Looking for value on a likely chalky Friday at Royal Ascot

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June 23rd, 2017

With my colleague Vance Hanson once more doing the Royal Ascot selections honors over on and elsewhere on the TwinSpires blog, I’m just chiming in with a few additional ideas for the Friday card.

The Albany (G3): Vance has absolutely owned this race in recent years, so I’m delighted that he’s enamored of #5 CLEMMIE (8-1) too. Her debut at the Curragh on Irish 2000 Guineas Day was full of promise. Since Aidan O’Brien introduces his youngsters gently, giving them a pleasant experience first out instead of cranking them, it’s no surprise that they often shape with promise but then win next time. Accordingly Clemmie didn’t gather momentum until too late, but she was motoring on the rain-affected ground to miss by two heads. She was in the process of overhauling the leaders when they crossed the wire, and on top strides afterward. Runner-up Now You’re Talking came back to finish a fine fourth, at huge odds, in Wednesday’s Queen Mary (G2). With the typical progression from her unveiling, Clemmie can emulate older brother Churchill by breaking her maiden in a Royal Ascot stakes. Vance rightly notes some degree of concern that Clemmie’s odds aren’t shorter, given her connections. But so far at Royal Ascot 2017, you’re better off being an overlooked O’Brien than one of the yard’s hotpots.

The King Edward VII (G2): Crystal Ocean is deservedly the market leader for all the reasons Vance explains. Sylvester Kirk’s #11 SALOUEN (8-1) has been a bridesmaid so long it’s a question of whether he’ll get the breakthrough, or at what level, and you could fairly say he’s exposed. But if you take the view, influenced by his pedigree, that he’s been running very well while crying out for longer distances, Salouen begins to look more interesting. His only opportunity at this 1 1/2-mile trip was in the Derby (G1) at Epsom – a tough enough spot that became impossible when he got body-slammed in the midst of his stretch rally. Of course, we’ll never know exactly how much better he would have finished, but his 13th is a total toss. The trends are decidedly against Epsom Derby veterans wheeling back here in the “Ascot Derby,” but Across the Stars defied it last year. And I’ve reconsidered my position on this after two other Epsom participants, Derby fifth Benbatl and Oaks (G1) fifth Coronet, have scored at Royal Ascot. The 2017 calendar has been a bit kinder, with an extra week between the two fixtures, so my general policy of being against Derby horses in this race may not be so well advised here.

Vance and I are pretty much on the same page for the Commonwealth Cup (G1), viewing it as a likely formful result for Caravaggio and the obvious supporting actors.

The Coronation (G1): If you’re looking for a value play to use in concert with odds-on Winter, consider #6 TOMYRIS (15-1). Fourth in the November Polytrack maiden won by Daban (who upset the Nell Gwyn [G3] and finished third to Winter in the 1000 Guineas [G1]), Tomyris traveled like a good thing before winning smartly at Newmarket in April. The Roger Varian trainee was more workmanlike in the Michael Seely Memorial at York, but I think the difference was the soft ground. Tomyris appeared to stride over the good-to-firm going in her maiden much more enthusiastically, and those are the conditions she’ll encounter here. It’s obviously a quantum step here. Yet once you get past Winter, and her French counterpart Precieuse whose best form is on soft, the race looks very open – just the spot for a well-bred, progressive, stealthy type like Tomyris to snare a Group 1 placing.

The Queen’s Vase (G2): An entire post could be devoted just to the pedigree angles in this 1 3/4-mile race, which promises to have implications for the St Leger (G1). The one I’ll comment on involves #13 WISCONSIN (8-1), a son of Japanese legend Deep Impact and past Aidan O’Brien star Peeping Fawn. Thus he’s a full brother to (and Ballydoyle stablemate of) the red-hot favorite for Saturday’s Chesham, September. A case in point about the variations between full siblings: Wisconsin has the abundance of stamina, and baby sister inherited all the gears. Amazing for Peeping Fawn to produce a thoroughgoing, one-paced stayer like Wisconsin and an exciting juvenile/2018 classic prospect like September, whose Royal Ascot target is exactly half the distance of her brother’s (seven versus 14 furlongs). Even more amazing if they can both win.

The Duke of Edinburgh: There’s some buzz about #17 MAINSTREAM (5-1) trained by Sir Michael Stoute for the Queen. Connections are hopeful of a bold show, and the Sporting Life’s “Catching Pigeons” column put in a good word for his recent works. For a more tangible reason, the son of Dansili (and grandson of Ribblesdale [G2] winner Phantom Gold) was just a barnstorming third to Frontiersman in a Newmarket handicap, his first start as a gelding. Frontiersman, Ouija Board’s boy by Dubawi, has since finished a terrific second to Highland Reel in the Coronation Cup (G1), and would have been a contender in Saturday’s Hardwicke (G2) (out with an unsatisfactory scope). Mainstream reportedly has his quirks, but Stoute’s well-laid plans for a Royal winner must not go unnoticed.