 winner last year at Newmarket before making his seasonal debut which saw him finish 13th behind the brilliant Sea The Stars.  He ran second in his next start the Listed Heron Stakes at Sandown and he might be better suited to seven furlongs, having won twice at the distance with a second from four starts.  Trainer Saeed Bin Suroor will boot first call rider Frankie Dettori into the irons on this one instead of Donativum, which could be telling.  The latter will get the services of Ted Durcan.

2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf

Gallagher (UK) (Bahamian Bounty - Roo (UK) Rudimentary (USA) kept some lofty company as a two-year-old, but this will be his first run of the year. He has only one win in six starts but he has a Grade 1 placing and twice has been second at the Grade 2 level. He has never raced beyond six furlongs but he should be a player for trainer Brian Meehan and jockey Martin Dwyer who was the victim of Johnny Murtagh’s antics today.

Not sure what to make of Infiraad (UK) (Haafhd (UK) - Razzle (IRE) byGreen Desert (USA). He has run only three times, but won two of those starts, including his last in a seven-furlong handicap at Newmarket. Decidedly more difficult company but Richard Hills chose to ride this one over his father Barry Hill’s other trainee Ouqba (UK) (Red Ransom (USA) - Dancing Mirage (IRE) by Machiavellian (USA), who fits with these.

Total Gallery (IRE) (Namid (UK) – Diary (IRE) by Green Desert (USA) has a win over the course in April and in his next race ran a respectable fifth with older very accomplished sprinters in the Grade 2 Temple Stakes. Certainly not without a chance for trainer Stan Moore and jockey Liam Kiniry.

Deposer (IRE) (Khaleyf (USA) – Bezant (Ire) by Zamindar (USA) ran a respectable fourth last year when he shipped into Keeneland for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity.  He was beaten by Terrain and Pioneerof The Nile.  He has yet to win a race this year but ran a credible third against older horses in the nine-furlong Group 3 Diomed Stakes.

2008 Breeders’ Futurity

The Others:

Nothing makes the crowd happier than when Her Majesty, The Queen wins a race at a Royal Ascot and it has happened only once in ten years, last year with Free Agent.  This year she starts Installment (UK), a son of Cape Cross (Ire).  She employs the right jockey with Richard Hughes as he won half of the six races today, but she may need more help than that.

Jobe (USA) has a third over the course but appears to be up against it.  Loch Linnhe (USA) has run once and won once, but the Elusive Quality gelding has proven to be trouble getting to the gate.  Connections can’t be ignored with owner HRH Princess Haya, trainer John Gosden and jockey Jimmy Fortune.

Nasri (UK) has failed to find the winner’s circle in five starts since last win at Newbury and Saucy Brown (Ire) probably won’t give The Heffer Syndicate the same result they got with Canford Cliffs today.

Ocean’s Minstrel (UK) has won three of his last four, but none of them have been at this level. Patrician’s Glory (USA) seems to be up against it and has not won since breaking maiden at Newbury, though he ran second in a one mile event at Newmarket.

Awinnersgame (IRE) ran at this meet last year in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes managing a sixth place effort.  He has won twice since, both at seven furlongs, but he might like a softer turf than he will get tomorrow.  Aranel (IRE) comes in from two wins in Spain but seems like he is being thrown to the wolves.

My Picks:  Deposer, Donativum, Loche Linne

Group 2 Windsor Forest Stakes

The one mile event favorite Lush Lashes (UK) (Galileo (IRE) - Dance For Fun (UK) by Anabaa (USA) will take all the beating.  There are only a couple of other fillies that I think can compete with her in this race. 

She won the Grade 1 Coronation last year at Royal Ascot after disappointing as the favorite in the Epsom Oaks.  She won two of her next four starts, placing second twice all in Group 1 affairs before going to Sha Tin to run against open company in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup.  She had a rough beginning and end in that race to finish 14th and last.

The Jim Bolger trained filly came back this year for her annual debut in the Group 1 Gold cup and lost to Dermot Weld’s colt, Casual Conquest, who was classic placed twice last year. 

Kevin Manning will be aboard the four-year-old and because she likes to hear her feet rattle beneath her, this will be one tough task to beat her tomorrow.

Heaven Sent (UK) (Pivotal (UK) – Heavenly Ray (USA) by Rahy) deserves respect.  The six-year-old Sir Michael Stoute trainee has a win over this track in 2007, but she seems to be just below the Group 1 level that Lush Lashes sits upon.  She will be ridden by top rider Ryan Moore.

Juddmonte’s Proviso (UK) (Dansili (UK) – Binche (USA) by Woodman (USA) seems to be another that could take a piece of the prize.  She ran fifth in the Grade 1 Prix d´Ispahan  at Longchamp last out to winner Never On Sunday, who runs in the Group 1 Prince of Wales Stakes in the next race.  She defeated Tazeez and the Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Goldikova.  She ran within shouting distance of Zarkava last summer, but certainly isn’t that level.  She ran second in the Group 1 Meon Valley Stud Fillies´ Mile over this course in the fall of 2007.  She certainly fits in this spot for trainer Andre Fabre and jockey Stephane Pasquier.

2008 Prix de l-Opera (Lush Lashes and Proviso)

The Others:

Eva’s Request (IRE) has run well of late and took the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom over nine furlongs.  She may prove overmatched here although she has a small win over the course.  Chantilly Tiffany (UK) has run two disappointing races this year with a last place and second to last place efforts.  Can’t see it.

Rosaleen (IRE) won a small race over the Ascot course on soft going back in April of 2008, but it is hard to see her involved in this one.  Spacious (UK) has been very consistent, never worse than fourth, but she has a fourth to Lush Lashes as the favorite at Royal Ascot last year in the Group 1 Coronation.  She has run only once since taking a break last fall and probably needed that effort.  She could get a piece, but I can’t see her winning.

She’s Our Mark (UK) has never left Ireland and probably wants longer than today’s distance.  She has only one win between present and August of 2007.  Royal Confidence (UK) ran sixth behind Main Aim who ran in the Queen Anne Stakes today.  She has not won since September of 2007 and probably won’t win this one.

My Picks:  Lush Lashes, Heaven Sent, Proviso

Group 1 Prince of Wales Stakes

The biggest race of the meet is Wednesday’s Group 1 Prince of Wales stakes at ten furlongs.  The race has been won by such outstanding runners as the mare Ouija Board in 2006, Dubai Millenium in 2000, and Mtoto in back to back runnings in 1987 and 1988.  The race was first run in 1862.

This year’s edition looks like a three-horse race between Tartan Bearer (IRE) (Spectrum (Ire) – Highland Gift (IRE) by Generous (IRE), Vision D’Etat (FR) (Chichicastenango (FR) – Uberaba (FR) by Garde Royale (UK) and Never on Sunday (FR) (Sunday Break (JPN) – Hexane (FR) by Kendor (FR), with the slight edge going to Tartan Bearer.

The Epsom Derby and Irish Derby runner-up from last year has been carefully handled and the fact the stable could have started Ballymacoll’s Breeders’ Cup Turf champion Conduit instead gives me confidence.  The four-year-old has only one start since his mugging at the Curragh, a win in group three company at Sandown.  He will take a lot of beating with Ryan Moore aboard.

Irish Derby 2008

Vision D’Etat ran into super filly Zarkava last year in the Arc and managed a fifth place finish, his first loss. He won the Group 1 Grand Prix Air Mauritius at Longchamp, but this is decidedly different competition. He has won seven of nine starts and will be gunning for number eight for trainer Gaetan Gilles and his first-time jockey Olivier Peslier.

2008 Arc de’Triomphe

Never on Sunday races for trainer Jean Claude Rouget, another French-bred that has won seven of his ten starts including a thorough drubbing of Goldikova last out in the Group 1 Prix d´Ispahan. He has two starts this season with a fifth place Group 2 finish prior to his last victory. He will be ridden by Christophe Lemaire.

The Others:

Estejo (GER) finished just in front of Lush Lashes in the Hong Kong Cup in 13th place, Tazeez (USA) was last placed in his last start behind Never on Sunday and might be over his head. 

Trincot (FR) is well-traveled and the Godolphin runner has been consistent for the most part.  Twice Over (UK) may not like the footing tomorrow. 

Vitrual (UK) traded wins with Paco Boy in his last two starts.  The Gosden trainee would be a surprise. 

My Picks:  Tartan Bearer, Vision D’Etat, Never on Sunday

The Royal Hunt Cup is next up with 31 entrants going one mile.

The Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes featuring the Wesley Ward trained Jealous Again who looks promising in here.  Also Grand Zafeen and Lady of the Desert. 

The Sandringham Handicap at one mile has 21 set to go with one fence-sitter in Bailey’s Cacao.

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