2022 Royal Ascot: Selections for Tuesday
Although a few of the favorites look tough to beat, some well-credentialed rivals are overpriced, and they are eligible to add value even if the obvious horses sweep the day.
Race 1 (9:30 a.m. ET) – Queen Anne (G1), WAYI for Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1)
The traditional curtain-raiser, named in honor of the Stuart monarch who founded the racecourse in 1711, has attracted the hottest favorite of the week in #2 Baaeed (1-5). The unbeaten champion miler is also currently the top-rated horse in the world, and he just warmed up by capturing the historically key prep – the Lockinge (G1) – over his smartest opponent, #5 Real World (7-1).
Baaeed checks other boxes as well. A course-and-distance winner in last fall’s Queen Elizabeth II (G1) (over the 2021 Queen Anne champ Palace Pier), he’s equally effective on the good-to-firm conditions he’ll find here, and the William Haggas yard has been firing on all cylinders.
The most logical result would be a duplication of the Lockinge, with Baaeed and Real World finishing one-two. The only way Real World could try to reverse form is by changing tactics. The Godolphin runner is never going to outkick Baaeed, but considering that Real World stays further, might he move earlier and make Baaeed catch him? Baaeed should cover that gambit, but it would make things more interesting.
The main value is likely to come from the third-placer, and #7 Lights On (20-1) is attractive at her price. Representing the same trainer/jockey tandem as recent Epsom Derby (G1) star Desert Crown – Sir Michael Stoute and the tactically astute Richard Kingscote – Lights On just beat males in the Sandown Mile (G2) that gives her collateral form with the Lockinge. While her placement here might be in part due to the fact that Cheveley Park is overloaded in the Duke of Cambridge (G2) on Wednesday, she’s nevertheless in peak form and proven over course and distance.
As a long-suffering fan of #3 Chindit (12-1), I’m hopeful that a different pace scenario can help him finish a bit nearer than his well-beaten third in the Lockinge. The classy if frustrating colt found himself setting the pace that day, but he’d appreciate a stalking role.
Comebacker #4 Order of Australia (15-1) figures to be fresh and willing to go early. This is his first start back since surgery for a fracture that knocked him out of his Breeders’ Cup Mile title defense, so he’ll probably need a race. That said, it’s intriguing that the Coolmore brain trust rerouted Mother Earth to Wednesday, leaving Order of Australia to fly solo. #6 Sir Busker (30-1), third at a price here last summer, and #1 Accidental Agent (30-1), who stunned this race in 2018, can’t be discounted in this spot.
Race 2 (10:05 a.m.) – Coventry (G2)
Aidan O’Brien had intimated that #1 Age of Kings (8-1) might await the June 25 Railway (G2), so I’m taking it as a very encouraging sign for him to pop up here, especially when Ballydoyle has the favorite in unbeaten Blackbeard (more on him below).
I prefer Age of Kings for two reasons: he’s run on quicker ground, and his two-race profile strikes me as more appealing for the Coventry than Blackbeard’s having raced three times already. By the brilliant Kingman and out of the high-class racemare Turret Rocks, Age of Kings was just nailed on debut by Shartash (who was exiting a hot maiden). He took a step forward next time out at the Curragh, stretching clear by four lengths, and the $1.5 million yearling can keep progressing.
#13 Royal Scotsman (10-1) improved even more dramatically from his first to second start, and it’s noteworthy that he’s the only entrant representing the form of Noble Style, the erstwhile Coventry favorite (before a Sunday setback). Fourth to Noble Style in their five-furlong unveiling at Ascot, Royal Scotsman thrived over an extra furlong at Goodwood. The Paul and Oliver Cole pupil put the field away with sudden ease and opened up by five lengths. The fourth-placer, #15 Show Respect (20-1), has since won handily himself. If the good-to-soft going might have helped, Royal Scotsman nevertheless looks like a quality colt on a steep upward curve. The possible negative is post 1 on the far side.
Richard Hannon has made no secret of his high regard for #10 Persian Force (5-2), 2-for-2 with a dominating display in the Brocklesby at Doncaster and a score over #5 Holguin (20-1) in a Newbury conditions race. The aforementioned #2 Blackbeard (5-2) extended his record to 3-for-3 with his most dynamic victory so far, also his first try at six furlongs, in the Marble Hill.
Both favorites have caveats. Blackbeard wasn’t visually impressive in his first two wins, and his turf starts have come on rain-affected going. My only hesitation about Persian Force is that you normally wouldn’t look for Coventry winners to emerge from the Brocklesby. As a five-furlong dash on the customary opening day of the British Flat season in late March, it caters to the prototypical speedy juveniles who are earmarked for races like the Norfolk (G2) or Windsor Castle. Indeed, Persian Force was given an entry for Thursday’s Norfolk as well.
As usual, several eye-catching contenders are available at a price. #4 Harry Time (12-1) made a smooth rally in his debut at Navan, #12 Rousing Encore (15-1) has won two straight up north for Richard Fahey, and Clive Cox’s “star pupil” #14 Scholarship (15-1) could be anything after an effortless premiere, if he learned enough that day.
Race 3 (10:40 a.m. ET) – King’s Stand (G1), WAYI for Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1)
The five-furlong King’s Stand (G1) pits Australian superstar #12 Nature Strip (2-1) versus the top American turf sprinter #5 Golden Pal (2-1). All things being equal, I’d prefer the Australian given the depth of that sprint division. But Golden Pal’s losses in his prior British attempts tilt my preference further toward Nature Strip, currently ranked as the world’s number one speedster.
Brought to the peak of his powers by Chris Waller, who also trained the all-time great Winx, Nature Strip is proven in a variety of configurations and course conditions. Of greatest significance here is that he’s won down the Flemington straightaway. That’s the key resume point that Golden Pal is lacking, having been worn down on this course in the 2020 Norfolk and flopping in last summer’s Nunthorpe (G1) at York. Granted, Golden Pal is stronger as a four-year-old now, and the two-month spacing since his prep is much better than the one-month turnaround that might have taken the edge off him at York.
Still, Golden Pal needs to be at least as good on a straightaway to hold off a rival the caliber of Nature Strip, who’s clearly the best he’s ever encountered. As long as he breaks well – a troubled start cost him a Lightning (G1) repeat – Nature Strip figures to be too strong. Waller describes him as “foolproof.”
#17 Mooneista (15-1) might be the best of the closers who will appreciate the rollicking pace. Drawn in post 14, near Golden Pal (post 13) and Nature Strip (post 10), she will be on the side where the race will develop. The Irish filly reunites with Colin Keane, who steered her to her biggest victory in last summer’s Sapphire (G2) over older males. The daughter of Dandy Man has placed in all three starts this term, most recently finishing a close second in the six-furlong Greenlands (G2), with Al Quoz Sprint (G1) hero A Case of You well back in third. Mooneista has had success before when reverting from six to five, and she’s reportedly eyeing the Breeders’ Cup.
#10 Man of Promise (12-1) has the ability to deliver a show-stopping performance on his day, as witnessed during the Dubai Carnival. He regressed slightly when third in the Al Quoz, and Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby emphasizes that the freshness angle is in his favor here. The question is whether he can duplicate his Meydan blitzes to the stiffer environs of Ascot. His lone start on this course, a close if troubled third in a key juvenile maiden, offers hope. If so, Man of Promise has upset potential if the favorites run below form. He’s toward the far side in post 5, which might not be ideal, but #18 Winter Power (20-1) should serve up enough pace from post 1. Also in that sector are the progressive #16 Twilight Calls (8-1) and The Queen’s #7 King’s Lynn (15-1), seventh in this race a year ago with a checkered passage. Godolphin colleague #8 Lazuli (20-1), likewise freshened since Dubai, has five-furlong form that gives him a chance to factor from post 15.
Race 4 (11:20 a.m. ET) – St James’s Palace (G1)
To complete the Tuesday theme of towering favorites, #6 Coroebus (1-2) brings a heavyweight resume into the marquee event for three-year-old milers. The Appleby runner is the most accomplished in the field after toppling hitherto unbeaten stablemate Native Trail in the 2000 Guineas (G1). I’ve been on record preferring Coroebus, over the winter and right before the Guineas, so am not about to get off him now.
If you’re probing for a vulnerability, Coroebus has raced exclusively at Newmarket, and now he tries Ascot. Moreover, with the St James’s Palace (G1) on the round mile course, he’ll be negotiating a turn for the first time in an actual race, and post 2 could see him stuck on the inside. But those hypotheticals aren’t enough to dissuade me. The Dubawi colt should be undefeated, with his lone loss partly because his move took William Buick by surprise in the Royal Lodge (G2).
The obvious alternative, #11 My Prospero (9-2), enters on the upswing for Haggas. Yet this is a greater challenge than the Heron S., where he outfinished a not-quite-fit Reach for the Moon.
In contrast, a few high-profile colts on retrieval missions are far too big in the market.
#3 Bayside Boy (50-1), who upset Reach for the Moon in last fall’s Champagne (G2), is a forgotten horse after a no-show in the French 2000 Guineas (G1). Draw a line through that one, his seasonal reappearance from a wide post at ParisLongchamp, and he fits well with the main body of the field. Trained by Roger Varian, the well-bred son of New Bay placed to both Native Trail and Luxembourg in juvenile Group 1s.
#2 Angel Bleu (20-1) ended up skipping the French Guineas. The Ralph Beckett trainee is best known for his soft-ground prowess, courtesy of a hat trick in the 2021 Vintage (G2) and two French Group 1s, but he’s acted in quicker conditions. Runner-up in a listed stakes at Ascot last summer, he exits a close third to Perfect Power and #8 Lusail (30-1) in the April 16 Greenham (G3). Lusail comes off a better-than-appears, tough-trip sixth behind Coroebus in the Guineas at Newmarket. I’m not sure that Lusail really wants a mile, as last year’s Gimcrack (G2) and July (G2) winner, but Hannon is a true believer in his capacity for the trip.
While my focus is on the Group races, I’ve spotted a couple of horses later on the Tuesday card.
In the Wolferton S. (Race 6, 12:35 p.m. ET), #14 Tasman Bay (12-1) and #4 New Mandate (15-1) are intriguing. Tasman Bay placed to the likes of Baaeed, Hurricane Lane, Dubai Honour, and Alenquer (in the King Edward VII [G2] here) as a sophomore, and now resurfaces at four as a first-time gelding. Nature Strip’s rider, James McDonald, picks up the mount. New Mandate, once a smart juvenile, takes a substantial class drop from the Lockinge while stepping up in distance.
In the Copper Horse (Race 7, 1:10 p.m. ET), #5 Cleveland (5-2) shaped like a young stayer to follow when taking the Chester Cup. He held an entry in Thursday’s Gold Cup (G1), but O’Brien isn’t pitching him into the big leagues just yet.