Reilly: Handicapping the 2021 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot
A tribute to the monarch who inaugurated racing at Ascot more than three centuries ago, the Queen Anne S. (G1) kicks off the Royal meeting at 9:30 a.m. (ET) on Tuesday. A son of Kingman is heavily favored to wear the crown in this “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
Top selection: #6 Palace Pier (2-5)
You can brainstorm possible reasons for Palace Pier to get overturned – the quickest ground he’s faced since his career debut, his lone career loss here last fall (losing a shoe in the bog), and two big wins already this spring. But those speculations run smack dab into the reality that the Gosden trainee is the best horse in the race, by some way, on the ratings. Palace Pier would have to regress substantially, and his rivals improve, to produce an upset.
His recent victory in the Lockinge S. (G1) at Newbury, the key stepping stone to the Queen Anne, showcased his star power. Confidently handled by Frankie Dettori, Palace Pier put the field away with a sudden burst.
Although the pace scenario figures to be more sedate on Tuesday, a slow tempo was no hindrance to Palace Pier at Royal Ascot last summer. On the contrary, it put a premium on his finishing speed, and he sprinted late to win the St James’s Palace S. (G1) on the round course. No wonder Dettori believes that Palace Pier will end up being one of the best he’s ever ridden.
Second choice: #3 Lope Y Fernandez (10-1)
With a better trip in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland, Lope Y Fernandez arguably would have won, rather than his 72-1 stablemate Order of Australia. That’s par for the course for the Aidan O’Brien trainee, who has been thereabouts in major races throughout his career, ever since his second here to record-setting Pinatubo in the 2019 Chesham S.
After dabbling with sprinting last season, Lope Y Fernandez is now being given his chance in the mile division. He relished a class drop to the listed ranks in the Heritage S. at Leopardstown, but flopped behind Palace Pier in the Lockinge. Ignore that effort because of the unsuitably soft ground, traffic, and a passive ride that saw him wrapped up on.
O’Brien’s won this race before with horses unplaced in the Lockinge, Haradasun (2007) and Declaration of War (2013) (also the Heritage winner two back). My hypothesis is that Lope Y Fernandez is the Ballydoyle horse to prefer, notwithstanding the shuffling of jockeys that puts Ryan Moore on Order of Australia. Seamie Heffernan is a tactical ace, and Lope Y Fernandez has run very well both times he’s been aboard.
Third: #9 Regal Reality (20-1)
Once a rising force for Sir Michael Stoute, Regal Reality lost the plot after his third to Enable and Magical in the 2019 Eclipse S. (G1). But gelding, adding a visor, and reverting to a mile proved the formula to get him back on track with a convincing score in the 2020 Sovereign S. (G3). Regal Reality came within a half-length of Kameko when last seen in the Sept. 25 Joel S. (G2), where he outfinished Benbatl and left Top Rank behind.
Set to reappear in the Dubai Turf (G1) on World Cup night, Regal Reality unfortunately had to scratch due to a fever. We’d have a better read on him, and likely a shorter price, in this spot had he run at Meydan. The six-year-old is entitled to summon his back class, and add to his resume, in the hands of a master.
Fourth: #5 Order of Australia (5-1)
If his Breeders’ Cup Mile stunner boils down to a tale of trips, Order of Australia took full advantage of his opportunity. Moreover, the half-brother to Iridessa (and the much-touted Santa Barbara) was apparently wasting his time competing over longer distances. Had the Ballydoyle runner had more chances at a mile previously, his resume might look better.
The Queen Anne can put him in a favorable light again, unfolding in a way to leverage his tactical speed. Order of Australia led for some way in last summer’s French Derby (G1) before succumbing. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Moore works out a forward trip much like his hard-fought decision in this race a year ago aboard Circus Maximus.
Longshot: #4 Lord Glitters (20-1)
The upset winner of the 2019 Queen Anne, and a close second in 2018, Lord Glitters had a productive Dubai Carnival this winter. The David O’Meara veteran won two Group races, notably the Jebel Hatta (G1) on Super Saturday, but bled when sixth to Lord North in the Dubai Turf. Lord Glitters returned in the Lockinge, where he closed belatedly for fourth in a solid prep.
Two years ago, he’d run far worse in the Lockinge after a third to Japan’s great Almond Eye in the Dubai Turf, but moved forward dramatically in the Queen Anne. Similar improvement from Newbury would put him into the frame here, although he’d be better suited by some pace help. His affinity for Ascot makes it difficult to leave him out of the equation.