Get ready, everyone! The most prestigious race meet in England is underway, that being the eagerly-anticipated Royal Ascot meet at Ascot Racecourse. The fourth racecard of the meet, scheduled for June 19th, features six exceptional races full of talented horses and competitive fields–here are some thoughts on each race!
Race 1: Albany Stakes (Eng-III)
6 furlongs for 2yo fillies
Wesley Ward has a pair of starters in this race, those being Laxfield Road and Back at the Ranch. The former broke her maiden by 11 1/4 lengths sprinting 4.5 furlongs at Keeneland, while the latter finished second in a similar race at Keeneland before stretching out to five furlongs and winning by 2 1/4 lengths at Belmont. But to win this race, they’ll have to defeat Team Valor’s promising filly Spanish Romance, who has gone 2-for-2 at Chantilly. Of the trio, I narrowly prefer Laxfield Road, but I can see this race going several different ways.
Race 2: King Edward VII Stakes (Eng-II)
12 furlongs for 3yo colts & geldings
Stravagante is favored off a 3 1/4-length victory in a ten-furlong handicap at Epsom last time out, but although there are only seven horses in this race, it looks like a very competitive field in which it could be worth taking a shot with a horse offering better odds. One longshot candidate is Magic Dancer, who finished second in the 11.5-furlong Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield last time out. Twelve furlongs might prove to be a bit too far for him, but he should be a good price in the wagering and might be worth a look. Balios should also be in the mix after rallying well to finish second in a ten-furlong handicap at Newmarket. Ol’ Man River would be a huge contender if he can regain the good form he displayed as a two-year-old, but after being beaten a combined 69 lengths in his two starts thus far this season, it’s hard to back him as the likely second choice in the wagering.
Race 3: Commonwealth Cup (Eng-I)
6 furlongs for 3yos
There are two U.S.-based runners in the inaugural running of this six-furlong sprint, led by last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I) winner Hootenanny. The Wesley Ward-trained runner is already proven at Ascot, having won the Windsor Castle Stakes last year by 3 1/2 lengths, and opened 2015 with a decisive 6 1/4-length victory in a 5.5-furlong turf allowance race at Keeneland. The other U.S. starter is Cyclogenisis, who is unbeaten in three starts sprinting on turf and Tapeta for trainer George Weaver. John Velazquez will have the mount on the promising son of Stormy Atlantic.
Among the European starters, Limato won the first five starts of his career, including a group III stakes, before running second in the Sandy Lane Stakes (Eng-II) at Haydock last month. But an even stronger contender is probably Tiggy Wiggy, who finished first or second in all eight of her starts as a two-year-old before stretching out in distance this year and finishing third in the seven-furlong Fred Darling Stakes (Eng-III) and the one-mile QIPCO 1,000 Guineas Stakes (Eng-I). However, in both of those races, she was rated off-the-pace as opposed to setting the pace, as was her style as a juvenile, so the cutback in distance and a switch to front-running tactics may be all she needs to rebound at a solid price.
Race 4: Coronation Stakes (Eng-I)
8 furlongs for 3yo fillies
A very strong field of seven will head to post for this one-mile race, including Poule d’Essai de Pouliches (Fr-I) winner Ervedya, QIPCO 1,000 Guineas Stakes (Eng-I) runner-up Lucida, and Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas (Ire-I) runner-up Found. On paper, it looks like a three-horse race between these fillies, but U.S. racing fans will have a rooting interest in Miss Temple City, a Graham Motion-trained filly that scored a decisive victory in the 8.5-furlong Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico last time out. She’s never missed the trifecta in five starts so far, and while she’s taking a substantial step up in class, she should be a pretty good longshot in the wagering and could be worth a small place bet.
Race 5: Duke of Edinburgh Stakes (Handicap)
12 furlongs for 3yo+
Twenty-two horses have their eyes on winning this twelve-furlong handicap, with one of the favorites being Arab Dawn, who has been running very well in middle-distance handicaps. In his 2015 debut, he ran third by 1 1/2 lengths in a twelve-furlong handicap at Newmarket, and figures to be among the primary contenders for victory in the Duke of Edinburgh. Another good choice is Sempre Medici, who has been running well in handicaps at 16 to 20 furlongs. He also has a strong record in shorter races, and will have the services of Ryan Moore, who has been riding extremely well at Royal Ascot this meet.
Race 6: Queen’s Vase (Listed Race)
16 furlongs for 3yos
Fifteen runners going two miles will comprise the final race of the day, and Aloft is the very heavy favorite to win. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, the colt ran second behind the talented Elm Park in the Racing Post Trophy (Eng-I) at Doncaster last year, and also beat the well-regarded Storm the Stars in a maiden race one start prior. He hasn’t run since the Racing Post Trophy, but appears to have a sizeable class edge over his rivals. The main question is whether he can handle the distance, which is twice as long as any race he has run to date.
With that in mind, I’ll try to beat him with Fabricate, who has won a pair of races going twelve furlongs in sharp fashion. He appears to be a colt that will have no trouble with extra distance, and in the event that Aloft doesn’t see out the distance, I think Fabricate has a good chance to pull off the upset.