Poetry in motion in St James’s Palace

22 Jun 21

The title of European Champion Miler (and possibly World Champion Miler) is up for grabs and the current holder of the crown, Palace Pier, showed he isn’t about to relinquish it without a fight with a third straight win for the year in the traditional Royal meeting opener, the Queen Anne Stakes, writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill

With a pre-race rating of 125, John Gosden’s colt went into the race with 5 lb and more in hand of his ten rivals and didn’t need to run to that level in recording a workmanlike one- and-a-half-lengths success on ground that was probably plenty fast enough for him. I have credited him with a performance of 121 on the day, which is the best winning performance in the race since Ribchester’s 123 in 2017, with the placed efforts of Lope Y Fernandez (second, 117), Sir Busker (third, 115) and Lord Glitters (fourth, 114) being well up to scratch for the contest.

Palace Pier and Frankie Dettori winning The Queen Anne Stakes Royal Ascot

Under two hours later the admirable Poetic Flare, contesting his fourth Group 1 in six weeks, emerged as the best of the three-year-old milers seen so far this year and laid down his marker with a personal best of 122 in recording a commanding success in the St James’s Palace. His winning distance of four and a quarter lengths is the longest in the race since my personal records began at the turn of the century. In contrast to the Queen Anne, the placed efforts of Lucky Vega (second, 113) and Battleground (third, 112) would be considered slightly below par for the race, but such was the authority of Poetic Flare’s win that his performance is the best in the contest since Kingman’s 124 in 2014.

A clash of the generations between him and Palace Pier in something like the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood next month would be a race to savour.

As far as comparative contests for the fillies were concerned, the three-year-old might just have edged that as well. The weather had its say as far as Friday’s racing was concerned but despite the Coronation Stakes being run on officially heavy ground, the “right” horses still came to the fore with Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free notching a personal best of 115 in beating Snow Lantern (second, 112), 1000 Guineas winner Mother Earth (third, 111) and impressive German 1000 Guineas winner Novemba (fourth, 110).

Alcohol Free and Oisin Murphy winning The Coronation Stakes

Two days earlier Indie Angel showed around 11 lbs of improvement on her previous best to land the Duke of Cambridge with a performance of 114, beating the better fancied, but penalised, pair of Lady Bowthorpe (second, 112) and Queen Power (third, 112). Her victory appeared to lend credence to the suggestion that there was a stands-side track bias, but that was subsequently put to bed by the far-side success of Real World (+14 lb from 94 to 108) in the Hunt Cup and Chipotle in the Windsor Castle.

Up at 10f, Love made a successful seasonal reappearance with victory in the Prince of Wales’s, getting the better of Audarya (117) after making just about all – her winning figure of 119 is 3 lb below her best of last year but it should set her up nicely for the big middle-distance prizes in the second half of the season.

Other performances to note in my core 8-10 furlong bracket were Juan Elcano (114) in winning the Listed Wolferton Stakes and Mohaafeth (112) in the Hampton Court.

Perseverance pays off for Dream of Dreams

‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ seems a most apt phrase for Dream of Dreams success in the 6f Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, writes Stewart Copeland

Having finished runner-up in previous two renewals of the race, it was a case of third time lucky for the admirable seven-year-old gelding. Being one of two proven winners at Group 1 level in the twelve-strong field, Dream of Dreams justified favouritism in coming home a length clear of Glen Shiel, his fellow previous winner at this level, with Art Power a further three quarters of a length back in third.

From a ratings perspective, the form has a solid and straightforward look to it with the first three home running right up to the level they displayed in some of the top sprints last season, and arguably fractionally above the standard we would expect for a 6f Group 1 sprint in Britain.

That means both Dream of Dreams and Glen Shiel retain their pre-race ratings of 120 and 117 respectively. The former currently heads the 6f sprint division and will have a leading chance in the July Cup at Newmarket, but hot on his heels are some progressive three-year-olds who also advertised their claims at the Royal meeting.

Dream of Dreams -Ryan Moore wins Glen Shiel -Hollie Doyle 2nd and Art Power -Silvestre De Sousa The Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group 1)

Firstly, in the 6f Group 1 Commonwealth Cup, Campanelle and Dragon Symbol fought out an exciting finish, with the latter initially prevailing by a head. However, the result was reversed in the stewards’ room after Dragon Symbol was demoted for causing interference to Campanelle.

In pulling a healthy five lengths clear of what looked a competitive field, both showed themselves fully up to standard for the race, and if anything, a case might be made for rating the race higher still. For now, the filly Campanelle – gaining her second success at the Royal Meeting after winning the Queen Mary last year – has been credited with 113 and the highly progressive Dragon Symbol 116. Both look strong contenders for the July Cup, a race that will surely come under consideration for another of the year’s most progressive three-year-old sprinters, Rohaan.

Campanelle and Frankie Dettori winning The Commonwealth Cup from Dragon Symbol (Oisin Murphy) in the stewards room

If Dragon Symbol is highly progressive, Rohaan’s progression since winning off a mark of 55 in class 6 company in December 2020 is arguably stratospheric. Having narrowly defeated Dragon Symbol in the 6f Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock last month, he lined up in the 6f Wokingham Handicap with a rating of 112 (being a gelding he was ineligible for the Commonwealth Cup). Held up in rear off a strong pace – they went quicker to halfway by nearly half a second than in the Diamond Jubilee – he came through with his customary late charge to lead close home, winning by a neck. This represents further improvement to a figure of 116, and given his profile, it would surprise nobody if more were to come.

All in all, the domestic sprint scene is bubbling up nicely. When you consider my 5f colleague had last year’s July Cup winner, Oxted, running to 119 in winning the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes, there promises to be a lot to look forward to at the July Course and beyond in the coming months.

Stradivarius Unlucky? It’s All Subjective

Staying star Stradivarius was unfortunate to endure a rough passage while attempting to match Yeats’ achievement of winning four consecutive Gold Cups, but that shouldn’t detract from an impressive win from Subjectivist in a good-quality renewal, writes Adam Barnes

In the aftermath of this year’s Gold Cup, there was understandably much comment on the troubled passage endured by Stradivarius, as well as plenty of justified praise for the ride Joe Fanning gave to the winner. The main focus, however, should surely be on the emergence of a potential new star on the staying scene, with Mark Johnston’s Subjectivist putting in a dominant performance in a fascinating renewal of this historic race.

While it is true to a degree that Subjectivist had the run of the race relative to the trio that followed him home, this was certainly no fluke. The winner sat close to what was a pretty solid pace overall, and the way in which he went clear on the bridle on the home turn was impressive, as was the way in which he just kept galloping from there, nothing able to seriously threaten him – and if anything, he was going further clear from runner-up Princess Zoe in the closing stages.

Subjectivist and Joe Fanning winning The Gold Cup

The time was good, the first four came pleasingly clear of the rest, and there is plenty of substance to the form, with Princess Zoe, Spanish Mission and Stradivarius between them having collected many of the big staying prizes over the past year. As such, I have taken a positive view of the race and now have Subjectivist on a rating of 122 (from 117). That is quite a high rating for a Gold Cup winner, matching the highest figure Yeats recorded in his four wins in the race, and only bettered this century by Stradivarius when he romped to a ten-length win last year. As a young horse with a sharply progressive profile, and a positive, straightforward running style, Subjectivist is very much one to be excited about, and until shown otherwise he now looks the one to beat in all the big staying races.

It was a shame that Stradivarius had a troubled run, shuffled back as the race was taking shape on the home turn, but his response when in the clear lacked any real zip, and suggests it was more a case of being unlucky not to finish a bit closer rather than being unlucky not to give the winner a real race. Sectionals show that both his final furlong time, and his final three-furlong split, were a fair bit slower than the winner’s. That is now four defeats from Stradivarius’ last five starts, and while it is not hard to make excuses of sorts for each of those losses, he no longer looks the dominant stayer that he has been in recent years. Stradivarius is now rated 121 (down from 125, which was a standout figure from his 2020 Gold Cup win), 1 lb behind Subjectivist. The prospect of a rematch between the pair at Goodwood is certainly something to look forward to, however.

Quick Suzy lives up to her name

Royal Ascot is always an informative week in the two-year-old division as lots of the best form lines come together, but by the close of the week we were still waiting for the first 110+ performance of the year, writes Graeme Smith..

The Coventry Stakes is often seen as the most likely stage for a headline act but with the first thirteen home covered by little over five lengths – at the end of a truly-run race – it’s hard to escape the view that the form of the principals is a little way short of the usual standard.

The average Coventry-winning performance in the five years prior to the Covid-hit 2020 season was 112 and Berkshire Shadow posted a performance of just 106 on my figures. It would have been easy to rate the race more in line with the usual level for the principals but that would lead to a knock-on to those that finished close-up in mid-division.

There remains potential among the field, of course. Berkshire Shadow had overcome clear greenness to make a winning start at Newbury and has reached a good figure for one who’s raced only twice – and he remains unbeaten. If there was any advantage to be had in racing close to the stand rail at that stage of the week then runner-up Eldrickjones can be marked up from his 103 performance (not yet eligible for a handicap mark), and he was also checked when first looking to launch his effort.

I also thought there was a lot to like about staying-on efforts from Masseto and Dhabab, with a seventh furlong likely to bring more from both. The Organiser also deserves a mention – he raced freely at the head of affairs and left the impression he’s capable of getting involved in good races another day, possibly at 5f.

The Queen Mary finish was dominated by a couple who raced close to the stand rail and Quick Suzy and Twilight Gleaming appear to have posted performances more in keeping with the usual standard. Quick Suzy had impressed with her speed prior to getting run down late in a 6f Group 3 in the mud at Naas and this sharper test drew the best two-year-old performance of the meeting from her. Her rating is a matter for the Irish Handicappers, but I have her pencilled in at 108 and think there could be more still to come.

The best time from Wednesday’s races came in the listed Windsor Castle, where Chipotle proved the stand rail wasn’t the be all and end all as he charged away on the opposite side of the track. He was undoubtedly aided to some extent by a fierce pace in the larger stand-side group, but his two-and-a-quarter-length winning margin was the widest of any of the juvenile races and his performance is rated a couple of pounds above the average Windsor Castle winner at 105. The time would have justified higher still.

It’s worth giving an honourable mention to Ruthin (88++), who did significantly more than ideal early as she crossed from her middle draw to lead the stand-side group and was run out of it only in the last 100 yds. The heavily backed newcomer Kaboo (94+) also ran a race full of promise having stayed down the middle from his central draw.

The Group 2 Norfolk Stakes theoretically caters for better horses than the Windsor Castle but on current ratings Perfect Power’s winning performance (104) looks short of what Chipotle achieved following a finish in which the first six were covered by less than a length.  Saying that, the Norfolk has been rated a deeper race, with that sextet rated at a level that would have seen them finish second in the Windsor Castle.

Conditions had taken a dramatic turn by the time the Albany kicked day four off, and Sandrine took some 4.5 seconds longer to cover the course than her stablemate Berkshire Shadow had. She’s clearly a tough filly and emerges with a rating of 105, while Hello You shaped with lots of promise in second having forced a pace that led to slow finishing sectionals. Prettiest and Cachet shaped as though a seventh furlong will see them in a better light, and the free-going beaten favourite Flotus is well worth another chance such was the impression she’d made on her debut. 

Finally, the Chesham once again went to Aidan O’Brien, who’d been waiting all week for a juvenile winner. The stable won this with smart performers Churchill, September and Battleground in recent years and Point Lonsdale showed an excellent attitude to get the better of Her Majesty’s Reach For The Moon in a driving finish, with the pair drawing clear in an excellent time. I’ve pencilled the race in around standard at 104 but it could well be that this gets upgraded in the weeks and months ahead.

Incidentally, as is the norm following Royal Ascot week the full file of two-year-old ratings has now been published ahead of the first nursery of the year. That race is scheduled for Haydock on July 3rd, and they come fairly thick and fast after that. Best of luck to all involved.