Royal Ascot Handicaps 2022: Duke of Edinburgh Stakes
There are few races Queen Elizabeth II would enjoy winning more at Royal Ascot in her Platinum Jubilee year than the Day 4 handicap named after her late husband, and she may have the favorite for the race. But can #8 Just Fine come through?
The son of Sea the Stars heads the early UK markets for the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, run over 1 1/2 miles for three-year-olds and up. A winner of two of his nine races for trainer Sir Michael Stoute, Just Fine enters the race after a strong-finishing third to Gaassee at York in the Jorvik Handicap on May 11.
The well-backed Gaassee gets favourite backers off to a flying start at the Dante Festival!— Racing TV (@RacingTV) May 11, 2022
The Sea The Stars colt continues to progress and makes it four wins from five starts for the in-form William Haggas team and @TomMarquand at @yorkracecourse 🙌 pic.twitter.com/YR6P9oLF3y
He will have the benefit of Ryan Moore’s skills in the saddle, and on form he should be a decent chance. However, there are plenty of other chances in a typically open Royal Ascot handicap, which features a number of exciting young horses.
One of the most interesting is #6 Trawlerman. He was well-regarded for the Classic Trial (G3) at Sandown in April 2021, starting at 11-2, and though he finished sixth, the race proved to be the best form guide you’ll ever see — it was won by 2022 Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) winner Alenquer from 2021 Epsom Derby winner Adayar, with 2021 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Yibir third.
Trawlerman didn’t race again until appearing on the Chelmsford City Polytrack April 15, staying on strongly to win over 1 1/4 miles. Given that he is by Golden Horn from a Monsun mare, he should love stretching out to 1 1/2 miles.
Two other interesting horses are #1 Ever Present and #17 Candleford, neither of which have raced in 2022. Both were winners last time out: Ever Present in the Petingo Handicap at Leopardstown in Ireland Sept. 11, and Candleford on the Kempton Polytrack Nov. 10.
Ever Present won very well under topweight at Leopardstown and looks to have real potential, especially if there is a strong pace. Candleford also has a good turn of foot, and his Kempton win was made to look better when the horse he beat that day by three lengths, Coltrane, came out and won the Ascot Stakes handicap on Day 1 of this Royal meet.
Like Ever Present, #3 Mashhoor comes over from Ireland with a genuine chance. He blitzed his opponents by four lengths in the William Hill Handicap at The Curragh May 21, and though he got a fantastic rails run that day, it was still eye-catching.
Two recent Newmarket winners also look to have great chances. #16 Cemhaan won the 1 3/4-mile Daily Rewards Handicap decisively May 1, and though he’s done much of his racing at further than 1 1/2 miles, he’s performed well at the trip before. However, a better chance might be #13 Contact, who has won at Newmarket and Haydock at his last two starts. He showed very good acceleration in both and looks a horse that’s going places.
It's also worth having a look at #9 Moktasaab, a stylish winner of two who was then undone by the contours of Epsom last start, and #11 Brilliant Light, who can mix his form but on his day is capable.
Given the strength of the field, I have to tip against the Queen here. Contact has impressed me at his last two starts, while Coltrane’s victory on Tuesday gives me confidence in Candleford, and the form around Trawlerman is very good. But as is usually the case with Ascot handicaps, if you get the selections right here, you’ll probably do very well indeed!