2022 Royal Ascot: Selections for Thursday
Day 3 of Royal Ascot on Thursday includes the meet centerpiece, the 2 1/2-mile Gold Cup (G1), which fan favorite Stradivarius will attempt to win for a fourth time. The Queen herself will also have the heavy favorite in the final Group offering of the afternoon in the Hampton Court (G3).
Race 1 (9:30 a.m. ET) – Norfolk (G2), WAYI for Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2)
Five furlongs might prove to be on the short side for him, but #8 The Ridler (20-1) has shown enough so far to suggest he might be a potential sleeper at a price for trainer Richard Fahey, who won this race last year with longshot Perfect Power.
Although the yard expected to have a big chance here with the currently sidelined Clearpoint, The Ridler showed noticeable maturity in taking his second lifetime start at Ripon by one length. Last time, in a relatively lucrative conditions event at Beverley, The Ridler drew poorly, lagged near the back, and then finished with plenty of interest while missing by less than a length. If the pace is strong enough, he's one to watch for in the closing stages.
It's hard not to be impressed with the two runs so far from #10 Walbank (7-2). Second on debut over this course and distance to the promising Noble Style, he dominated next out by seven lengths at York. Arguably the one to beat.
#7 The Antarctic (3-2) is 2-for-2 in Ireland for Aidan O'Brien, seemingly doing just enough to win in both. He's a full brother to the brilliant sprinter Battaash, who finished second in the King's Stand (G1) over this course and distance twice before winning it in 2020.
Race 3 (10:40 a.m. ET) – Ribblesdale (G2)
Trainer Roger Varian was a bit unlucky not to win the 2021 Ribblesdale with Eshaada, but #4 Mukaddamah (8-1) brings a somewhat similar profile into the 1 1/2-mile test for three-year-old fillies. Eshaada brought a bit more success and back class into this, but Mukaddamah has shown plenty of potential so far.
Overcoming a difficult trip to win on debut at Wolverhampton, she subsequently finished second in a conditions race over this course when cutting back slightly to a mile. Last time, Mukaddamah finished third in a 1 1/4-mile Oaks trial at Newbury (won by Eshaada last year), finishing behind subsequent Epsom Oaks (G1) third Nashwa and Stay Alert, who came back to win the Abingdon S. at Newbury last week.
Given her tendencies to travel near the back before gradually entering contention, the daughter of New Approach might find the step up to 12 furlongs just what she needs.
#3 Magical Lagoon (9-2) was narrowly beaten by subsequent Oaks fourth Concert Hall in the Salsabil S. at Navan and is certainly bred to relish the step up in distance as a half-sister to European middle-distance star Novellist.
The logical #2 Life of Dreams (5-2) belatedly commenced her career April 17 with an impressive Newbury maiden win, and then finished a distant but clear second to unlucky Oaks runner-up Emily Upjohn in the Musidora (G3) at York.
#6 Sea Silk Road (8-5) is the favorite here, but appeared to work a bit hard for the Height of Fashion S. laurels at Goodwood last time and is seemingly undervalued.
Race 4 (11:20 a.m. ET) – Gold Cup (G1)
The meet's signature event at 2 1/2 miles could yield another strong local effort from #10 Princess Zoe (8-1), who finished second in this race last year to a loose-on-the-lead Subjectivist and most recently landed the Sagaro (G3) here over two miles. The seven-year-old gray mare would probably look better with some cut in the ground, but that's unlikely to happen and will likely necessitate in the scratching of #4 Trueshan (9-2), who would otherwise be our top selection on bare form.
#6 Mojo Star (15-1) looked like a future star stayer as a three-year-old last season when finishing second to Adayar in the Epsom Derby (G1) and to Hurricane Lane in the St Leger (G1), both outstanding pieces of form. The main knock against him is that he enters with no prep, having not run since finishing a bit up the track in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) in October. Perhaps he will come up a bit short first off the bench.
#3 Stradivarius (2-1) is, of course, the sentimental choice as he looks to win his fourth Gold Cup from five attempts. His four-peat try was foiled last season, and there were signs both that day and since that age and a younger generation had finally caught up with the most dominant stayer of his era. The good news is that Trueshan, who beat him twice last fall, is unlikely to start, and that his prep in the Yorkshire Cup (G1) was decent enough to suggest his proverbial demise has been greatly exaggerated. On the other hand, although his price will be better this year than last, it'll still be too short for our liking, given the competition he faces.
#5 Kyprios (8-5) has certainly looked like the next best thing for Aidan O'Brien in a pair of starts this term in Ireland, including a win over his older full sister, Search for a Song, in the Vintage Crop S. However, he hasn't yet run beyond 1 3/4 miles, will face a relatively deeper group, and won't offer much value in the process. Hurdling veteran #9 Burning Victory (20-1), second in the 2 1/4-mile Cesarewitch H. at Newmarket last fall, lacks relative class, but her stamina might be good enough to give her a shot at sneaking into a lower rung of the exotics at a price.
Race 6 (12:35 p.m. ET) – Hampton Court (G3)
Although not the prettiest mover, #1 Claymore (8-1) has both the background and further upside to spring a minor upset in this short field. A winner on debut at Newmarket by four lengths last fall, he defeated a good field that included My Prospero, who went on to beat this race's heavy favorite in the Heron S. at Sandown and missed by a neck in Tuesday's St James's Palace (G1).
Claymore was second best in his 2022 reappearance in the Craven (G3), which has turned out to be key race of sorts with Native Trail winning the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) after running second in the 2000 Guineas (G1). Craven third Hoo Ya Mal narrowly earned second in the Epsom Derby (G1) behind the impressive Desert Crown.
Claymore trailed in the French 2000 Guineas (G1) when last seen. However, he drew very poorly on the far outside, was rushed into contention in effort to gain position and save some ground, but was a spent force by the time they turned into the straight. Pedigree-wise, the step up in trip to about 1 1/4 miles should be well within his scope.
Far be it from me to root hard against Her Majesty in the year of her Platinum Jubilee on Gold Cup Day. #6 Reach for the Moon (2-5) is one of the shortest prices of the week at Royal Ascot, but willing to sacrifice an odds-on payoff in my personal win column for value elsewhere. The Sea the Stars colt was intended to be the Queen's Derby horse, but setbacks over the winter forced the Gosdens to re-route.
A strong second in the Chesham S. at this fixture last year, Reach for the Moon later won the Solario (G3) by four lengths before meeting unexpected defeat in the Champagne (G2). Gosden senior has suggested the colt was only about 80-85 percent ready for the May 19 Heron, in which he finished second by 1 1/4 lengths to the aforementioned My Prospero. It was the fourth second-place finish in six starts for Reach for the Moon, which gives some cause for pause at the price.
There simply isn't much depth to this Hampton Court, and Reach for the Moon is the most likely winner and certainly should finish no worse than second, all things considered.