2022 Royal Ascot: Selections for Saturday
Saturday’s grand finale at Royal Ascot showcases prohibitive favorites in two of the stakes events, but the marquee sprints could be ripe for big prices. Fifteen were declared for the Jersey (G3), and a 27-horse cavalry charge is lining up for the Platinum Jubilee (G1).
Race 1 (9:30 a.m.) – Chesham S.
#1 Alfred Munnings (1-1) offers no value, but the Aidan O’Brien juvenile has tipped his hand as something potentially very special from the start. On pedigree, he shouldn’t have come to hand soon enough to crush a seven-furlong Leopardstown maiden in mid-May, boding extremely well for his prospects. A Dubawi half-brother to dual classic heroine Snowfall, he is out of a Group 3-winning full sister to Found, and therefore bred to excel in time. So highly regarded was he as a youngster that the Coolmore brain trust gave him an illustrious name kept in reserve, according to Racing Post. Alfred Munnings has had this race as his aim all along, confirmed before he’d even cooled out from his debut romp.
Perhaps the biggest danger is #3 Crypto Force (10-1), who has overturned one Ballydoyle hotpot already. Overlooked at 14-1 at the Curragh June 1, the Michael O’Callaghan pupil rolled from off the pace to beat odds-on Auguste Rodin. To be fair, Auguste Rodin had meaningful trouble, but even with a clean trip he would have had a fight on his hands. The crypto worth investing in these days, Crypto Force has plenty of upside as a Time Test colt from the family of globetrotting star Pilsudski. And he just sold for €900,000 at Monday’s Goffs London Sale.
#2 Alzahir (10-1) should have won in his unveiling at Yarmouth, but jockey Frankie Dettori was outridden by James Doyle aboard a Godolphin runner. Taking a slim lead, Alzahir appeared to idle when Dettori took it easy. He thought he had his rival’s measure, only to get nipped on the line. With more energetic handling, Alzahir most likely would arrive here with a win to his credit. Note that stablemate Reach for the Moon was runner-up in the same Yarmouth race last year before improving to place second in the Chesham. By Sea the Stars, and a half-brother to 2017 Shadwell Mile (G1) hero Suedois, Alzahir could be the best of the Gosdens' trio here, although #9 One World (15-1) is eligible to move forward as well off his hard-fought decision on soft at Haydock.
#13 The Foxes (12-1) was fourth to #4 Dark Thirty (15-1) in their mutual premiere at Newbury, a hot race whose second and third have both come back to win well. The Foxes’ trainer, Andrew Balding, has emphasized how much the well-bred juvenile has come on for that run, and he stands to reverse form in the rematch. The Churchill colt is a half-brother to major winners Bangkok and Matterhorn, from the immediate family of mile champ Ribchester. Not to be overlooked is the Johnstons’ duo of #6 Finn’s Charm (12-1) and the filly #14 Lakota Sioux (20-1), both of whom leapt forward once stepping up to this trip.
Race 2 (10:05 a.m.) – Jersey (G3)
One angle that has worked in this ferociously competitive race is to key in on horses dropping in class and distance from mile classics. Five fit that prerequisite, with #15 Star Girls Aalmal (8-1) arguably bringing the best form as the fourth in the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1).
Trained by Henry de Bromhead, better known for his exploits with the jumpers, Star Girls Aalmal was traveling nearly as well as eventual Guineas winner Homeless Songs when they cruised into contention. She didn’t see out the final furlong, but still wound up in a close finish for the minors with Tuesday — the next-out Oaks (G1) winner — and Concert Hall, the Oaks fourth who’d previously beaten Thursday’s Ribblesdale (G2) scorer Magical Lagoon. Although this is the quickest ground she’s encountered, Star Girls Aalmal is by a firm-turf lover in Australian-bred Elzaam. The lightly-raced filly, who actually debuted in a listed stakes last fall, is capable of further progress. Connections must rate her very highly; she was a £600,000 buy-back at Monday’s Goffs London Sale.
#6 Dubawi Legend (10-1) has flopped in his last two, but with excuses. Chasing the pace from post 13 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) wasn’t going to pan out for him, and when reappearing in the 2000 Guineas (G1), he retreated to a tailed-off last. Trainer Hugo Palmer revealed that the Dubawi colt turned out to have a painful abscess in his mouth. If you forgive those, and look back to his runner-up effort to champion Native Trail in last fall’s Dewhurst (G1), Dubawi Legend has the class to rebound.
Fellow Guineas also-ran #11 Tacarib Bay (15-1) had made the frame in his three prior starts for Richard Hannon. A smart first-up winner at Haydock in May 2021, he wasn’t seen again until the Oct. 23 Horris Hill (G3), where he placed a better-than-appears third, beating favored #9 Noble Truth (3-1) who overdid it on the front end. Tacarib Bay resumed with a creditable second in a listed stakes at Newmarket, and this race could suit him.
The sentimental pick would be #8 Monaadah (7-1), an unbeaten colt from the miniscule three-foal final crop of the late Giant’s Causeway. Yet to test stakes company, the Saeed bin Suroor trainee should be of this caliber considering how he won a handicap under a staggering 142 pounds. A fast-run race plays to his strengths, and that’s likely with the presence of Noble Truth and #1 Rocchigiani (12-1), the German 2000 Guineas (G2) runner-up. Rocchigiani qualifies for the classic angle, and he got a form boost when the colt who ran him down at Cologne, Majloom, flew late in an unlucky fourth in Tuesday’s St James’s Palace (G1). One negative is that Rocchigiani has to tote top weight of 135 pounds, three pounds more than the other males discussed here and six more than top selection Star Girls Aalmal.
Noble Truth is the tepid favorite after running away with the King Charles II at Newmarket. Trainer Charlie Appleby has said that he needs to cope with this stiffer seven furlongs, not a given for a typically exuberant type. Perhaps his gelding operation in the interim will settle him down.
Race 3 (10:40 a.m.) – Hardwicke (G2)
Godolphin standout #3 Hurricane Lane (3-5) is the obvious one to beat in his four-year-old debut. Ring-rustiness would be the only reason to oppose the Appleby colt, who otherwise has a substantial class edge over the field. The son of Frankel has won first out at both two and three, however, and given the Royal occasion, he should be ready to run up to standard. Last year’s Irish Derby (G1), Grand Prix de Paris (G1), and St Leger (G1) hero saw his form upheld by Thursday’s gallant Gold Cup (G1) runner-up Mojo Star.
#8 Third Realm (8-1) could offer the most formidable opposition. The well-bred son of Sea the Stars convincingly defeated future Derby (G1) victor Adayar in last year’s Lingfield Derby Trial, but couldn’t duplicate that effort around Epsom. The Roger Varian charge is back in business after a six-length rout of the Tapster S. at Goodwood.
#6 Mostahdaf (12-1), no match for Bay Bridge in the 1 1/4-mile Brigadier Gerard (G3), stretches out to 1 1/2 miles for the first time. The Gosdens also prescribe cheekpieces. Frankel can sire all types, and the depth of his dam’s side suggests that Mostahdaf can handle the step up. Whether he improves over the added ground is another question.
O’Brien stalwart #2 Broome (5-1), runner-up in this race last year as well as in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), makes his second start back from an injury-forced layoff. The son of Australia was expected to come on a bundle after his slow-starting fifth in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1), and the return to this longer distance is a plus. The question is whether he’ll need another run to put him nearer his peak. Sir Michael Stoute, an 11-time Hardwicke winner, interestingly supplemented #7 Solid Stone (10-1). The winner of his past three British starts, the scrappy gelding figures to dictate the pace.
Race 4 (11:20 a.m.) – Platinum Jubilee (G1)
After Australia’s Nature Strip demolished the five-furlong specialists in Tuesday’s King’s Stand (G1), his stablemate Home Affairs has hardened into short-priced favoritism for the six-furlong Platinum Jubilee. Yet I’m not quite persuaded that Home Affairs is as “foolproof” in this spot. If not, the scramble is wide-open, and the results could resemble a lottery.
#24 Sacred (8-1), who was just denied by Wesley Ward’s #20 Campanelle (5-1) in the Queen Mary (G2) at Royal Ascot 2020, could be poised to fire off the bench for hot trainer William Haggas. Out of a half-sister to the sublime Lady Eli, the Cheveley Park homebred looked sharp in her career debut and in her 2021 comeback in the Nell Gwyn (G3). In that sophomore bow at Newmarket, Sacred beat future Group 1 heroine Saffron Beach, who just overwhelmed the field in Wednesday’s Duke of Cambridge (G2). Sacred didn’t stay the mile in the 1000 Guineas (G1), but defeated older males in the Hungerford (G2) in her only other sophomore start. She scythed through the field in that seven-furlong test, with gears for six here. Sacred should be picking up late on her preferred quick surface.
Campanelle would enter racing lore if she wins at Royal Ascot for the third consecutive year. She ran a mighty race off the layoff in last summer’s Commonwealth Cup (G1), when correctly awarded the victory via disqualification of #5 Dragon Symbol (20-1). The Stonestreet colorbearer got in a prep run this time, outclassing her foes at Keeneland, and arguably arrives better than ever. If not for the difficulty of achieving a Royal Ascot hat trick, she might have been the top pick.
#13 Home Affairs (5-2) commands respect for dethroning Nature Strip in the Lightning (G1), and for blowing away fellow sophomores in the Coolmore Stud (G1). But the well-bred stallion prospect took advantage of Nature Strip’s troubled start, and a seven-pound weight concession, to edge his unlucky elder. Now in the Northern Hemisphere, Home Affairs is treated as a four-year-old, although he’s still physically three. He accordingly gets no weight break; rather, he’s at levels with the males while giving three pounds to several top-class females. Also, his brilliant display in the Coolmore Stud might not be as easily replicable versus elders, over a stiffer six furlongs than at Flemington. Those were two factors that told against Waller’s prior Jubilee runner, Brazen Beau (2015), who ended up a close second here to Ward’s Undrafted.
Godolphin’s #17 Naval Crown (20-1) ran a much-better-than-appears fourth in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) in his only try at this trip. From a disadvantageous post, he was beaten just a couple of lengths by #1 A Case of You (15-1). Naval Crown has back class over further, including a fourth in last year’s 2000 Guineas, and he nearly wired the Jersey here before stablemate #3 Creative Force (8-1) outstayed him on the soft going. #16 Minzaal (12-1) is knocking on the door at this level, including his third to Creative Force in last fall’s British Champions Sprint (G1), and can turn the tables on better ground. Note that the Shadwell runner adds cheekpieces.
If the pace is as demanding as forecast, Japan’s #10 Grenadier Guards (30-1) can bring his potent late kick into play, along with international form through compatriot Songline. That race shape would also benefit the other Aussie, #2 Artorius (15-1), who’s found the right rider for his late-running style in Jamie Spencer. The wild stab is #4 Diligent Harry (30-1), pegged as Saturday’s longshot, due to trainer Clive Cox’s knack for this division as well as his form hint through #22 Happy Romance (20-1).