Get ready, everyone! The most prestigious race meet in England is underway, that being the eagerly-anticipated Royal Ascot meet at Ascot Racecourse. The third racecard of the meet, scheduled for June 18th, features six exceptional races full of talented horses and competitive fields–here are some thoughts on each race!
Race 1: Norfolk Stakes (Eng-II)
5 furlongs for 2yos
The heavy favorite in the wagering is Richard Hannon’s King of Rocks, who ran three times during the month of May, finishing third in his debut at Asoct before winning a maiden race at Newbury and a listed stakes at Sandown by the combined margin of 11 lengths. In the latter race, held at five furlongs, King of Rocks scored by five lengths over Buratino, who returned to win the Coventry Stakes (Eng-II) in decisive fashion on the first day of the Royal Ascot meet. He looks difficult to beat, but Godolphin’s Log Out Island could be a good choice to pull the upset after breaking his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths at Ascot in his lone start to date. The two colts are actually stablemates, both being trained by Richard Hannon, and it will be interesting to see which one comes out on top.
Race 2: Tencentenary Stakes (Eng-III)
10 furlongs for 3yos
Juddmonte Farms has the favorite in Time Test, who finished first or fourth in all four of his starts to date. Last time out, he won a ten-furlong handicap at Newbury in solid fashion, and he picks up the services of Frankie Dettori for today’s race. But he doesn’t appear to have much of an edge over his rivals, and Peacock could be a logical choice for those seeking a bit more value. Trained by Ricjard Hannon, the colt enters the Tencentenary off of a 1 1/4-length triumph in the ten-furlong Fairway Stakes at Newmarket, and two starts back, he finished second by just 1 1/2 lengths behind Epsom Derby (Eng-I) winner Golden Horn in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket. He is my selection to pull off a mild upset.
Race 3: Ribblesdale Stakes (Eng-II)
12 furlongs for 3yo fillies
Pleascach is the heavy favorite off of consecutive victories in the Blue Wind Stakes (Eng-III) and Irish 1,000 Guineas (Eng-I), and appears on paper to have a substantial edge over her rivals. The only concern is that she’s never run beyond ten furlongs, so if you’d like to try and beat her, you might want to take a chance with Gretchen, who won a twelve-furlong maiden race at Newmarket in her lone start thus far. If she can take a step forward in the second start of her career, she could be in the mix at a solid price. Another good longshot could be Wedding Vow, who ran well to finish third in the 11.5-furlong Oaks Trial Stakes at Lingfield last time out. Trained by Aidan O’Brien for Coolmore, Wedding Vow should have no trouble with the distance and should be staying on well at the finish.
Race 4: Gold Cup (Eng-I)
20 furlongs for 4yo+
The extended distance of the Gold Cup can make it a challenge to handicap, especially when the favorite–Forgotten Rules–has never run farther than two miles. Granted, he’s been very impressive winning all four of his starts by a combined 24 lengths, but as with Pleascach in the Ribblesdale, if you would like to try and beat him on the hope that he won’t see out the distance, there are plenty of logical upset candidates to choose from. Tac de Boistron finished second in the 20-furlong Prix de Cardan (Fr-I) at Longchamp in 2013 and enters the Gold Cup off of a solid runner-up effort in the 13.5-furlong Ormonde Stakes (Eng-III) at Chester last month. He’s also proven at Ascot, having won the 16-furlong Sagaro Stakes (Eng-III) decisively in April 2014.
Another good choice is Bathyrhon, who finished second by just a neck in the 2014 edition of the Prix du Cadran. He could only manage a seventh-place effort in the 16-furlong Dubai Gold Cup (UAE-II) to open 2015, but proved an easy winner of the 15.5-furlong Prix Vicomtesse Vigier (Fr-II) at Longchamp last month and shouldn’t have any difficulties with the distance.
Race 5: Britannia Stakes (Heritage Handicap)
8 furlongs for 3yo colts & geldings
Thirty-three horses will head to post for this one-mile handicap, and as with many of these massive handicaps, it’s a bit of an honor if your selection simply hits the board, let alone wins. I’ll take a chance with Aidan O’Brien’s War Envoy, a horse that I really liked in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I), a race in which he finished twelfth, but was only beaten by 4 1/4 lengths. He enters the Britannia off of a last-place finish in the Prix du Jockey Club (Fr-I) going 10.5 furlongs at Chantilly, but his previous three runs this season were much better, and the drop in class for today’s race should put him right in the mix.
Race 6: King George V Stakes (Handicap)
12 furlongs for 3yos
Another very wide-open handicap, this race has drawn a more modest 21 entries, with Dissolution appearing to be one of the more likely candidates for victory. Toting 124 pounds, the fourth-highest weight assighnment in the race, Dissolution finished second in a ten-furlong handicap at Newmarket last month behind the above-mentioned Time Test, the favorite for the Tencentenary Stakes (Eng-III). He is my selection to win, but other strong contenders include King Bolete, who won an eleven-furlong handicap at Newbury last month, and Space Age, a Godolphin runner that won a ten-furlong handicap at Newmarket in his most recent race.