Get ready, everyone! The most prestigious race meet in England is underway, that being the eagerly-anticipated Royal Ascot meet at Ascot Racecourse. The final racecard of the meet, scheduled for June 20th, features six exceptional races full of talented horses and competitive fields–here are some thoughts on each race!
Race 1: Chesham Stakes
7 furlongs for 2yos
Aidan O’Brien has the favorite in Ballydoyle, a filly that will be making her second start after finishing fourth as the heavy favorite in her debut at the Curragh. A well-regarded filly, there’s a good chance that she’ll rebound on Saturday, especially if she enjoys the firmer turf at Ascot. But Godolphin’s Tonkinese also looks like a promising filly after easily breaking her maiden by three lengths in a seven-furlong race at Leopardstown, and since she’s likely to be a better price than Ballydoyle, I’ll take her as my selection to win.
U.S. racing fans will get to cheer for Love the Kitten, a Wesley Ward-trainer daughter of Kitten’s Joy that finished second in a pair of 4.5 furlongs maiden races at Keeneland and Woodbine. Those races were on dirt and Polytrack, and the switch to turf may be all she needs to run an improved race.
Race 2: Wilferton Handicap
10 furlongs for 4yo+
Mahsoob is the favorite after opening his career with three straight victories, including one at ten furlongs, and the John Gosden-trained runner even gets a bit of a break in the weights, carrying four pounds less than highweight Fire Fighting. However, it might be worth betting First Flight to win, as the Godolphin runner was beaten just three-quarters of a length by Mahsoob when finishing third in a 10.5-furlong handicap at York last time out, and that was when First Flight was conceding Mahsoob one pound–today, First Flight will receive four pounds from his rival. With this shift in the weights, First Flight is my selection to win.
Race 3: Hardwicke Stakes (Eng-II)
12 furlongs for 4yo+
Telescope won this race last year by seven lengths and has since proven himself to be a very capable group I-level competitor, and having romped to a six-length win in a twelve-furlong handicap at Newbury last time out, he is heavily favored to win. Postponed is considered to have the best chance at pulling an upset, having finished third by just a half-length in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Ire-I) last time out, but Eagle Top could also be in the mix at a very good price. The lightly-raced colt won the King Edward VII Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot last year over the very-talented Adelaide, but wrapped up the season prematurely with a fourth-place effort in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I) in July at Ascot. In his comeback effort, he finish fourth in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes (Eng-III) at Sandown last month, but he should improve with that race under his belt, and a career-best effort on Saturday might be enough to give him the victory.
Race 4: Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Eng-I)
6 furlongs for 4yo+
Gordon Lord Byron has the best overall reputation thanks to his multiple group I wins over the years, but a couple of disappointing efforts this year have left him as a longshot in the wagering. The favorite to win is Brazen Beau, an Australian-trained colt that has won three of his last four starts, including a pair of group I sprints at Flemington. But given that Brazen Beau will be encountering course conditions much different than what he is accustomed to in Australia, I’ll try to beat him with with the American hopeful Undrafted, who should be a good price in the wagering. The Wesley Ward-trained runner was beaten just three-quarters of a length in the five-furlong Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes (gr. III) last time out, and has already proven himself to be capable of running a good race in England, having finished a strong fourth in the Darlye July Cup (Eng-I) at Newmarket last July. The six-furlong distance of the Diamond Jubilee should be ideal, and I think Undrafted has a live chance to pull off the upset. Others that warrant strong consideration include Mustajeeb, who enters off a win in the Greenlands Stakes (Eng-II) at the Curragh last time out, and Due Diligence, who finished second in this race last year for trainer Aidan O’Brien.
Race 5: Wokingham Stakes (Heritage Handicap)
6 furlongs for 3yo+
With 28 horses scheduled to run in this six-furlong handicap, finding the winner will be a challenge. Jockey Ryan Moore, who has had an extremely successful Ascot meet thus far, will be aboard Tatlisu, who is among the favorites after winning a six-furlong handicap at Doncaster three starts back and finishing fourth in a similar race at York last time out. He will also be toting the co-lowest weight assighnment in the field (12 pounds less than the highweights), so I’ll pick him to win and hope for the best.
Race 6: Queen Alexandra Stakes
About 21.5 furlongs for 4yo+
Wicklow Brave has scored three straight victories in impressive fashion while winning at distances as long as 17 furlongs, and given the ease with which he has been winning, I think there’s a strong chance that he will see out the marathon distance of the Queen Alexandra. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who thinks so, as Wicklow Brave is expected to be a heavy favorite in the wagering. Those seeking a better-priced horse might want to take a try with Godolphin’s Marzocco, who has won going as far as two miles, or perhaps even the extreme longshot Ofcoursewecan, who has run well in a couple of hurdle races at this distance.