HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, June 18, 2021 —
TAKE THAT: Oisin Murphy finished first for the third time in four chances today only this time, unlike his “win” aboard Dragon Symbol in the race prior, he was allowed to keep the trophy as Alcohol Free proved strongest at the end of the mile around one turn.
Demonstrating a terrific late turn of foot over ground she obviously relished, it was a job well done by yet another Andrew Balding trainee.
Murphy would add Quickthorn to his memorable DAY 4 ROYAL ASCOT, taking the Duke of Edinburgh, the horse getting stronger as the ground got heavier. Winning trainer Johnny Murtaugh was very complimentary of Murphy.
“I forget he’s only 19 but he rides much older,” a trainer who knows something about riding himself. He might already be the best rider in Ireland. Riding good horses make you a better rider.”
Meanwhile, who knows what racing conditions will prevail for tomorrow’s final program?
DAY 4 ROYAL ASCOT: it’s uncomfortable playing catchup but that’s the role we find ourselves in this morning. And never mind that the Royal Ascot events coming off the turf; there are no viable alternatives except cancellation out of an abundance of caution. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
All 15 juvenile fillies lined up for the Albany Stakes opener. We noted immediately that group raced in the center of the course for the first time this week, with only two runners racing on the stands-side rail.
Sandrine emerged from the center of the course to win it for trainer Andrew Balding, his second of Royal Ascot Week, with David Probert in the boot.
The strongest challenge came from just off his flank, Hello You, who finished a game second and, from the near fence, Oscula made good ground to secure the show.
After the race, Frankie Dettori and Oisin Murphy confirmed what was apparent; the ground is soft.
Favorite Alenceur made the last run down the center of the course to win the King Edward VII, trainer William Haggas’ 12th Royal Ascot win, a second for rider Tom Marquand.
The lynchpin of Day 4 is the Coronation Stakes for three-year-old fillies, the fourth race on the program.
We’re were going to rest on Wednesday’s Subjectivist laurels but could not resist the value we see in Pretty Gorgeous, 10-1 at this posting, and a quinella box with soft course Gr1 winner Mother Earth (10-3). Horses are in the ring.
The race of the day, perhaps of the entire meeting, was the stretch duel between Dragon Symbol and the filly Campanelle, a heads up-heads down battle for almost the final quarter mile in which Dragon Symbol prevailed by a desperate nose for Archie Watson, Murphy’s second of the day.
But the winner drifted out and interfered with the filly, resulting in a stewards inquiry. The filly was 4-6 to be awarded the win via disqualification, and she was placed first. He drifted, continued to drift, the colt carrying the filly out about 8 to 10 paths. Dettori never stopped riding but we see the DQ as fair and justified.
In the end, the winner of the fabled Ascot Gold Cup was dominant but it wasn’t the horse a vast majority of bettors expected.
Stradavarius was close enough with a quarter-mile remaining but could not improve on his fourth place position. He raced as if a horse that needed his seven-year-old debut.
As one star might be beginning to lost some of his luster, another was born in Subjectivist. The four-year-old Teofilo colt came in winning three of his last four starts, all in Group company, including the Gr 1 Champion Stakes to conclude his three-year-old season.
Showing speed but rating kindly beneath veteran Joe Fanning, he stalking the early pace until ready, separated himself boldly after turning into the straight and never was seriously challenged.
Princess Zoe proved she didn’t need heavy ground to run well, chasing gamely through the straight as improving Spanish Mission came on well for third and might have been second in several more jumps.
Stradavarius did not race poorly but had too much to do, a bit farther back than anticipated in at the mid-race stage, a difficult trip. But that might not have mattered as Subjectivist’s star clearly is beginning its ascent.
Subjectivist has won over all types of ground but his last two runs, in the Dubai and Ascot Gold Cups, were easily the best of his career.
Winning trainer Mark Johnston said that the Goodwood Gold Cup would be under consideration for his next start. Subjectivist returned a rather generous $13.80 straight.
THE BETS: Given the kind of ground he should handle, Stradavarius’ class should prevail. For those inclined to beat him, we’ll quinella box three other S’s: Santiago (19-1), Serpentine (10-1), and Subjectivist (5-1)–Stradavarius on top in Trifectas. With the late scratch of Trueshan, Subjectivist has the best chance to upset straight.
BEST LAID PLANS
Early reports from Sky Sports indicate that because the area did not get as much precipitation at predicted, the course at Royal Ascot is still officially rated good-to-firm. And that’s just the way the mighty Stradavarius likes it.
When last seen on boggy ground here last fall, the Sea the Stars seven-year-old struggled mightily in the Long Distance Cup, eased to finish 12th of 13. Further, we shall see if the overnight showers has eliminated some a bias that favored horses with outside draws the first two days of the meet.
In an attempt to add to his legend, Stradavarius is seeking his fourth win without defeat at the Gold Cup’s ultra-demanding 2-1/2 mile trip. Is he the equal of the mighty marathoner Yeats, who won the prestigious Group 1 in four consecutive years?
In the opener, Perfect Power was a courageous winner, racing toward the outside of the stands-side group. But the finish was tight among four of the juvenile males contesting the Norfolk, the winner barely edging out Go Bears Go who raced on the far side. It will be interesting to see if the trend continues.
RAIN, RAIN STAY AWAY
Rain remains in the forecast for later today into tomorrow, the course remained on the firmer side of good and the paths on the grandstand-side of the wide course were the place to be, as they were opening day. But they’re using the entire course today, meaning fresh ground not as compacted as it was the first two days, where the stands-side horses with the widest draws had an advantage.
Post positions do not match program number as a matter of course.
The first three runners from Gr2 Queen Mary broke from stalls 22, 20 and 15.
Ward, who has dominated the Queen Mary with four wins since 2009 and has put Royal Ascot American-based shippers on the map, was high on this filly but was no match late for Quick Suzy who had three prior starts compared to the favorite’s two.
After breaking maiden in start two by five, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners purchased the filly privately and promptly finished second in a Group 3.
Three races over wet-softened courses at 6 furlongs translated very well going five-eighths over firm ground on the fastest part of the surface.
The race we’re anticipating most is the 1-1/4 mile Gr1 Prince of Wales Stakes featuring the return of filly sensation Love, making her four year old debut for Aidan O’Brien after going 3-for-3 last season. She has won fresh and her only start over firm ground.
Much of the drama was eliminated, however, when Lord North, winner of the Gr1 Dubai Turf Cup for Team Gosden-Dettori in March was scratched late. O’Brien could have himself to beat with Armory, a winner of his prep for this in his four year old debut.
In the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge, Dettori got his 75th Ascot winner–for John Gosden at 22-1…
IT WAS WORTH THE WAIT
Love’s winning debut in the Gr1 Prince of Wales Stakes at 10 furlongs might remember it as one of the great races of 2021.
Comfortably in front but setting a realistic pace, Love dug down deeply as Keeneland course record-setting winner of the Breeders Cup F & M Turf Audarya made her move at headstretch, these fillies put on quite a show.
Mea culpa for the cliche but the finish of the Prince of Wales didn’t deserve a loser as both fillies were all out as both made powerhouse performances, even if the course condition flattered Love’s speed. It was her fourth consecutive win dating back to JUN 20.
Galileo’s chestnut daughter is simply extraordinary and there may be more treats in store for fans if all continues to go well. And she needed to be all that as Audarya was audacious. staying on strongly over the top of the ground footing she seems to appreciate.
This is anything but a dark Tuesday for serious fans of the sport. And there are opportunities to make money with a little extra research.
It’s hard to know what’s going on over there when there are so many handicapping problems over here.
The NBC Sports Network, NBCSN, has got you covered for the next four days as one of the world’s most prestigious boutique meets gets underway. AKA Royal Ascot.
Beginning Tuesday JUN 14, the first of seven races, scheduled for 9:30 AM EDT, will be televised with all the pomp and ceremony that a television network can provide, and they will do so through Friday.
Tuesday’s seven-race program, featuring win, place, exacta, trifecta and swinger wagering–the latter is any combination of two horses finishing first, second or third–starts rapidly with the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, one of the world’s classiest one mile events.
In rapid succession comes the Gr2 Coventry for juveniles of both sexes at six furlongs, the Gr1 King’s Stand for the world’s best sprinters going five furlongs, and the Gr1 St. James Palace Stakes, another mile event but limited strictly to three year olds.
Everyone who’s anyone in the old world will be there; John Gosden, Charlie Appleby, Aidan O’Brien, Sir Michael Stoute, Mark Johnston, Dermot Weld, world class horsemen all.
And, yes, Wesley Ward is there, too–the man who made it hip and smart to try. He has two in today, as opposed to Gosden who is in six of seven races–two each in the second and seventh races.
We’ll take the races one at a time. There are 130 horses in the seven events, more than 18-1/2 horses per race, and with no detailed past performances to speak of, American players, used to having data at their command, must do an immense amount of video research.
With four graded races, three at the Group 1 level, champions, existing and aspiring, there are several horses of particular interest:
In the opener, Gosden is hooking up with regular partner Frankie Dettori with 2-5 early line favorite Palace Pier. The four year old Kingman colt is 7-for-8 lifetime, including three Group 1s and a Group 2.
Ironically, his only defeat was in last year’s Queen Elizabeth on this course, finishing third after losing a shoe on his left fore. He acts on any footing, so we will put him on top of three outside horses in a cold trifecta key: 6 // 9.10.11, at odds of 20-1, 20-1 and 15-1 below.
We’ll find out if we’re working around lucky by about 9:40 am and go from there.
Meanwhile, the day’s third race, the King’s Stand, features the widely acknowledged best turf sprinter in Europe, gelded seven-year-old Battash (9-5), who makes season’s debut for Charles Hills, who gives the 131-pound weight assignment to Jim Crowley.
HOT HOT HOT
Hot and steamy, according to the Sky Sport hosts, and the ground is good to firm, “top of the ground” as the Euros say. One would have to think that the Ward horses will enjoy the going…
Interesting notes on the great sprinter Baatash. He has been away with an injury, there is some question as whether he has had enough training for this–but in Appleby we trust.
Baatash never has lost when racing fresh, as he is today, but is 0-for-7 in fields of 11 or more, the case today, and according there is plenty of early speed signed on to challenge him early.
FORM HOLDS IN OPENER
The day’s biggest favorite, Palace Pier, will try to take the opener, which is scheduled for 9:30, in 17 minutes… Palace Pier was a comprehensive winner of the opener, appearing to have some reserves crossing the line… Some things never change as the longer Aidan O’Brien, Lope Y Fernandez, finished second. Lost our TRI but happy to catch the Swinger with #9, 3rd at like 25-1 or something close. Trainer Gosden said he’s considering the Sussex, Jacques le Marois, among others, for Palace Pier’s next start…
#2 Berkshire Shadow, well drawn from outside post position 17 (betting number does not correspond to post draw) on the firmest part of the course to take the Coventry Stakes for juveniles for trainer Andrew Balding and Oishan Murphy.
Indeed, there was too much speed signed on for Bataash, and while a firm course can tend to flatter speed, albeit less so in Europe, it set the table for a late runner. And was Oxted ever the late runner under a ice-cold Cieren Fallon who didn’t rattle early, near the back of 16-horse pack, asked his mount to quicken in the final quarter mile, split horses late, and was going away at the finish. He was well fancied, as they say, at 4-1 ante post. Fallon’s King’s Stand victory was the first of his career at Royal Ascot.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GROUND
The winner of G1 St, James Palace at one mile for three year olds was right there for handicappers to see. The last time Poetic Flare was on firm ground was May 1 in the 2000 Guineas and the result was the same, only Tuesday’s victory was with much more dominating. So far two lifetime runs on firm ground and two Group 1 wins. Veteran Kevin Manning won it well clear of Lucky Vega for trainer Jim Bolger
Interesting to note the difference between American three year olds and their European cousins. In America, five or six races would be an entire season. The St. James was Poetic Flare’s fifth run since April 11. Last out he was second by a nose in the Irish 2000 Guineas over his less preferred soft ground on five days rest. Guess no raceday medication has its advantages.
*correction on race name made 1:25 pm on 061621
this story is live and ongoing and will be upgraded as events and time dictate