Reilly: Handicapping the 2021 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot

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June 15th, 2021

Trying to sift through a 17-strong field of promising juveniles, all developing at varying rates, with limited form, plus a Wesley Ward wildcard, makes Tuesday’s Coventry S. (G2) a brain teaser.

Ward’s Kaufymaker is trying to become the first filly to win this race in more than a century. Perhaps I’m underestimating her, but she didn’t strike me as his most impressive two-year-old winner either. Ward’s enthusiasm is based on her turf training, and he could well be vindicated. Yet Kaufymaker looks like a vulnerable favorite in the circumstances.

The colts with stakes experience, Ebro River and Masseto, don’t stand out from the most appealing maiden and novice winners. Thus my preference is to look for the stakes newcomers with upside.

Top selection: #12 The Acropolis (6-1)

From the first crop of Coolmore star Churchill, who broke his maiden in Royal Ascot’s Chesham S., The Acropolis was favored to win first out at the Curragh but plugged on a one-paced fourth on soft-to-heavy. The Aidan O’Brien trainee moved forward next time on better going at Listowel, tracking the pacesetter before drawing off with authority.

The Acropolis has beautiful action that implies he’ll appreciate even quicker conditions. The “lads” would love for freshman sire Churchill to have a Royal Ascot winner, and he looks like a robust type who can shine now and train on at three. It could be significant that The Acropolis is the only runner for O’Brien, who’s won the Coventry nine times.

Second choice: #8 Gisburn (6-1)

The Richard Hannon-trained Gisburn turned a Newbury maiden into a one-horse show. Effortless on the lead, the flashy chestnut drifted across the course, but was so far ahead it didn’t matter. Gisburn was improving from a useful fourth to #2 Berkshire Shadow (15-1) in a five-furlong maiden at the same course, where he was in the vanguard, got outpaced, then found more late. The extra furlong, and the run under his belt, did wonders.

By freshman sire Ribchester, course record-setting winner of the Queen Anne S. (G1) here on opening day 2017, Gisburn will have more of a race on his hands early. Even so, he’s a prime win contender in this spot.

Third: #14 The Organiser (20-1)

Lacking a fashionable pedigree and coming off a restricted novice win on soft at York, The Organiser doesn’t fit my usual parameters for fandom. That just shows how impressive he was to bowl me over. The Joseph Tuite pupil was galloping with his head on his chest, covered up in the pack, before drubbing them like a serious operator.

The manner of his victory also caught the eye of Harry Herbert’s Highclere syndicate, which swooped in to purchase a half-share. Now The Organiser takes a class hike on ground much faster than what he plowed through on the “Knavesmire.” But there’s no telling what he might be.

Fourth: #15 Tolstoy (8-1)

Notwithstanding the odds in the North American past performances, the market is more enamored of John Gosden stablemate #5 Dhabab. It’s true that Dhabab won handsomely at Leicester, compared to Tolstoy’s lower-key debut at Yarmouth. But Dhabab was entitled to be sharp, as a two-year-old in training sales graduate by No Nay Never. Tolstoy is eligible to take a bigger jump forward in this second start.

Sir Robert Ogden’s homebred has a mouthwatering pedigree as a Kingman colt, out of a Frankel mare, from the immediate family of Mandaloun. Tolstoy is going to thrive over time, so the way he traveled before ultimately asserting might be a waving flag to follow. The negative is that his beaten foes at Yarmouth have all let the form down badly. Yet I wouldn’t be surprised if Tolstoy is a lot better than that; it’s just a question of how soon we see it.

Longshots: #9 Golden War (50-1) & #16 Vintage Clarets (30-1)

Lady Bamford’s homebred Golden War is worth mentioning as a sneaky type. The Charlie Hills colt was runner-up to Chesham entrant Masekela on their mutual debut. Slowly way on soft going at Goodwood, Golden War traveled very well and closed under kind handling. Jockey Jamie Spencer, who rides him back, gave the Churchill blueblood a positive introduction to the game.

Richard Fahey’s Vintage Clarets beat the solid Love de Vega, a Chesham entrant, at Ayr last out. While yet to race past five furlongs, he’s powered home in both wins like a colt who’ll handle six. His hot freshman sire, Ardad, sprang a Royal Ascot upset himself as a juvenile in the 2016 Windsor Castle S.