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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

CORONATION IS ALCOHOL FREE AND OISIN MURPHY WINS FIVE–FOUR OFFICIALLY–TO LEAD ROYAL ASCOT

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…

PERFECT TRIP

#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.

SPEED KILLED

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

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⚠ Before you comment

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21 Responses

  1. Count me in John. I went to the Ascot races back in June 1970 in my service days. I had a younger brother stationed near Bedford. Flew standby and won just enough at Ascot to cover my weeks stay and flights to and from,. I didn’t know what to think of the bookies and all their hand signs. Placed all my wagers at the windows. Never attended a Kentucky Derby, but I have won at Ascot.

  2. Well, you have me beat, McD, as Royal Ascot is on our bucket list. We’ll point for 2022 and see what happens…

  3. Only wagered on five Ascot races and won four. Mostly luck I’m sure. Didn’t even know it was the Ascot. Day started with ma saying “Let’s go. To the track. I finished second to an odds on in the last event. Anyhoot, fifty years past and still see enough in the wallet to cover you and Photos by Toni on the beverages of your choice on the journey over and back. Do visit France and Italy if you can swing it. Tuscany, Capri, Monet’s garden, and on and on. Prelude to the next venture? I’m the fullness of life. Not in any rush to get it there mind you. Still a ton of races to play, Lol.

  4. I’m thinking with the fullness of life… we are indeed closer to end of this ride, than the beginning. Maybe we can catch an overtime or two. Keep working on that list is all. Go for it. Run Forrest, run.

    ..
    .

    1. Will do only what the Deity allows. I have the will, He needs to show my the way… Well, I’m 1 for 4 races thus far, only a Swinger saving me from the duck. Take one more flyer in the 5th, time to go to work…

  5. To expand a bit on your important point about the distinction between high-class American 3yos and some of their European counterparts, consider that Poetic Flare not only ran five times over the course of ~two months, but first travelled from his home base in Ireland to win the 2000 Guineas (an English Classic race) at Newmarket, then appeared at Longchamps 15 days later to compete in the French equivalent, then, six days later won the Irish 2000 Guineas by a short-head on soft to heavy going (far softer than what one ever sees in the U.S.). That’s three Classic races in three different countries in the space of 21 days.

    The three weeks off that he had prior to today’s dominant performance was, in context, almost a vacation!

    And yet, we have to endure hearing Brad Cox claim that he didn’t want to run the runner-up in the Derby back in either the Preakness or Belmont because the races were too closely spaced? It’s beyond ridiculous.

    1. But Tink, he was doing what he thought was best for the horse…

      Sarcasm notwithstanding. Lasix drains all those electrolytes so longer spacing is relevant. But you build them back up, back on Lasix, same story, different day.

      BTW: Good point about three countries in three weeks

      1. Wait – there’s more (on Poetic Flare):

        “The biggest trouble I have is keeping the weight off him. He’s a great doer and still has to do plenty at home, despite the schedule,” Bolger told Great British Racing on Sunday.

        He has trouble keeping weight off of him! What a horse…

        1. T, He was very good. The fast Wesley filly in the opener tomorrow; we’ll see how good, no easy field of course. Haven’t looked at anything else, and early post time makes it tough catching up…

  6. John Boy,. My Ascot in June good fortune continues. Used your Wesley and my Susie Q. for the ex in the first at The Ascot. Taking my bride of 42 out for lunch I am. She is a Susan by the way. Good to be lucky. Won when I married, and like you with your Toni, I’m still cashing tickets. Riders Up!😀

    1. Toni was the best bet I ever made …
      Nice goin’ McD. I overlooked ‘Susan’, my bad.

  7. “Riders Up” was what I said to my Best Man when she started down the aisle. Best Bet ever for each of us. Not that we aren’t the subject of a Steward’s Inquiry every now and again, Lol.

  8. I have never seen a horse race like the Britannia Stakes. 29 horses in the race, but it looked like 2 races run simultaneously on 1 track. Every horse was on the inside or the far outside. Nobody was in the middle of the track.

  9. That’s how it’s done, the racing, depending on course, and the all important ground. We will talk more about this here.

    Loving Royal Ascot scene, all of it.

    I’m now a Britphile and a Euro-Weenie.

  10. After three days of watching the Royal Ascot meet. I have a few observations. I’ve never seen so many 50-1 shots who look absolutely fabulous. I don’t think I’ve seen a horse with front bandages.
    New stars jockey Oisin Murphy and trainer Archie Watson, these two will be household names in USA very soon.

    1. Couldn’t agree more, T. A parade of great looking horseflesh race after race after race… A late convert but I love racing in the U.K.

  11. This is where we should look to rebuild the pedigree and stamina of American racing. All of what we have focused on for far too long on our side of the pond has been speed and medications. The Brits have done a good at better job as evidenced by the display put on at Ascot.

    Thanks for taking us back over once again John. We witness there what racing should and could be again here.

    We owe it to future generations to change it all back. Just like in kindergarten where we once learned to put things back to where we got them. Time as well to begin to work to restore our stock’s bloodlines.

    1. We’re unlikely to see it all develop but hoping that future generations have a chance to be exposed to live horse racing and they can decide for themselves. What did the wise man say? “Take care of the horses and they will take care of you?”

  12. Most often the correct approach is found in moderation John. Slow and steady, it can be done. We will not see it all, but we may witness the start towards restoration of racing in our lifetimes. I am content with a start.

  13. Bigger issues first, climate change, voting rights, and on and on. Gratefully for diversion to wagering and HRI for some guidance. Riders up, it’s Saturday. Go get ’em.

    1. Oh yes, the world’s agenda is quite full these days. Be nice to start slowly with racing and work towards something. Riders Up McD !

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