There may be no race meet in the world more prestigious than the five-day Royal Ascot meeting in England, which gets underway with an exceptional six-race card on June 14th. Here are brief thoughts and selections for the four group stakes races!
Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I)
The amazing U.S.-based mare Tepin will attempt to add this prestigious race to her already impressive record, but she faces a stiff test due to the course conditions (soft ground and a straight course), and she’ll be racing without her customary Lasix and nasal strip. For these reasons, I’ll side with Belardo, who unleashed a strong finish to win the Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I) last month. A two-time group I winner, Belardo doesn’t mind soft ground and should be finishing strongly in the final furlong. I also respect the chances of Endless Drama, who finished third in the Lockinge in his 2016 debut, as he’s a lightly-raced but proven group I competitor that could take a step forward in his second start of the season.
Coventry Stakes (Eng-II)
This race for two-year-olds has drawn a huge field and includes the unbeaten Silvertoni, winner of the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes at Churchill Downs last month, and finding the winner could be a challenge. The favorite to win is Aidan O’Brien’s Caravaggio, a winner of two straight races in Ireland, but there are questions about how he’ll handle the soft ground, so I’ll take a shot with Mokarris. Trained by Simon Crisford, Mokarris was impressive winning a maiden race at Haydock last month by two lengths and looks like a very promising colt. Psychedelic Funk, unbeaten in two starts at Naas including a six-length win over “yielding to soft” ground, is another to strongly consider.
King’s Stand Stakes (Eng-I)
Mecca’s Angel is the heavy favorite with the British bookmakers and is proven over soft ground, having won the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (Eng-I) over such conditions at York last year, but I really like the chances of Profitable. He’s 2-for-2 already this season and defeated Mecca’s Angel by a neck in the Temple Stakes (Eng-II) at Haydock last month, and since Profitable will offer much better odds than Mecca’s Angel, I think it’s worth playing him to maintain his edge over the mare. Jungle Cat, a consistent runner that was second by a half-length to Profitable in the Palace House Stakes (Eng-III) on April 30th, could be a live longshot.
St James’s Palace Stakes (Eng-I)
Aidan O’Brien’s two-time winner The Gurkha is favored off a romping win in the French 2,000 Guineas (Fr-I) last month, but he’s facing an exceptional field that includes English 2,000 Guineas (Eng-I) winner Galileo Gold and Irish 2,000 Guineas (Ire-I) winner Awtaad, the latter having beaten Galileo Gold by 2 1/2 lengths in his Irish Guineas score. Of the trio, I prefer Awtaad and will take him as my selection to win, but I’ll also put in a good word for Zonderland, who finished a solid sixth in the English 2,000 Guineas before winning the Heron Stakes at Sandown last month. Defeating the three Guineas winners will be a tough task, but I think Zonderland is an improving colt with a shot to hit the board at a big price.
Good luck to all, and enjoy the races!