Selections for Friday's features at Royal Ascot 2020

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

June 17th, 2020

After a couple handicap-dominated cards, Day 4 of Royal Ascot on Friday is filled mostly with Group stakes action. Juveniles dominate the early portion with 3-year-old distance specialists book-ending an above-average renewal of the Hardwicke (G2).

Race 2 -- Albany (G3) -- 8:50 a.m. ET

1st -- Even a slow start in her Newmarket debut couldn't stop #10 SETARHE (4-1) from getting to the line first after producing a strong closing kick between rivals in the final quarter-mile. Tardy beginnings not generally recommended and hope is that's not shown to be a habit here, but the professionalism she displayed in overcoming that adversity points her out as a filly with a future.

2nd -- #6 GOLDEN MELODY (7-1) responded encouragingly when asked and won comfortably enough by more than two lengths at Haydock on June 7. Like the top selection, we should see her best in the final furlong or two with a potential fast tempo setting things up for her.

3rd -- #9 MOTHER EARTH (6-1) a clear second in her debut at Naas for Team Coolmore and Aidan O'Brien. Like many from the yard, she'll improve for that run and should benefit from the step up from 5 furlongs to 6 furlongs here.

4th -- The Kentucky-bred #14 WILLABELL (10-1) was caught near the wire in her debut at Yarmouth after leading from the start. Could see her in more of a pressing or rating mode with the Ward-trained #4 Flying Aletha likely to show more speed. Has Gosden/Dettori in her corner and War Front filly is out of U.S. Grade 1 winner Photo Call.

Race 3 -- Norfolk (G2) -- 9:25 a.m. ET

1st -- Not many great ones tend to pass through Yarmouth, but still worthy of note that #13 THE LIR JET (7-1) set a new all-age mark for 5 furlongs when convincingly winning his debut over that course on June 3. It was also the first winner for his sire, Prince of Lir, who scored in this event in 2016. Kicked clear when challenged a furlong or two out and figures strong right back.

2nd -- The word was out on #4 EYE OF HEAVEN (2-1) on debut at Newmarket and the Exceed and Excel colt obliged as an even-money choice for trainer Mark Johnston and jockey Frankie Dettori. A potentially smart fellow who figures to go favored again in this spot.

3rd -- He didn't win first out, but #7 IMPERIAL FORCE (10-1) stayed on well to be a clear second in his debut at Newmarket over an extended 6 furlongs. Cutting back a furlong here could work to his benefit.

4th -- #6 GOLDEN PAL (7-1) has the potential to run them off their feet for Team Ward, but they don't always come through at generally underlaid odds. Ran out of gas going 4 1/2 furlongs at Gulfstream, but son of Uncle Mo could fare better on the switch to turf as dam was the top grass sprinter Lady Shipman.

Race 4 -- Hardwicke (G2) -- 10 a.m. ET

1st -- #4 DEFOE (6-1) was a badly-beaten fifth in the Coronation Cup (G1) at Newmarket earlier this month after fruitlessly chasing Ghaiyyath rather than settling farther back, but chill in the market understandable given it can take a start or two for him to rev up following a layoff. That was the case last season and he subsequently scored victories in the Coronation Cup at Epsom and in this race. This renewal looks a bit deeper than the one he captured as the favorite, but could come on from the run earlier this month and perhaps could see out the trip better at a price with #3 Communique and #7 Elarqam potentially ensuring a pace to run at.

2nd -- #2 ANTHONY VAN DYCK (8-5) a fine second to the runaway Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup in his prep two weeks ago, and except for a splattering of no-shows, is a genuinely consistent check-getter. That's different from a consistent winner's enclosure visitor, though, which he hasn't been to since the Epsom Derby (G1) a year ago. Willing to stand against at a short price.

3rd -- The form of the Brigadier Gerard (G3) got a huge push Wednesday when Lord North convincingly won the Prince of Wales's (G1). Beaten only a nose in that Haydock feature was #7 ELARQAM (3-1), who's clearly gotten better with maturity. The 1 1/2-mile distance is a bit of a question mark, though, as he hasn't yet tried until now, and figures to try and win on or close to the lead. Expect Shadwell horses piloted by Jim Crowley, like this one, to be well backed all week given the results thus far.

4th -- #8 HAMISH (10-1) had a productive first campaign last year for William Haggas, winning three of six and narrowly missing in the others. Looks a potential group staying type and this perhaps a get-fit trip for longer races this summer. Thrown to relative wolves for first stakes outing but would not be a surprise for him to snag a smaller share.

Race 5 -- Commonwealth Cup (G1) -- 10:35 a.m. ET

1st -- #6 PIERRE LAPIN (3-1) so far an unexposed type who's won smartly both times over 6 furlongs, including the Mill Reef (G2) at Newbury when last seen in September. Has been well backed in this bulky field for much of the week, and expectations have got to be high for this half-brother to Harry Angel, who unluckily lost this race a few years ago by a narrow margin while out-finishing Ascot-loving Blue Point.

2nd -- #4 LOPE Y FERNANDEZ (6-1) hit the front briefly before fading to third in last week's Irish 2000 Guineas (G1), a solid effort off the bench for Coolmore. Group 3 winner found only Pinatubo better in the Chesham S. at least year's Royal meeting and should benefit from the return to six panels.

3rd -- Friday marks the one-year anniversary of #11 SOUTHERN HILLS' (20-1) maiden score in the Windsor Castle S. over this course going 5 furlongs, and unfortunately he didn't get a chance to show the extent of his talents the remainder of the season. Tough spot for a return, but placement for Coolmore and Aidan O'Brien interesting enough for a son of Gleneagles who surely has more to give.

4th -- #16 MILLISLE (10-1) produced a terrific turn of foot to land the Cheveley Park (G1) against fillies last autumn, so much so she was 4-1 to stretch out in the 1000 Guineas (G1). That proved a dull effort, but perhaps a needed one coming off such a long layoff. Like others in the field, shortening up could bring out a better performance.

Race 6 -- Queen's Vase (G2) -- 11:10 a.m. ET

1st -- The filly #9 BORN WITH PRIDE (8-1) boasts a tremendous first running line in her debut in a small stakes at Newmarket last November, where she beat subsequent Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) heroine Peaceful as well as Run Wild, who looked spectacular winning the Pretty Polly S. a couple of weeks ago. Best to draw a line through her latest in a re-located Classic Trial (G3) at Kempton, contested over the all-weather. The form of that race has stood up well at Ascot this week, however, with runner-up Pyledriver winning Tuesday's King Edward VII (G2) and the victorious Berlin Tango third in Wednesday's Hampton Court (G3). This three-quarter sister to staying specialists Shraaoh and Raheen House should benefit from the return to a grass surface and extra distance.

2nd -- #1 AL DABARAN (3-1), a winner over this course last summer, placed in both stakes tries in France last summer and is an obvious threat with even a touch of improvement over his respectable juvenile campaign. Bred to relish this trip as dam is a half-sister to St Leger (G1) winner Masked Marvel. This colt is also a close relative of reigning Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner Waldgeist.

3rd -- #8 SANTIAGO (4-1) chased next-out Debutante (G2) winner Alpine Star two back before finding the stretch-out to a mile agreeable when graduating in his third lifetime start. Authorized colt from the Coolmore juggernaut a likely factor

4th -- Another from "the lads" at Coolmore is #5 NOBEL PRIZE (9-2), a full brother to globetrotting star Highland Reel plus Group 1 types Cape of Good Hope and Idaho. He, too, graduated third out and could develop into any kind.