Royal Ascot Friday Spotlight: Albany, Queen's Vase bookend group action

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

June 22nd, 2017

It's hardly my favorite of all the famous, long-standing features held annually at Royal Ascot, but for some odd reason the Albany Stakes (G3) is a race I've had the most incredible luck deciphering. I say incredible because it's typically chock full (21 entered this time!) of inexperienced two-year-old fillies.

Nonetheless, a box of my top four selections last year would have made bettors a few thousand dollars richer and, if memory serves, Samitar (16-1, 2011), Kiyoshi (8-1, 2013), and Illuminate (4-1, 2015) have all come through as my top pick since I began providing selections on the meet six years ago.

With the pressure obviously on after that karma-baiting chest thumping, here's what I make of this year's running.

1. #5 CLEMMIE (8-1), the cleverly-named full sister to Churchill, had just one horse beaten halfway through her six-furlong debut at The Curragh, but made an impressive rally up the stands side rail and nearly won it all, ultimately falling a neck short in third. Similarly, Churchill also lost his debut before coming to Royal Ascot and winning the seven-furlong Chesham Stakes on closing day last year. What he's accomplished since is well known, and it would be no surprise to see his younger sister follow in his hoof steps. It's perhaps a little disconcerting, though, that she's not a little more fancied in early trading.

2. #14 NATURAL (10-1) is trained by Richard Hannon, who won this race with Illuminate and whose father won it twice. Sold for approximately $342,000 as a yearling, the daughter of Kodiac comfortably scored on debut at Doncaster earlier this month going 6 1/2 furlongs on soft ground, and appeared to leave plenty in the tank. Seemingly a well-meant filly, she's a half to Group 3 winner My Catch and the Group 1-placed Spanish champion juvenile Vladimir.

3. #19 TAKE ME WITH YOU (15-1) is another pricey auction buy, having most recently brought $800,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Sale in March. By the late Scat Daddy, responsible for stars Lady Aurelia and Carvaggio, this filly debuted against males over the July course at Newmarket less than two weeks, finishing a credible 1 3/4 lengths third to heavy favorite Glorious Journey. Conditioned by two-time Albany winner Jeremy Noseda, she has room to improve at a price.

#2 ALPHA CENTAURI (2-1) has dominated in both starts in Ireland, including a stakes at Naas by five lengths. She descends from Miesque through her dual classic-winning daughter East of the Moon. #6 DIFFERENT LEAGUE (50-1) has scored twice in as many starts in the French provinces and might be talented enough to outrun her likely big odds. Trainer Wesley Ward entered two including #9 FAIRYLAND (7-2), a debut winner at Keeneland bred to enjoy the switch to turf as a Coolmore-owned daughter of Scat Daddy.

Queen's Vase (G2)

A Group 3 not too long ago but a Listed event in recent years, the Queen's Vase is up to Group 2 status this year as part of a program to enhance opportunities for three-year-old stayers in Europe. However, the distance has been cut from two miles to 1 3/4 miles.

Now five of the six races on Friday's program are group events. Unfortunately, it's one too many races to wrap my head completely around as my two-day stint of Royal Ascot comes to a close. However, it is a highly contentious betting race and I do have a top pick, though not a second or third.

#7 HARIPOUR (7-1) belatedly broke his maiden at Navan going 1 5/8 miles last time, a 5 1/2-length romp accomplished with the benefit of blinkers. Previously, the son of Shamardal had placed in two of four outings, including one neck loss to eventual Chester Vase (G3) winner Venice Beach at Tipperary in April.

Tardy or stumbling starts were in part to blame for his two no-shows, but this late developer might well have turned the corner with that recent equipment change. Another thing to fancy is that he's a half-brother to last year's Epsom and Irish Derby (G1) scorer Harzand. Like his older bro, he sports the famous green Aga Khan colors and is trained by Dermot Weld.

Check out my views on the three other group stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday at

For the complete running order, with post times, visit the special Royal Ascot page. The free Brisnet international PPs are accessible here, and don't miss the jam-packed betting guide.