Royal Ascot Shines
As expected Royal Ascot served up a bumper five days of top class racing. Edwad Lynam’s sprinters are analysed after taking both the King’s Stand Stakes and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and Dominic Gardiner-Hill discusses Kingman’s winning performance in the St James’s Palace.
Sole Powers on
The Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes was the featured sprint race of the opening day of the Royal Ascot meeting, writes Chris Nash. Sprinters will often remain in training for several seasons meaning that the Group races are often contested by old adversaries. Tuesday’s race was no exception with the first four from the 2013 renewal returning to do battle and Sole Power was able to successfully defend his title.
Sole Power has been a regular in the top level sprints since winning the 2010 Nunthorpe as a three-year-old. I have written about him several times before and the recurring theme with him is that he is very likely to show his form when he gets a strongly run race on quick ground. Conditions were ideal for him on Tuesday and he showed a dazzling turn of foot to go from last with two furlongs to run to win a shade cosily. He has been a model of consistency in the last four years and his mark has always been between 113 and 117 in that period. I have a feeling that this may have been a career best effort such was the style in which he picked up this field and so I have him running a figure of 117+. He is trained in Ireland by Edward Lynam so the ultimate decision on his post-race rating will lie with my Irish colleagues and if they chose to go 118 I would have no arguments.
The runner-up was Stepper Point who was 50-1 but has put in some previous performances that suggested that he had a run like this in him. He had achieved a previous career best rating of 112 but in finishing 1¼ lengths behind Sole Power I have him running to 113 and that will be his post-race rating. A further neck behind him in third place was Hot Streak who had won the Group 2 Temple Stakes on soft ground at Haydock last month after which I rated him 117. He was unable to repeat that effort here and nor was the Haydock runner-up (Pearl Secret) and so I revised my assessment of their achievements there meaning that Hot Streak will now be rated 115.
The fourth (Medicean Man), seventh (Jack Dexter) and ninth (Es Que Love) tried their luck in the 6f Diamond Jubilee on Saturday (a race which is covered below) although none of them were able to run any better than they had on Tuesday. The next instalment of these five furlong rivalries is likely to be in the King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood followed by the Nunthorpe Stakes at York in August.
Slade makes it a double
Saturday’s feature race was the six furlong Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, and in triumphing with the five-year-old colt, Slade Power, it capped off a tremendous week for the Edward Lynam stable, writes Stewart Copeland. They achieved the Group 1 sprint double no less, having been successful with Sole Power in the King’s Stand Stakes earlier in the week.
This year’s Diamond Jubilee didn’t have the International representation we’ve been used to in recent years, with no challengers from the Southern hemisphere to take on the best of Britain, Ireland and France could offer.
However it still looked a fascinating affair beforehand, and produced a result from a handicapping perspective which makes plenty of sense. Slade Power looked a worthy favourite on the back of his taking reappearance win in the Group 3 Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh. The Senior Irish Handicapper had credited him with an improved rating of 119 (up from 115) for that performance, and his decision was fully vindicated with Slade Power’s success.
Chasing home Slade Power was another Irish challenger, the progressive three-year-old colt Due Diligence, who put up a tremendous effort at this level for one so relatively inexperienced. The official margin of one-and-a-half-lengths doesn’t quite do him justice either, as having closed to within a length of Slade Power he was impeded by him, causing him to lose around half-a-length close home. Taking that in to account, it means Due Diligence is credited with a rating of 116. As for the British challenge, that was headed home by Aljamaaheer, a further head behind in third. A 115-rated miler as a four-year-old last year, he’d always left the impression he’d be effective back at this trip, and I’ve took the view he’s run right up to his rating.
Putting the race in to a historical context since it became a Group 1 in 2002, the average winning rating is 117/118, so this year’s renewal looks slightly above average, with the highest winning rating in that period being 121.
From our perspective, even though we don’t publish ratings in Britain for foreign trained horses, we still have to produce a rating for the World Thoroughbred Rankings Committee, and for now I’ve submitted a rating of 119 for Slade Power, which is a figure some of my International colleagues also agree on. A case has been made for slightly higher – my Irish counterparts believe he’s worth 120 – and that’s something which no doubt will be thrashed out at the World Thoroughbred Rankings Conference much later in the year.
Leading Lights the way to another O’Brien Gold Cup
Aidan O’Brien must be getting bored of winning the Gold Cup, writes Stephen Hindle. Successful in four consecutive renewals with Yeats between 2006 and 2009, he also saddled Fame And Glory to win in 2011. Leading Light provided him with winner number six in this event in the last nine years.
None of the victories have come as much of a surprise. Yeats was a 7/1 chance for the first of his wins but since then all five of O’Brien’s winners started favourite, Leading Light just 10/11 at the off this time around. For a while the result looked in some doubt. Leading Light isn’t the most straightforward and he’d have given his backers a few moments of worry, but what he does do is battle, and under strong pressure he dug deep and in the end appeared to get home with a tad to spare.
With that in mind, I called the neck 2lb, rather than the usual one. I went for a figure of 117 for the winner, 1lb below what I now have him running to at Navan on his previous start. That was only a Group 3, but interestingly jockey Joseph O’Brien said after the Gold Cup that he thinks Leading Light is better at shorter and could even be effective at a mile and a half, a full mile short of the Gold Cup trip.
My view is that this year’s renewal was a bit stronger than last year, and I have Estimate repeating her 112 from 12 months earlier – I initially went 114 last year, but the form didn’t work out that well. Missunited almost certainly turned in a career best in third, finishing upsides Estimate and performing to 112 as well on my figures. Brown Panther made a bold show in fourth and left the impression he didn’t stay. I left him on 115 and I expect he’ll have another day in the sun before the season is out.
Simenon hasn’t quite found the same kind of form since finishing second in this race last year, and in finishing fifth this time around he provides another reason for thinking this was probably a better renewal. Oriental Fox, a solid performer in handicaps last season but struggling so far to make a serious impact in better company this term, finished sixth and is another who helps to set the level.
The Royal Ascot two-year-old races provide a first real test of all those different lines of maiden form. There will always be disappointments and surprises but this looked a solid bunch, writes Matthew Tester. One of the big surprises was the impressive win for Cursory Glance in the Albany. Her maiden at Kempton really looked nothing special; but the way that she swept by them here suggested otherwise. I have pencilled her in as an above average winner of the race so keep her in mind together with Malobar who caught the eye in fourth.
Richard Pankhurst was another pleasant surprise, in the Chesham. The second and third were the ones which we expected to fight out the finish. Richard Pankhurst had only finished fourth in a Newmarket maiden on his debut. He did not have the clearest of runs here but he mowed the form horses down for a 3 ¾ lengths win and connections can start planning for races at the highest level.
The Wow Factor looks a solid winner of the Coventry but the fact that half a second covered the first eight home suggests that he will need to carry on improving if he is to defy a penalty for this win. The Queen Mary form has a similar look with seven horses finishing within half a second. The form may get tested as soon as Saturday since Littlemissblakeney might line up for the Empress Stakes at Newmarket. At the figure pencilled in she ought to be very competitive there.
I was disappointed by two horses in the Norfolk. The Great War came to win his race but stopped quickly suggesting that there was something not quite right with him and Mukhmal, who has shown plenty of speed, found that it is very tough to win the Norfolk from the front and he could not sustain his gallop. The winner, Baitha Alga, stepped up on his win in the Woodcote and won with some authority but may not have been tested to the full with those two disappointments.
Early days for the two-year-olds but with plenty to be looking forward to in the coming months.
Kingman top of the lot
So another Royal meeting passes with the traditional mix of high class Group races and highly competitive handicaps and once again it was an exciting time to be involved with the miling division, writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill.
Pride of place, not only at a mile but throughout the whole meeting, goes to Kingman who put up the best performance of the week when showing a devastating turn of foot to land the St James’s Palace on the opening day from his old foe Night of Thunder. Whilst it was a very different kind of race to the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May I think it would be churlish at this stage to suggest that Richard Hannon’s colt had not reproduced his 120 figure from that contest, and given the way Kingman ran him down and was a comfortable winner at the line, I have the Gosden colt running to 126. This represents the best winning performance in the race since the turn of the century, bettering those of Shamardal (125 in 2005) and both Rock of Gibralter (2002) and Dawn Approach (2013) who were both assessed at 124 for their winning efforts.
A figure of 126 also already places him in advance of last season’s joint Champion European Milers Olympic Glory and Toronado (125) and I am sure there is more to come – it is going to take an exceptional performance to lower his colours this year all things being equal.
Talk of Toronado brings us neatly to the opening race of the week, the Queen Anne Stakes. At 125 he went into the race rated 5lbs and more superior to all his opponents but without a run since disappointing at York last August; his supporters needn’t have worried however as he landed the spoils by three-quarters-of-a-length from Verrazano. Using third placed French challenger Anodin as a guide to the level, I have Toronado performing to 122 on the day (retains his pre-race mark of 125), with Verrazano stepping up on his Lockinge effort (113) by running 120 in second.
The obvious contest between the generations is once again the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and hopefully both Kingman and Toronado (and maybe even Olympic Glory!) will show up – that should be another race worth travelling a good distance to see.
Whilst the St James’s Palace produced the best winning performance in recent years, the same cannot be said for the fillies’ equivalent, the Coronation Stakes. In a muddling race, I believe Rizeena needed to do no more than reproduce her pre-race rating of 111 to land the spoils – this level has fits in neatly with My Titania (fourth – 106) and J Wonder (seventh – 104) reproducing their current ratings, suggesting French trained runner –up Lesstalk In Paris (held up in a steadily run race) is a pound off her best at 109, with third placed Euro Charline improving 3lb to 109. This represents the lowest winning performance in the race since the turn of the century, being 2lb below that of Maids Causeway (113) in 2005. It was good to see Rizeena back on form after her disappointing run in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas however, and let’s hope she can continue to progress now she is back on track.