Great Britain and Ireland Preview: Spot Plays July 23
The Royal meet in June may have the glamour and the depth, but the single greatest race at the Ascot track is this weekend.
Since its establishment in 1951, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) has been the most important clash of the generations in British racing. It’s the first major clash between older horses and three-year-olds at 1 1/2 miles, and at £1.25 million it competes with the Champion S. (G1) as the richest race in Britain for older horses.
The honor roll is impressive, with its winners including Ribot, Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Shergar, Dancing Brave, and the only triple winner, Enable.
The contest highlights a top-class day of racing, one in which all races are subject to a TwinSpires Rest of the World Bet Back offer. With that in mind, let’s look at some opportunities.
Race 1, 8:50 a.m. ET: Princess Margaret Keeneland Stakes (G3), 6 furlongs, 2-year-old fillies
An interesting clash of largely unexposed fillies on the way up. #5 Lezoo will be a deserved favorite after winning her first two and then finishing second in the Duchess of Cambridge (G2) at the Newmarket July meet. Most of the others have yet to take on black type company and, in the case of #4 Kinta and #8 Palm Lily, they haven’t raced on turf yet.
Outside the favorite, #3 Glenlaurel was very impressive when winning at Thirsk June 14, while I would also look seriously at #2 Cuban Mistress. She finished strongly for second behind Rocket Rodney in the Dragon S. at Sandown July 1; Rocket Rodney had earlier been a close second in the Windsor Castle S. at Royal Ascot behind Little Big Bear, who won at Group 2 level last weekend. I also have some time for #7 Omniqueen; ignore her Royal Ascot failure last time as she lost several lengths soon after the start and was then blocked towards the finish.
- $10 win/$30 place: #5 Lezoo ($40)
- $10 place: #2 Cuban Mistress ($10)
- $1 trifecta: 5 with 2, 3, 7 with 2, 3, 7 ($6)
Race 2, 9:25 a.m. ET: Valiant Stakes (G3), 1 mile, fillies and mares 3 years old and up
The Roger Varian-trained #9 Zanbaq will probably start favorite here after finishing second in the competitive Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot last start. However, the filly that beat her, Heredia, disappointed at her most recent start and finished behind another contestant in this race, #7 Oscula.
Oscula has solid form around many of the contestants here, including #4 Eidikos and #8 Snooze N You Lose, who she beat at Carlisle June 22. She should be included in exotics.
But the one I like here is #1 Novemba. The German-trained mare was comfortably beaten when fourth in the Duke of Cambridge (G2) at Royal Ascot behind Saffron Beach, but was just 1 1/4 lengths from second, and this looks an easier task.
- $10 win/$30 show: #1 Novemba ($40)
Race 3, 10:00 a.m. ET: Moet & Chandon International Handicap, 7 furlongs, 3-year-olds and up
Plenty of chances here in this £150,000 handicap. However, I’m always a big fan of young horses on their way up in these handicaps and the one that fits the bill here is #6 Dark Shift. He won the Royal Hunt Cup well at Royal Ascot, and one of the horses he beat there, #8 Bless Him, has in the meantime won the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket. In that race, Bless Him beat #2 Jumby, who the start before had finished third in another major Royal Ascot handicap, the Wokingham.
There’s a number of other useful chances, among them the Queen’s #3 Tactical, but I’m sticking with Dark Shift to record another good handicap victory.
- $10 win/$30 show: #6 Dark Shift ($40)
Race 4, 10:35 a.m. ET: King George VI & Queen Elizabeth S. (G1), 1 1/2 miles, 3-year-olds and up
Only six runners, but they’re all high-class. They include two high-quality three-year-olds in Irish Derby (G1) winner #5 Westover and unlucky Epsom Oaks (G1) runner-up #6 Emily Upjohn, rerouted here after missing last week’s Irish Oaks due to issues with her flight.
They take on four top-flight older horses: Germany’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner #4 Torquator Tasso, 2021 Saudi Cup winner and recent Eclipse S. (G1) runner-up #2 Mishriff; Hardwicke (G2) hero #1 Broome, and last year’s Coronation Cup (G1) winner #3 Pyledriver.
Westover to me looks the better of the three-year-olds, having absolutely romped away with the Irish Derby. However, the quality of the field may not have been strong and his odds may be a bit short. I also have doubts about Emily Upjohn given this wasn’t her intended target.
Mishriff is the proven class of the field, but whether he’s up to the very best in Europe at 1 1/2 miles is up for question. Broome is consistent but not normally quite up to this level, as is Pyledriver.
Torquator Tasso’s Arc victory at 72-1 was totally unexpected, but he beat a bunch of very good horses to the line there. He failed first-up this season, but that mirrored what he did in 2021, and he followed his trends from last year again when decisively taking the Grosser Hansa-Preis (G2) at his next start.
Part of the doubt around Torquator Tasso last year was with his Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1) defeat on firm ground, but the victor, Alpinista, has since won three more Group 1 races in Europe.
The other big doubt about Torquator Tasso is whether he’s as effective on ground firmer than soft, but he was held up at a decisive moment in the GP von Berlin and looks capable of handling decent footing. German horses won here twice in the past decade, and he’s likely to be well over the odds here. If he starts at anything like the 12-1 odds on offer from English bookies, he’s well worth a look.
- $10 win/$20 place: #4 Torquator Tasso ($30)
Race 5, 11:10 a.m. ET: Pat Eddery S. (Listed), 7 furlongs, 2-year-olds
Godolphin’s unbeaten #4 Naval Power will probably be favored, but he hasn’t raced against black type company as yet and here he faces two that have: #2 Finn’s Charm, fourth in the Chesham S. (Listed) at Royal Ascot June 18, and #5 Waiting All Night, fifth in both the Coventry (G2) at Royal Ascot June 14 and the July (G2) at Newmarket July 7.
I’m going to go with Waiting All Night, who wasn’t that far away in his two efforts at Group 2 level and should be paying a decent price.
- $10 win: #5 Waiting All Night ($10)
- $2 trifecta: 4 with 2, 5 with all ($12)
- $1 trifecta: 5 with 2, 4 with all ($6)
Race 6, 11:45 a.m ET: Porsche Handicap, 1 mile, 3-year-olds and up
This is the chance for the Queen’s #5 Saga to get compensation for his unlucky second to Thesis in the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot. With just 10 runners, he should have a great chance.
He won’t have it all his own way; opponents include #1 Tempus, third in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot, the fast-improving #7 Random Harvest, a winner here July 9 after finishing second in the Kensington Palace Handicap at the Royal meet; #2 Dubai Mirage, a last-start winner at Salisbury after finishing second to subsequent Royal Hunt Cup winner Dark Shift May 22; and #4 Tacarib Bay, who failed in the 2,000 Guineas (G1) and Jersey S. (G3) before winning when dropped back to handicap level at Haydock July 2.
Saga could well win here but the odds may be shorter than they should be. Given this, I’m going with Tacarib Bay, who put up a great effort at Haydock.
- $10 win/$30 show: #4 Tacarib Bay ($40)
Race 7, 12:20 p.m. ET: Garrard Handicap, 5 furlongs, 3-year-olds and up
#1 Mountain Peak and #4 Bond Chairman were virtually inseparable in the Betfred Heritage Handicap at Ascot July 9, the former winning by a nose, and they face each other again here. The gap in the weights remains 12 pounds, but the three-year-old Bond Chairman likely learned a lot at his eighth career start on July 9 and may be able to do enough to reverse the result here. The others look like they have a bit to make up.
- $10 win/$30 show: #4 Bond Chairman ($40)
- $1 trifecta: 1, 4 with 1, 4 with all ($16)