Royal Ascot Preview – Day TWO

Day one is in the books over at Royal Ascot. The performances were great! My tipping? Not so much. Though I did have the stellar Kingman in the St. James’s Palace, and Verrazano ran a creditable second, Portamento and Ahtoug unfortunately finished off the board, though the latter did finish in front of the well-regarded Shea Shea – so that counts for something, right?!

Now we move on to day two with a semi-clean slate. Before I blabber on any more, let’s jump right into the first group stakes of the day, the Jersey Stakes.

JERSEY

Whoa! This is a brain-buster of a race. The name that jumped out at me first was Giovanni Boldini. His form’s been all over the place. A good second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last year (behind Outstrip, who was a good third in yesterday’s St. James’s Palace), a fourth in the UAE Derby over all-weather, and then two off-the-board performances after that. Huh? I’ve always felt this horse was a router, and probably wants more than the seven furlongs here. Sure, he may surprise, but I’m not banking on it. My new-found Twitter buddy Tom Essex likes Aeolus, and this colt is definitely worth a look. He finished third in a race behind Shifting Power, who went on to finish fourth in a power-packed 2000 Guineas. (Two of the three horses who finished in front of him have since won Group 1 races.) So he’s got class, and he’s got speed. My only problem with him is the ground – he seems to relish soft ground, and he won’t get that here. Mustajeeb looks pretty nice; he’s got good form under him as well.

Sudirman was a nice juvenile, but I don’t think he’s of quite the quality he was last year. He was a dull fourth at Naas last out, far from the sparkling performances of his youth, though that could just be a screw-tightener for this spot. Either way, he’ll have to step off big off that performance. Same with Anjaal…good juvenile, but I’d rather see better form sooner rather than later in his running lines. He’s one of several that Richard Hannon has in here; my favorite of those is Musical Comedy, with Richard Hughes aboard in the colors of the Queen. Though he’s taking a big step up here, he’s got red-hot connections, and I believe he could be the first royal winner at the meeting. He’ll have to really prove himself, though. Muwaary deserves a long look. Gosden-Hanagan? Can’t be ignored. And if we’re talking connections, Parbold should be mentioned, with Ryan Moore aboard. The guy’s been riding crazy good this flat season. And Al Shaqab and Frankie Dettori pair up yet again with Redbrook, a French invader. Finally, we’ll wrap up with who might be my top pick – That Is The Spirit. Undefeated in three starts, ran a nice one at Epsom last out. Too bad his odds won’t be high.

My verdict: THAT IS THE SPIRIT looks like the goods here. AEOLUS has class going for him. For a price, I’ll be closely watching MUSICAL COMEDY, who will need to step up big here but could get the job done. Of course, I could be talking nonsense right now!

QUEEN MARY

Hmmm, let’s follow up a brain-buster with a two year old race, shall we? Way to go, Royal Ascot. (Emily takes some aspirin.) So I’ll start off with this – yesterday, Wesley Ward and Victor Espinoza dominated with Hootenanny, who ran off to take the final race of the day impressively. In here, they send out Spanish Pipedream, of whom I’ve heard great things about. This filly has the same sire (Scat Daddy) as a previous Royal Ascot winner for Ward, No Nay Never. She’ll certainly be favored in the U.S., so not a lot of value here, but she could be a star. Then there’s Tiggy Wiggy, an honest runner for the Hannon/Hughes team with an adorable name. Last time out, she dominated colts by nearly four lengths. She’s intriguing. Anthem Alexander is a favorite of many. She romped by seven last out in Ireland, and though it’s a long way from Tipperary (commence singing) she’s got the pedigree to be a Royal Ascot winner. Starspangledbanner already has sired one group stakes winner here – can he make it two?

Now let’s look at some of the bigger prices here. Blue Aegean is here for the Godolphin/Appleby crew. They already broke my heart yesterday with Portamento, and that stuff doesn’t heal easy. I KNOW. I’m being sentimental. Clouds Rest is a speedy filly and should be near the pace. Will she be fast enough to spurt away and hold on with this group? Eh. (Best phonetical spelling for the sound out of my mouth.) Dangerous Moonlite with Hannon/Moore! I make a big deal out of connections, especially in international racing, because I always hear which humans are hot but not always horses. She won a race at Ascot last month and did it in good style. But with one start under her belt only, she may lack the experience that some others have. And then there’s Harry’s Dancer. After Al Shaqab’s triumph with The Wow Signal yesterday, it’s worth giving this one a look after an impressive win at Thirsk. This is a loaded field – man! Two year old races really do me in.

My verdict: I could go for eye-catching, or experience. For now, I’m thinking TIGGY WIGGY. She’ll be more value than the other two in that first paragraph, and she’s not a bad racehorse at all. SPANISH PIPEDREAM could freak for Ward, as Hootenanny did. I’ve heard some Twitter buzz on HARRY’S DANCER; she’s definitely worth watching. I may be stupid to leave out ANTHEM ALEXANDER, so I won’t. But she’s not my top choice.

PRINCE OF WALES’S

(Breathes heavy sigh of relief.) This is a race I understand. It’s a shorter field, but chock-full of top-notch horses. Treve is back for blood after a loss off the layoff to Cirrus Des Aigles earlier this year. I love me some Cirrus, so I’m not deterred by that loss whatsoever. After all, he came back and won two Group 1 races. What a freaking monster. Anyway, Treve is certainly the class of this field, and will be favored – probably. She’s joined in girl power by Dank and The Fugue; both are coming out of the Dubai Duty Free, won in a massive way by Just A Way with Vercingetorix in second. Dank was 3rd that day. The Fugue was 11th. The latter may be tailing off in form, but Dank certainly isn’t, and she’ll love the ten furlongs here. The way I see it, the girls tower over this field. Mukhadram seems a nice one to key into a trifecta or superfecta, if you’re into that sort of stuff. I’ve never been a fan of Magician. He’s always been a bit overrated to me, which is quite a silly thing to be saying about a Breeders’ Cup Turf winner.

My verdict: Allez TREVE! She’ll need to handle the firm ground, a surface that DANK will relish, but I think she’s the best of this field. MUKHADRAM will likely finish on the board. THE FUGUE needs to be in top form to challenge the other two fillies.

DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE

SPEAKING of girl power, this race marks the return of two of my favorite ladies – Certify and L’amour De Ma Vie! The last time they met on the track, our French filly got the better of Godolphin’s star, who finished fourth under a weird ride by Barzalona. (I’m still mad about that loss.) L’amour will want to be up near the front; Certify will sit back. But they’ll both be attempting to take down Sky Lantern, the hot favorite here. A deserving favorite she is. She’ll be making her first start off a long layoff, which worked out for her stablemate Toronado yesterday. HOWEVER. She ran less than sharply off a layoff in a prep for her 1000 Guineas win last year – she finished second, beaten more than two lengths in a race she probably could – and should? – have won. So I think she may be vulnerable here. I quite like Esoterique– she took to the fast ground at Newmarket swimmingly last month in the Group 3 Dahlia, beating several fillies also entered in this race. The filly that finished second there, Integral, is also one to watch with Ryan Moore aboard. (Anyone keeping tabs of how often I’ve mentioned Ryan Moore? I’m sure quite a lot.)

My verdict: It’s Godolphin Blue and CERTIFY for me. Lovin’ the rider switch, lovin’ the cutback in distance, lovin’ the return to England. She could be overlooked here and therefore a nice price. AND. She’s beaten the favorite before. ESOTERIQUE is another one I love quite a bit, though not as much as my top. SKY LANTERN cannot be overlooked, but I think she’ll be a little rusty here.

That’s all, folks! Happy racing!

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