Selections for Saturday’s features at Royal Ascot 2020
The fifth day of Royal Ascot is arguably the biggest beneficiary of the schedule switcheroo. Loaded with three Group 1s and a pair of Group 2s for juveniles, Saturday’s finale sends the meeting off with a bang.
The eight-race card begins early with the Silver Wokingham H. at 7:40 a.m. (ET) and concludes as ever with the Queen Alexandra, now at 11:40 a.m. The Royal action leads us right into the opener of Belmont Stakes Day, with Belmont Park’s first post at 11:45 a.m., making for an all-day transatlantic festival.
Race 2 - Queen Mary (8:15 a.m. ET)
1st – #13 Sacred (6-1): By Exceed and Excel and out of a half-sister to Lady Eli, Sacred captured a hot Newmarket maiden that has produced three next-out winners so far (including Happy Romance and Risque). The Cheveley Park homebred also did it in some style, drafting just behind the leaders on the bridle before punching through to win comfortably over Sardinia Sunset. The William Haggas pupil projects a similar trip drawn in post 5, near Wesley Ward’s Campanelle (post 1) who ensures a rollicking pace on the far side. Note that the eye-catching fourth in Sacred’s maiden, Mahale, runs in Friday’s Albany (G3). If the well-regarded Mahale is able to spring an upset, it would give Sacred a timely compliment.
2nd - #14 Sands of Time (10-1): First winner sired by Bobby’s Kitten demolished them on the front end over Lingfield’s Polytrack. Although the form hasn’t held up, the Mark Johnston filly was a class apart, recalling the free-wheeling manner of her sire. Sands of Time also inherits speed and precocity from her Group 3-winning dam, Starlit Sands, who was just denied by a half-length in the 2007 Queen Mary (G2). From a fine Kirsten Rausing family, the homebred has longshot appeal from post 12.
3rd - #8 More Beautiful (5-2): War Front half-sister to Saxon Warrior was more forward than a typical Aidan O’Brien debutante when starring at Naas. In the vanguard throughout while going sweetly, she drove clear with authority. Her dam, Group 1 queen Maybe, likewise dominated first out on the same track before adding the 7-furlong Chesham at Royal Ascot 2011. It’s intriguing that O’Brien keeps More Beautiful to 5 furlongs rather than stepping up a panel for Friday’s Albany as mooted. Is that decision partly influenced by stablemate Mother Earth, who needs the Albany’s 6 furlongs? Speculation aside, More Beautiful is a top contender here, if a bit short-priced in a race with other potentially smart fillies. Her stands’ side draw (post 18) could continue to be a plus.
4th - #3 Dandalla (20-1) and #4 Dickiedooda (10-1): The joint selection is necessary because Dandalla is cross-entered to the Albany and might scratch from this spot. Trained by Karl Burke, the Dandy Man filly was a good-looking debut winner at Newcastle over a couple of next-out winners including Sparkling Perry. Jessica Harrington’s Dickiedooda had too much pace for her foes at the Curragh, and the daughter of Starspangledbanner can go well here if able to handle the seven-day turnaround.
Race 3 – Coventry (8:50 a.m. ET)
1st - #12 Qaader (5-1): Representing the red-hot connections of Sheikh Hamdan and jockey Jim Crowley, the Johnston juvenile looked well above average in his Newbury premiere at this trip. Qaader was within himself as the rest came under pressure, and once urged on, he bounded away despite veering across the course. The third-placer has already come back to win on short rest. Qaader tries to do the same eight days after his introduction, and given how tough the Middleham-based horses are, he’s entitled to back it up. The son of emerging young sire Night of Thunder, from the family of Shirocco, has the profile of one who can go on to much bigger things. A possible negative is post 4, depending upon how the race unfolds.
2nd - #1 Admiral Nelson (3-1): Coolmore money was apparently well spent on the £440,000 Goffs UK Premier Yearling Sale topper who stands to become O’Brien’s 10th Coventry (G2) winner. By Kingman and out of a juvenile stakes-winning Exceed and Excel mare, Admiral Nelson turned in a most pleasing 5-furlong debut at the Curragh. Favored stablemate Merchants Quay was in pole position much of the way, until Admiral Nelson deftly rallied from just off the pace to score in hand. The step up to 6 furlongs should be fine. Like Qaader, Admiral Nelson wheels back from June 12, but he doesn’t offer the same value. Admiral Nelson does have a potentially better draw in post 10 where he’ll have pace to track.
3rd - #8 Lauded (10-1): Impressive first-out winner employed tactical speed on the rail before opening up at Haydock, and could work out the same kind of passage drawn here on the stands’ side. His form wasn’t flattered when the runner-up, Fast Start, flopped when shortening up in Wednesday’s Windsor Castle, but Lauded can speak for himself. The Tom Dascombe pupil sports a solid sprinting pedigree as a son of Acclamation and stakes-placed juvenile Thatsallimsaying, by Dandy Man.
4th - #15 Talbot (10-1): Son of Gleneagles and well-related Grade 3 victress Sea Chanter finished with a flourish to topple favorite Jojo Rabbit in his Lingfield debut. Jojo Rabbit came right back to romp at Wolverhampton and now takes his chance in Friday’s Norfolk (G2). Talbot lines up over an extra furlong here that figures to suit him, and he could be flying beneath the radar for Brian Meehan. Speaking of under-the-radar, blueblood #6 Existent (12-1) was a sneaky third at Newmarket on debut for John Gosden. As a win candidate, the Cheveley Park homebred is up against a potent trend in favor of last-out winners taking the Coventry, but he rates an excellent chance in the exotics at a price.
Race 4 – Coronation (9:25 a.m. ET)
1st - #4 Quadrilateral (5-2): Beaten 1000 Guineas (G1) favorite is eligible to rebound in this second start of the season. Too fresh for her own good as she didn’t relax early, the Frankel filly couldn’t pick up as the victorious Love strode clear. But she still showed a good attitude to soldier on for third, just a head shy of pacesetter Cloak of Spirits. As trainer Roger Charlton commented afterward, Quadrilateral might just not cope too well with Newmarket. Indeed, in last fall’s Fillies’ Mile (G1), she looked beaten a long way before finally getting up in time. That came in her third outing as a juvenile, whereas she had no prep for the Guineas. Judging by how much the Juddmonte homebred improved second time out at two – from a narrow debut win to a 9-length conditions rout – she could be back to her best here.
2nd - #6 Sharing (9-2): Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) winner comes along in the right year to try this race. Not quite a summit meeting of the leading 3-year-old filly milers, the Coronation is lacking the English and Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) winners, and there’s no French representation. Sharing has more going for her than Graham Motion’s previous Coronation runner, Miss Temple City, who was fourth in 2015. If not for my imagination about what Quadrilateral might still be capable of, I was tempted to put Sharing on top.
3rd - #1 Alpine Star (5-1): Half-sister to the course record-setting winner of this race in 2018, Alpha Centauri, has a different profile but plenty of upside in her comeback. As a daughter of Sea the Moon, Alpine Star figures to stay much farther than a mile, and Harrington expects her to be a 1 1/2-mile filly. After beating Ballydoyle colt Santiago (who runs in Friday’s Queen’s Vase [G2]) in a Galway maiden, Alpine Star posted a determined score in the Aug. 23 Debutante (G2), where the bridesmaid So Wonderful was fourth and Love fifth on yielding ground. Unfortunately, a setback halted her juvenile campaign. For whatever it’s worth, Harrington’s other star juveniles of last year, Millisle and Albigna, were subpar in their respective Guineas reappearances. On the plus side, new pilot Frankie Dettori will have her well placed throughout and make use of her stamina.
4th - #5 Run Wild (4-1): Gosden trainee was a surprise package recently in the 1 1/4-mile Pretty Polly, not so much that she won, as how she did it – by a front-running tour de force that blew the race apart. Run Wild’s juvenile record didn’t imply she could spread-eagle the field in a listed turf race at Newmarket. She had useful form, including a third to Queen’s Vase favorite Born With Pride and Irish 1000 Guineas heroine Peaceful in the Nov. 2 Montrose Fillies S., but not the profile of a budding star. While I’m not sure if we’ll see similar fireworks up in class and down in trip, with likely pace company, the German-bred has more to offer.
Race 5 – St James’s Palace (10 a.m. ET)
1st - #2 Palace Pier (5-1): One of last summer’s most exciting 2-year-olds, Palace Pier was sidelined before any potential clash with champion Pinatubo could materialize. But now the unbeaten colt gets his chance, and with the benefit of an easy prep for Gosden. Returning in a mile handicap over Newcastle’s Tapeta, Palace Pier successfully gave 9 pounds to runner-up Acquitted and forged well clear. (Acquitted was a tailed-off last in Thursday's Golden Gates H. but in the circumstances, it shouldn't reflect on Palace Pier.) The son of Kingman, a perfect 3-for-3 by more than 11 lengths, looks poised to prove himself in this long-awaited test of class.
2nd – #2 Pinatubo (2-1): Previously undefeated star was an honorable third to Kameko and Wichita in the 2000 Guineas (G1), his chances likely compromised by the searing end-to-end gallop in his first try at a mile. The Charlie Appleby runner stands to benefit from that run, as he tackles the round mile here as opposed to Newmarket’s straight. On the other hand, it would be no surprise if the Coolmore tag team tries to orchestrate a similarly testing pace, and any weakness at the trip will be exposed. My hunch is that Pinatubo will run another fine race without quite duplicating his former flash.
3rd - #7 Wichita (9-5): 2000 Guineas runner-up was in the firing line throughout and nearly held on, until the closing Kameko outstayed him late. Last year, the O’Brien pupil had no problem wheeling back on 13 days’ rest, improving from a close second to Molatham (Thursday's Jersey [G3] hero) in the Flying Scotsman to dominate the Somerville Tattersall (G3). Another quick turnaround for the Dewhurst (G1) resulted in a third to Pinatubo and stablemate Arizona, but the soft going was perhaps more of a factor. With the Ascot forecast looking better Friday and Saturday, the ground should be drying out enough not to play a decisive role.
4th - #4 Positive (12-1): Trainer Clive Cox skipped the Guineas so that Positive would enter this target straight off the bench, and he’s an attractive price in light of his juvenile resume. By far best of the rest when second to Pinatubo in the Vintage (G2), Positive also edged Kameko despite racing greenly in the Solario (G3). His Dewhurst sixth can be excused on account of the ground. He’ll appreciate both fair weather and the chance of a strong pace to set up his kick.
Race 6 – Diamond Jubilee (10:35 a.m. ET)
1st - #10 One Master (6-1): Lael Stables’ top-class mare has already beaten males in the past two runnings of the Prix de la Foret (G1), and she came close in three other Group 1s last season. Two came over this course – an excellent third in the one-mile Queen Anne (G1) that stretches her a bit, and a second in the British Champions Sprint (G1) at this trip, defeating several of her Saturday opponents. The Haggas trainee has yet to win in a seasonal reappearance, but this is the first time since her career debut (three years ago) that she begins over 6 furlongs. That could be the key, and her resume stands out in an open-looking race.
2nd - #2 Hello Youmzain (3-1): Kevin Ryan sprinter was one of the elite in the division last year, from beating Calyx in the Sandy Lane (G2) to scoring his career high over elder statesman The Tin Man in the Haydock Sprint Cup (G1) at the same track. His Ascot results were mixed, a third in the Commonwealth Cup (G1) during the Royal meeting and a subpar eighth when last seen in the British Champions Sprint. The Kodiac colt is still relatively unexposed and capable of much more.
3rd - #5 Sceptical (2-1): It would be a fairy tale if the Godolphin castoff can win a major sprint prize over the same course where his dam, Jealous Again, won the 2009 Queen Mary (G2) for Wesley Ward. Trainer Denis Hogan has transformed the €2,800 purchase into Ireland’s leading sprinter in just several months, graduating from the Dundalk Polytrack to a handsome stakes (and turf) debut at Naas. This is a much bigger test, so I’m more cautious than confident.
4th - #7 Speak in Colours (30-1): Fourth to Blue Point and Dream of Dreams in last year’s edition at 50-1, the Joseph O’Brien veteran has a right to duplicate that performance if not do better. The gray got an earlier start to his campaign this year, finishing fourth in the 1351 Sprint on the Saudi Cup undercard, and just tuned up with a second in last Saturday’s Gladness (G3). The front-running winner, Lancaster House, is a real up-and-comer who posted a fast time for 7 furlongs at the Curragh.