Selections for Saturday at Royal Ascot 2021
A Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” for the Turf Sprint (G1), Saturday’s Diamond Jubilee S. (G1) is just one of the terrific betting races on the final day of Royal Ascot. The Hardwicke S. (G2) is a handicapping puzzle with a number of top chances, and the Jersey S. (G3) has a rising star at a palatable price. The Chesham S. could be the chalkiest of the stakes, but juveniles have a tendency to surprise.
The ground figures to play a major role again, after torrential rain turned the course heavy on Friday. Rain is forecast to diminish overnight, but showers are still a possibility on Saturday. Some will relish the conditions that others will find too laborious.
Race 1 – Chesham S. (9:30 a.m. ET)
Top selection: #4 Point Lonsdale (6-5)
The price is short, but when an Aidan O’Brien firster uncharacteristically gallops off the screen, it pays to take heed. Point Lonsdale put on a display of utter authority in a Curragh maiden at this seven-furlong trip, on yielding ground. The full brother to Hardwicke favorite Broome went to the lead, kindly accepted pace company, then left them standing to power clear. He doesn’t strike me as a frontrunner by necessity; he would have won this from virtually any position in running.
Even allowing for O’Brien’s enthusiasm in discussing his horses, the postrace quotes on irishracing.com are something:
“He was working very smart and we wanted to get him out as we felt he was a horse for the Chesham. That’s what we think of him,” the five-time Chesham winner said.
“He shows everything at home. He travels, he quickens and relaxes - all the right stuff.”
Other principal contenders
The Queen’s #5 Reach for the Moon (10-1) was a green second to Godolphin’s professional #3 New Science (3-1) in their mutual debut at Yarmouth. Despite that, the Gosden pupil quickened well in pursuit of New Science who got away with an easy lead. More pace factors are in this field, so whether New Science adjusts tactically or not, there’s a case for Reach for the Moon to move forward with the experience and more favorable dynamic. The blueblood son of Sea the Stars, whose progeny excel with age, must have raw talent to stamp his ticket to Royal Ascot at two.
#7 Sweeping (12-1) exits a fine second to Dhabab, a troubled sixth as the favorite in Tuesday’s Coventry S. (G2). As a Siyouni colt from a Group 3-placed Sea the Stars mare, Sweeping can improve over the extra distance and soft going. #1 Great Max (10-1), a “nephew” of 2015 Chesham winner Suits You, showed a fine turn of foot to get up in time at Newbury, and #2 Masakela (5-1) plowed through soft to score first up at Goodwood.
Race 2 – Jersey S. (G3) (10:05 a.m. ET)
Top selection: #10 Mutasaabeq (5-1)
Fitting the profile for this race as a classic also-ran cutting back in class and trip, Mutasaabeq is also 2-for-2 at seven furlongs on contrasting ground. The Shadwell homebred scored a debut win over heavy at Newmarket last fall, then reappeared in spectacular fashion at the same track, opening up on a good course to clock 1:22.66.
Trainer Charlie Hills supplemented him to the 2000 Guineas (G1), but the original idea that it was too much, too soon proved right as he tired to seventh. By Invincible Spirit and out of classic-winning miler Ghanaati, who captured the 2009 Coronation S. (G1) here, Mutasaabeq can rebound. The one concern, post 1, isn’t enough to talk me off him.
Other principal contenders
Guineas ninth #8 Legion of Honour (20-1) wasn’t far off the principals at Newmarket until fading late. Two starts back in the Burradon S., the Roger Varian colt gave the useful Megallan all he could handle before getting outstayed deep in the eighth furlong. Legion of Honour’s fluency on Tapeta gives hope that he’ll be effective on soft.
The Queen has all bases covered regardless of the weather. While her Royal Ascot-winning gelding Tactical won’t like the rain, her filly #18 Light Refrain (15-1) has turned in her best efforts this spring on soft or heavy. The daughter of Frankel beat elders in the Kilvington S. at Nottingham and stayed on for a close fourth in the Sandy Lane S. (G2) (which produced the first-past-the-post in Friday’s Commonwealth Cup [G1]). She’s looking for the seventh furlong.
The Commonwealth Cup would have been the spot for #4 Creative Force (5-1), but geldings are not eligible, so Appleby goes here as the fall-back position. The Dubawi half to Persuasive, who stunned males here in the 2017 Queen Elizabeth II S. (G1) on Champions Day, should appreciate the added ground. I’d rank him more highly if not for my resistance to fall-back positions.
Stablemate Naval Crown checks the classic box as the Guineas fourth, but he’s more exposed, and could not capitalize on his weight or Tactical’s frustrating trip when The Queen’s homebred nailed him two back. Filly #19 Va Dream (12-1) also has the classic formline as the 1000 Guineas (G1) sixth after a third in the salty Fred Darling S. (G3) at this distance to Alcohol Free, winner of Friday’s Coronation S. (G1).
Race 3 – Hardwicke S. (G2) (10:40 a.m. ET)
This 1 1/2-mile affair is loaded with contenders of differing profiles, those hoping to regain old form and others on the upswing.
Top selection: #4 Highest Ground (12-1)
When in doubt, go with Stoute. Sir Michael has owned this race with 11 wins in the modern era. Highest Ground, a onetime Derby (G1) candidate, has the earmarks of a “Stoute improver” at four. The Niarchos Family’s son of Frankel wheels back from a June 7 confidence-builder at Leicester, also his first try at the trip.
Highest Ground had to hit top gear fast in a race devoid of early pace, and he’ll get a better set-up in the Hardwicke. Aside from the need to improve, he has to answer the ground question. His record isn’t great on slower courses, but he just missed to #12 Thunderous (20-1) in last summer’s postponed Dante S. (G2) at a rain-affected York. If his disappointments are more because of developmental phases, Highest Ground might be sitting on a breakout performance.
Other principal contenders
Heavy going is just what #15 Wonderful Tonight (10-1) wants, but she hasn’t run since dominating the British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1) at this course and distance in October. Trainer David Menuisier has bided his time with the French-bred, mapping out her campaign toward the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1). The question is whether she’s fit enough to win off the bench. No such worries for the other distaffer, #14 Albaflora (15-1), who boasts soft-ground form at Ascot.
Winner of a handicap at this track and trip at last year’s Royal meeting, #5 Hukum (9-2) just captured the Tapster S. on soft at Goodwood. The Shadwell homebred faces a stiffer task here, but he’s poised to keep progressing. The same point applies to upwardly mobile handicapper #6 Ilaraab (8-1).
The 2019 St Leger (G1) hero, #8 Logician (10-1), hasn’t looked the same since a near-fatal illness, but the Gosden trainee has claims to move forward from a reappearing third to Al Aasy and Thunderous. His best form, however, is on a quicker surface.
The two remaining Ballydoyle runners (Mogul and Tiger Moth scratched) make sense without inspiring a lot of confidence. Favored #2 Broome (7-2) has put together four fine races already this campaign, but he doesn’t lay over this deep field. While Japan finally looked ready to build upon his stellar sophomore season, he’s unlikely to fire his best shot on this ground.
Race 4 – Diamond Jubilee S. (G1) (11:20 a.m. ET)
Top selection: #1 Art Power (8-1)
Art Power emerged on the sprint scene as a sophomore last year, and two of his notable efforts came on rain-softened going at Ascot. The Dark Angel colt bolted up in a five-furlong handicap during the Royal meeting and signed off with a close fourth, beaten only a length, in the British Champions Sprint (G1) at this six-furlong distance.
Since it’s usually tough for three-year-olds to compete against elders, Art Power is entitled to up his game now at four. His comeback in the Duke of York S. (G2) didn’t go according to plan as he wound up a frustrating sixth behind Starman, but that shouldn’t be held against him. Trainer Tim Easterby faulted himself for his instructions to jockey Silvestre de Sousa, and they’ll avoid another miscue here.
Other principal contenders
British Champions Sprint winner #5 Glen Shiel (10-1) was in the form of his life in the second half of 2020, and the Pivotal gelding will get his optimal conditions. Archie Watson’s seven-year-old likely needed the tightener in his latest.
Longshot appeal is furnished by #12 Ventura Rebel (20-1), who’s won or placed in all three starts over the course. The Richard Fahey pupil broke his maiden here, just missed in the 2019 Norfolk S. (G2) on soft, and finished third in last summer’s Commonwealth Cup. Like Art Power, he should turn the page on his return fifth in the Duke of York. Also potentially overpriced is #14 Sonaiyla (15-1). Although she ran well below form in the British Champions Sprint, the Paddy Twomey mare has traded decisions with Glen Shiel at the Curragh, and her best puts her right in the mix.
A flying second in the past two editions of this race, #2 Dream of Dreams (3-1) has obvious claims. The one caveat is that he hasn't run up to that level in the past three runnings of the British Champions Sprint here. Favorite #10 Starman (5-2) would be more compelling in better conditions. Starman extended his record to 4-for-5 with a determined score over #7 Nahaar (9-2) at York, but that lone loss was a 14th in the British Champions Sprint.