HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, June 21, 2023 — Much hyperbole has been showered upon Great Britain’s Royal Ascot meet, almost all of it deserved.
The first two days of the meet, in the language of the young, has been sick. So have the next two and the last promises more of the same, a fitting conclusion to Royal Ascot 2023.
Household names in the U.S. all scored, among them Aidan O’Brien, John Gosden, the legendary ‘Frankie’ and Hollie Doyle, too. The finishes, and the prices, were big, bigger and biggest–great racing theater.
Not being nuanced in European racing, whether it be the animals or the human connections outside of high-profile household names, HRI has focused on the juveniles, mainly because there are fewer lines to research, fewer videos to watch.
While the evidence admittedly is scant, short turf sprints limits the confusion: Can your choice run fast, can he stay, can he quicken, is he handy or heavy headed, does he love infighting, do 25-horse fields intimidate the equine contestants as much as they strike fear into handicappers?
The overarching reality is that large juvenile fields offer enormous value on talented runners. They might not lay over, but often the best horses can pay north of 10-1. Be smart and get paid.
We were a little less professional yesterday when we vented here on a second bad beat in as many days. We thought while Army Ethos clearly wasn’t the best runner on paper–the even money Aidan O’Brien-trained winner was–the price was outlandish.
Racing for the highly productive duo of Archie Watson and Hollie Doyle, 21-1 was extraordinary value. The more experienced favorite eked out the win over the game-finishing, if slightly green, nose beaten outsider.
More of the same today, only I thought Relief Rally was the best filly in the Queen Mary, 10-1 on the early line and off at 8-1 was a gift horse. She had it all; speed, class, and extremely professionalism.
So Relief Rally was in front one stride before and after the wire, but the head-bob at the line belonged to Johnny V. aboard Crimson Advocate for George Weaver.
And we saw this long-striding beauty win impressively with complete authority about 25 minutes from my front door at Gulfstream Park which made the loss seem a bit worse. She truly impressed us but the home team rated to be more formidable. Almost…
In tomorrow’s opener, the most impressive European juvenile video we’ve seen belongs to Elite Status (3-2), even more impressive than was River Tiber’s previous run. He won two starts by an aggregate eight lengths, a budding star.
The most impressive American juvenile we’ve seen is American Rascal, a Stonestreet homebred by Curlin from the uber brilliant Lady Aurelia, a dual Royal Ascot winner including an all-world performance in 2018.
American Rascal (3-1) then has the genes for the task. His debut score at Keeneland simply was one of the best debut performances we’ve seen in 47 years of doing this, worthy of a time capsule by anyone’s measure.
Should either of the two win, you need not call a travel agent, but that’s not the point unless somehow Irish-bred Revellier (20-1), a dominating winner on debut over 11 rivals last month, sneaks into the number.
Post time for the first race, EDT, is at or about 9:30 am. I for one can’t wait.
NORFOLK RECAP: A pretty damn good maiden with two starts under his belt took the prestigious turf sprint with surprising style considering his odds. Malc, who we used for third in trifectas at 66-1 was good, too. Favorite Elite Status while disappointing was a creditable third, as the kick he showed at Sandown last out was not brilliant today. The $2 exacta paid over $10,000, the $1 trifecta more than $25,000 with the favorite third. Now that’s worthy of a travel agent…
Kentucky Derby runner-up Two Phil’s heads a field of eight in Saturday’s Grade 3 Ohio Derby. The race won’t clarify the three-year-old picture–unless he’s beaten–but the connections had a half-million reasons to take this mile and an eighth seriously.
Win or lose, hopefully he will seek bigger game again either at Monmouth Park or Saratoga Race Course, but first thing first.
We’ll take a handicapping look-in, as well as Thistledown’s co-featured Lady Jacqueline Stakes for older fillies and mares, and Saturday’s Wild Applause for sophomore fillies on the turf at Belmont Park.
THISTLEDOWN Grade 3 OHIO DERBY Race 11
The Skinny: We were tempted to overthink this but decided 4-Two Phil’s has established his class while his main rivals, principally Bishop’s Bay, on the brink of possibly becoming a serious racehorse.
The Derby runner-up has won at the trip and would have won the Derby, too, had it been nine furlongs that afternoon. Condition obviously is not an issue and, having skipped the Preakness and Belmont, comes into this fresh and presumably ready for a big summer.
But we’re not short-shrifting Bishop’s Bay who came within a head of defeating Belmont winner Arcangelo in the G3 Peter Pan at this trip, albeit around one turn. But the Uncle Mo owns a two-turn victory at Fair Grounds and has been working up a story for Brad Cox.
3-Bishop’s Bay (3-1) is picking up eight pounds off the Peter Pan, but that didn’t stop the Belmont winner. This is a scaleweight event as all carry 126, Derby weight. An interesting entrant in here is Wood Memorial winner 7-Lord Miles (7-2), who was entered then was a Saffie Joseph-suspension scratch from the Derby. A pretty solid renewal of this event, it should be a good show.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Two Phil’s (8-5)
VALUE STRAIGHT: Bishop’s Bay to win at 3-1 or greater.
EXOTICA: Exacta Box 3-4. Trifecta Wheel: 4 // 3. 7 // 1 (5-1). 3. 7. 8. 9 (6-1)
LADY JACQUELINE STAKES Race 11
The Skinny: Of the three stakes we’ve profiled this week, this nine furlongs for older fillies and mares is by far the best betting race, with 11 interesting and diverse runners that offer a little bit of everything.
On everyone’s A-list of contenders, three are virtual certainties: 8-Interstatedaydream (7-2), 6-Sixtythreecaliber (5-1) and 5-Misty Veil (4-1). Right behind are B-listers 4-Le Da Vida (9-2) and hot locals 9-Secret Fix (8-1) and 12-Candlelight Hours (6-1).
Brad Cox’s Interstatedaydream has all the company lines one wants to see and, significantly, is 2-for-2 at the trips. Sixtythreecaliber has been keeping some high-stepping company herself and the Grade 3 winner has earned her co-highweight (124) assignment.
Misty Vale has come into her own with Mike Maker calling the shots this year and Chilean-bred Le Da Vida has had her moments and has worked brilliantly for this at her CD base. On any given Saturday, as they say…
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Interstatedaydream
STRAIGHT VALUE PLAY: Sixtythreecaliber to win at 4-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Trifecta Wheel 5.6.8 // 5.6.8 // 184.108.40.206.9.12. Trifecta Wheel: 5.6.8 // 220.127.116.11.9.12 // 5.6.8. Exacta Wheel: 4.9 // 18.104.22.168.9.12
BELMONT PARK WILD APPLAUSE Race 6
The Skinny: At first blush it’s easy to simplify this this nine filly turf mile between the favorites, the marginally more accomplished 8-Breath Away (2-1) for Christophe Clement and the Chad Brown pair of 2-Tax Implications (3-1) and 3-Liguria (7-2).
But several have better than a puncher’s chance against these, 4-Im Just Kiddin (10-1) from the recently productive barn of John Kimmel, and the sharp 1-Violet Gibson (8-1) shipping in from South Florida for Saffie Joseph Jr, whose better horses have shipped into New York in preparation for Saratoga, now less than three weeks away. With a better draw today, we’re betting on an upset–no kidding.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Breath Away
VALUE STRAIGHT PLAY: Im Just Kiddin to win at 8-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta Box 22.214.171.124.8 Trifecta Box: 1.4.8. Trifecta Box 2.4.8. Trifecta Box 3.4.8.
this is a live column that will be updated throughout this coming weekend, more from Thistledown and the Belmont turf feature