Royal Ascot Juvenile Spotlight: Hoping for a September morn in Chesham

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June 24th, 2017

The last juvenile contest at Royal Ascot, Saturday’s Chesham may be the venue for a superstar. So don’t miss that 9:30 a.m. (EDT) first post.

Perhaps that’s hyperbole, an overwrought reaction to a single maiden race, but rarely do you see an Aidan O’Brien juvenile run off the screen first time out as #16 SEPTEMBER (even-money) did at Leopardstown. Settled just behind the pace, she tipped out in the stretch and simply overwhelmed them by 5 1/2 lengths under a hand ride. According to Racing Post, she’s the only debut winner for Ballydoyle so far this season, and it came over this testing seven-furlong trip.

Sure, the form is a question mark since none of her rivals has run back since June 8, and the ground was officially yielding. Yet September didn’t just slog through in slow motion better than the rest; she made a nifty move you’d swear was on better ground if you didn’t know otherwise. The debutante did it all on her own, as if genetically programmed for racecourse domination.

September does indeed have a pedigree to salivate over. By Japan’s national hero Deep Impact, she’s out of O’Brien’s European co-champion filly Peeping Fawn. Both were later-developing types, making her June conquest positively compelling. Deep Impact didn’t debut until December of his two-year-old year, Peeping Fawn didn’t race until three, and their first foal together, Wisconsin, wasn’t ready to go until this May as a sophomore. (Wisconsin also had an adventurous trip in Friday’s Queen’s Vase [G2] before folding tamely to 12th.)

As skimpy as her odds are for a two-year-old facing a new challenge, I just can’t resist a horse with September’s potent profile. She has every right to progress into a classic winner in 2018, maybe even take two classics, or – stage whisper – the Fillies’ Triple Crown? Yes, I’m getting way ahead of myself, but that’s one of the best things about exciting juveniles. They make you think big. If she doesn’t win this, I’ll be gutted.

Not that there aren’t other aspiring types in here who can go well too. #8 MASAR (5-1) had the proverbial light bulb switch on in the sixth and final furlong of his Goodwood premiere, and the Godolphin colt powered late to nip Invincible Army. The form is already turning out to be strong. Near-misser Invincible Army just romped at Newmarket Friday, and the fourth-placer (and even eighth-placer) have likewise come back to win. With that experience under his belt, and an extra furlong here, Masar promises to continue his upward curve for Charlie Appleby. He boasts several fancy entries, including next year’s Derby (G1) at Epsom.

Masar’s pedigree is enticing as well, being by New Approach and out of dual UAE classic heroine Khawlah, the only filly to win the UAE Derby (G2). Masar’s fourth dam is 1993 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner Urban Sea, famed dam of Sea the Stars and Galileo (sire of New Approach). Thus Masar is inbred 3x4 to Urban Sea.

You can’t go far wrong by backing Frankel progeny at this Royal meeting, and the unbeaten world champ has two for your consideration. #7 LEARN BY HEART (20-1) was a closing third in his lone start over six furlongs at Haydock. Trained by William Haggas for the Queen, he’s a three-quarter brother to Recorder, who was also third on debut before breaking his maiden and adding the 2015 Acomb (G3). Their dam, Memory, was a Group 2-winning juvenile herself. John Gosden’s #12 WESTERLAND (10-1), runner-up to Coventry (G2) also-ran Nebo first out, used that experience to outduel firster #5 HEY GAMAN (15-1) at Leicester. Westerland, a Juddmonte homebred half-brother to the speedy Showcasing and Camacho, has yet to race past six furlongs, but the Frankel influence is already evident in making him want further.

Hey Gaman ran a mighty race himself that day for trainer James Tate, and it’s tempting to think he could turn the tables in the rematch. Like Masar, he’s by New Approach, and his dam is the Group 3-placed Dubawi mare Arsaadi. Joining Westerland and Hey Gaman in the Chesham is the third from their maiden, Simon Crisford’s #9 MATCH MAKER (20-1), a 180,000 guineas Tattersalls April breeze-up purchase by freshman sire Declaration of War.

#15 NYALETI (10-1) showed the tremendous resiliency of Mark Johnston’s trainees when wiring a six-furlong Salisbury novice at the expense of odds-on Billesdon Brook, who had placed in two salty maidens. By Arch and a half-sister to Australian Group 2 winner Weary and Grade/Group 3 scorer Stellar Path, Nyaleti figures to be just as effective on the step up to seven furlongs. She wheels back six days after her debut, but Johnston horses can handle that.

If you’re looking for a bomb, why not #2 BARTHOLOMEU DIAS (50-1), who was third to Masar in their mutual debut? Trainer Charlie Hills revealed on his website that the Chesham was always the intended target, even before he made his first start. The May 11 foal had been physically two for only a couple of weeks at that point, and he’s likely to learn quite a bit. Bartholomeu Dias, a 2018 Derby entry, is a three-quarter brother to multiple Grade 3 scorer Purr Along.

Masar’s stablemate, #4 GOLD TOWN (15-1), has regressed since his first-up win at Newbury. But his formlines deserve a mention: he edged future Coventry near-misser Headway in his debut win, finished fifth to Coventry winner Rajasinghe next time, and most recently was fifth in the Marble Hill, one spot ahead of next-out Norfolk (G2) upsetter Sioux Nation. And in the Chesham, Gold Town likely gets back on good-to-firm turf for the first time since his debut.

#3 BUSTAM (20-1) has settled for placings in his first two outings, but it might be too soon to give up entirely on the £130,000 Tattersalls Ireland Ascot breeze-up sale topper. Finally, #10 OPTIMUM TIME (15-1) had to alter course on his debut at Windsor when a seam didn’t open between rivals, but shrugged off the inconvenience to win by daylight. The Eve Johnson-Houghton juvenile must improve to face this higher grade of opponent, on better ground, here.

P.S. The 2ND Race, the listed Wolferton, is one of those hotly contested handicaps that I don’t delve into much. The one who leapt off the page, though, is #3 ELBERETH (8-1). If she can tote 131 pounds versus males, she brings a rich vein of form off a second to O’Brien’s smart Somehow in the Dahlia (G2) and a fourth to the redoubtable Highland Reel in the Coronation Cup (G1). Trainer Andrew Balding is thinking Caulfield Cup (G1) for the progressive six-year-old.

The featured selections for the Hardwicke (G2) and Diamond Jubilee (G1) are over at