I’M going for a Song in the Queen Mary. Few juveniles have impressed me on their debut as much as FINAL SONG did when storming home at Ascot last month.
The Godolphin filly showed plenty of pace in the early stages. When she was asked to put the race to bed the answer was devastating. She had five lengths to spare at the line and third-placed Star Alexander had no trouble scoring on her next start.
There looks to be plenty of pace on her side of the track and, if the forecast rain arrives, it would be in her favour. I’m sure Saeed bin Suroor’s hope would be just as good on faster going but her debut win came on soft. The ability to handle that sort of ground would be a big bonus if the heavens did open.
That would be a worry for Divine Spirit as she was a non-runner in the race Final Song landed last month. She came out ten days later on quicker ground at Windsor and won well. I’m a little surprised James Doyle has ditched Charlie Appleby’s youngster in favour of stablemate Theory Of Time.
Perhaps the forecast rain had something to do with it because Theory Of Time won over 6f on her debut and she is bred to handle soft ground.
If that trio didn’t give Godolphin a strong enough hand the ‘boys in blue’ also have Irish raider Ickworth. She has shown bags of pace to win both her starts and the way she landed a Curragh Listed contest from a colt of Aidan O’Brien’s last month was most impressive. Her low draw is the only negative Willie McCreery’s runner.
American trainer Wesley Ward has won this prize twice in the last four years and three times in all. He runs Anna’s Fast and Kimari – both winners on the dirt in their debuts – and the trainer’s record entitles them to plenty of respect. I just can’t get excited about backing either them considering it would be little more than a guess but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if either were up to the job.
Flippa The Strippa beat the colts to a Sandown Listed prize. The furious gallop set the race up for her that day but they’re hardly likely to be hanging around in the early stages today.
NORWAY looks ready to flower in the Queen’s Vase. Aidan O’Brien clearly thought this brother of Derby hero Ruler Of The World always had plenty of stamina as he ran him over 1m2f as a two-year-old last season.
That confidence was well placed as he won the Zetland Stakes at Newmarket when Nate The Great was back in third. It prompted O’Brien to send him to Saint-Cloud for a Group 1 but it was probably one run too many in a short space of time as he pulled too hard and didn’t have anything left for the finish.
With a profile like that he was always going to be in the Ballydoyle Classic squad. After chasing home stablemate Sir Dragonet in the Chester Vase he was sent to the Derby where he was ridden too prominently for his own good before fading into eighth.
It wouldn’t have mattered how he was placed early on as he hasn’t got the class for Group 1s but I’ve no doubt the step up in trip and drop in class will help.
O’Brien is going for his seventh win in this Group 2 prize. That’s no surprise considering his Classic cast-offs are just the job for this staying contest.
His Western Australia didn’t make the Derby after a poor Newmarket effort over 1m1f. He burst into life when upped to 1m5f at Navan last month and looks to have found his niche.
His third behind Guineas winners Magna Grecia and Phoenix Of Spain in last year’s Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster shows he’s got an engine for this job and he looks likely to run well.
Barbados and Harpo Marx complete the O’Brien quartet in what looks a typical head-to-head with Godolphin as Charlie Appleby’s pair are the main dangers.
James Doyle is on Jalmoud with Aussie ace Kerrin McEvoy taking the ride on Moonlight Spirit. Jalmoud showed a cracking attitude to battle to victory in a messy Longchamp Listed race last month. He’s sure to appreciate the extra couple of furlongs and is open to a stack of improvement.
Moonlight Spirit – who beat Jalmoud when the pair made their debuts at Newcastle last year – was beaten in a French Group 3 last month. He’ll also appreciate the stiffer test of stamina.
Dashing Willoughby would appreciate more rain. He finished less than a length behind Norway when the pair filled the places at Chester but he had the edge in race-fitness that day.
ZABEEL PRINCE looks a good bet to cause a bit of a shock in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. This is a quality Group 1 but most of those towards the front of the betting have shown their best form over 1m4f.
With a strong pace unlikely it could set things up for Roger Varian’s hope. He might be a six-year-old but he hasn’t had much racing. In fact, he’s only had ten races – winning six of them – and he’s developed into a smart horse.
He ran Mustashry – winner of the Lockinge last month – to half a length in a Newmarket Group 2 last September and he’s returned this season in even better form.
His victory in the 1m1f Earl Of Sefton at Newmarket in April has worked out particularly well. Forest Ranger, Mustashry and Elarqam all won good races next time out and Zabeel Prince saw them off in good style.
He does go well when returning from a break so it was great to see him back that win up with a defeat of last year’s French Derby winner Study Of Man in a Longchamp Group 1.
With this race unlikely to be run at anything stronger than an ordinary gallop his turn of pace should be a potent weapon.
Aidan O’Brien’s Magical has rattled up a hat-trick of 1m2f wins this season. That makes her interesting but, on closer inspection, it’s easy to pick holes in the form of those uncompetitive contests.
Stablemate Flag Of Honour was runner-up in all three races last year’s defeat of Coronet in the fillies’ Group 1 on Champions’ Day is a better reflection.
Her supporters will point to her Breeders’ Cup second behind Enable – when Waldgeist and Hunting Horn were in behind – as a measure of her ability. I’m not convinced that should be taken at face value given Enable was backing up just a few weeks after her second Arc de Triomphe success.
Sea Of Class so nearly nailed Enable in the Arc. She was the star three-year-old filly of last season with wins in the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks. She seemingly needs to be held up and is best over 1m4f so I just can’t see this race playing to her strengths.
Crystal Ocean is the other likely to find this too sharp. He did win over today’s trip on his return at Sandown but that was in a lesser race. I’m pretty sure he’ll win Group 1 at some stage but I’m equally sure it will be over further.
VERACIOUS should come good in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes. I’ve been keeping tracks on Sir Michael Stoute’s filly ever since she made her comeback last season with a third behind top-class Alpha Centauri in the Coronation Stakes at this meeting.
That was a belting run and she went on to fill the same position behind Wild Illusion in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood before landing a Sandown Group 3.
She was bitterly disappointing on her return to action this season when a well-beaten favourite in Newmarket’s Dahlia Stakes. On reflection, I think she needed the run quite badly and she performed much better when third behind Anna Nerium at Epsom on Derby Day.
She looked like she was coming with a winning run a couple of furlongs from home but the combination of fast ground and the tricky track didn’t appear to suit her. It’s interesting she’s yet to run on easy going as she’s certainly bred for it and I’ve a feeling it will bring the best out of her.
If that’s the case she’s got a great chance especially as the decent pace will suit Oisin Murphy’s mount.
Stoute also runs Rawdaa with Frankie Dettori in the saddle. She’s only been out of the first two once in seven starts and that was when a promising third behind Agrotera on her comeback run in April.
She stepped up a fair bit on that effort when running smart Lah Ti Dar to a neck in the 1m2f Middleton at York with the pair five lengths clear of subsequent Listed winner Sun Maiden. If she can back that up returned to a mile she’s sure to be thereabouts at the finish.
I Can Fly has to give 3lbs to all her rivals but that’s for good reason. She picks up her penalty for a Leopardstown Group 2 win last September and she bettered that run when beaten just a neck by Roaring Lion in the QEII at this track on Champions’ Day. The 2lbs overweight Donnacha O’Brien put up might well have been the difference between defeat and victory.
This season I Can Fly has finished sixth in the Group 1 Lockinge and runner-up in a Curragh Group 2 when she tried to come from the rear in a race the winner dominated. This should be much more like her cup of tea.
Agrotera is another sure to be suited by the big field and likely strong pace. She was given a fine ride by Jamie Spencer to land the Sandringham Handicap at this meeting 12 months ago and she has got form on easier ground.
PIN AND WIN
Your pinstickers’ guide to the Gold Cup at Ascot on Thursday
Don’t miss Matt Chapman’s tips for the third day of Royal Ascot
WIZARD OF ODDS
Don’t miss out on the Wizard’s best bets for day three of Royal Ascot
All you need for Thursday’s card at Royal Ascot with the Sun Racing preview
Crystal Ocean sees off his rivals under Frankie to land epic Prince Of Wales
HILLS IS ALIVE
Southern Hills flies home to land Windsor Castle for Coolmore clan
Don’t miss the big NAPs for Day 3 at Royal Ascot from Templegate and Chappers
ROYAL ASCOT LIVE
Get all the latest news, tips & weather as Frankie shines on Crystal Ocean
RUNNERS AND RIDERS
Who is running in the King George V Stakes at Ascot on Thursday?
IN-FORM trainer Ralph Beckett looks to have a right old Swagger in the Royal Hunt Cup. He’s been banging in the winners in recent weeks and yesterday’s rain has come in time for his big-race hope MITCHUM SWAGGER.
This smart seven-year-old has to have it soft and these big-field handicaps suit him well. He was third in this race three years ago from a handicap mark 3lbs higher.
This season he’s only run in Group and Listed races with the first two coming on unsuitably-fast going. He had his conditions in the Group 3 John Of Gaunt Stakes the weekend before last but the drop to 7f was never going to be ideal. The leaders just didn’t come back to him but it should have set him up nicely for today with useful claimer Thore Hammer Hansen taking off a handy 5lbs.
Mordin was the other one I was tempted to go for. Last year’s Cambridgeshire runner-up seemed to appreciate the soft ground when making a winning return at Haydock. His effort in the Diomed Stakes at Epsom on Derby day was far from bad and he should go well.
New Graduate has been favourite for this race since bolting up at Ripon in April. James Tate’s runner was clearly well handicapped and a 15lbs rise in a much more competitive contest means he’s got to up his game again.
It’s impossible to rule him out as he’s unexposed and has Group-race pretensions but he’s very short in the betting for an inexperienced horse. The draw might not have done him any favours either.
If you go back far enough Robin Of Navan would be a strong favourite. He won a French Group 1 in 2015 and he still holds his own in decent races. It’s not worth worrying about his midfield finish in a Newbury handicap last month as he got no run and soft ground holds no fears for Harry Dunlop’s ace.
Raising Sand came home well when seventh in this last year but he couldn’t make the required ground up from the back. This is his track, he’s got no worries about the ground but he might be a bit too high in the weights having struck here over 7f in October.
I’m more interested in York winner What’s The Story and Clon Coulis but any more rain wouldn’t be any good for Chief Ironside, Seniority and Beringer.
HAVE a few bob on DYLAN DE VEGA in the Windsor Castle Stakes. He was only worried out of it close home when runner-up behind Temple Of Heaven when the pair made their debuts at Nottingham in April.
That’s strong form and I thought Richard Fahey’s youngster would come on a fair bit for the experience.
It’s hard to tell how much he improved on his second start as he was just too good for his Beverley rivals. There was a bit of substance to that form – run on ground with a bit of soft in it – and the way he won despite running a bit green was most pleasing.
Temple Of Heaven went on went on to beat Aidan O’Brien’s Fort Myers at Newbury over 6f despite finding trouble a furlong from home. That was a great effort and he shouldn’t have a problem with today’s stiff 5f. I’m just worried how he might handle it if the ground turned really soft.
Wesley Ward has won this prize twice and he rarely leaves Royal Ascot empty handed. His two darts – Foolish Humor and Karak – both have similar profiles having won well on their only starts. It’s impossible to know how the form relates to the British runners but their trainer’s record makes them of interest.
Surprisingly Aidan O’Brien has only lifted this pot once. That’s, perhaps, because he doesn’t target this race with his better juveniles and he relies on Southern Hills this year.
He’s yet to win in two starts but he showed stacks of pace when beaten a neck at Navan last time out. The stiff track might not play to his strengths.
Red Epaulette, Iffraaz and Platinum Star are others to keep an eye on.
2.30 Final Song
3.05 Norway (treble)
3.40 Zabeel Prince
4.20 Veracious (nap)
5.00 Mitchum Swagger (nb)
5.35 Dylan De Vega
5.40 Simba Samba
6.10 Governor Of Punjab
6.40 That Is The Spirit
7.10 Desert Fire
8.10 Victory Wave
8.40 Eden Rose
1.50 Probable Cause
3.30 Fiction Writer
4.05 Harvey Dent
4.45 Three Castles
5.55 Dew Pond
6.50 Ventura Bay
7.20 Pink Sands
2.10 Mrs Miggins
2.45 Teddy’s Acre
3.55 Ratoute Yutty
4.35 Darling Miss
5.10 Max Do Brazil
5.45 Pure Affection