Selections for Wednesday's Group races at Royal Ascot 2021
The Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Prince of Wales’s S. (G1) is the highlight of Wednesday’s card at Royal Ascot. There’s a beatable favorite in the small field, and we’ll look for value in the day’s three other Group races as well.
Race 1 - Queen Mary S. (G2) (9:30 a.m. ET)
Top selection: #8 Eve Lodge (20-1)
While Wesley Ward’s flyer Twilight Gleaming is a worthy favorite who could just be too fast, Eve Lodge is too tempting an overlay to resist a swing at the fences. By hot freshman sire Ardad, Eve Lodge had a nightmare traffic snarl on debut at this course and distance, yet flew late in an eye-catching third. The Charlie Fellowes trainee then won a restricted novice on the Lingfield turf without coming off the bridle. Her margin could have been doubled had Jamie Spencer moved a muscle. Fellowes said that Eve Lodge has progressed even more coming into Ascot, and his excitement is palpable. She looks potentially very smart.
Other contenders of interest
The aforementioned #19 Twilight Gleaming (3-1) put on an exhibition of speed in her Belmont Park maiden win, and the Irish-bred has the right credentials to give Ward his fifth win in this race. Indeed, Ward has excelled in the Queen Mary more than any other Royal Ascot event.
Also worthy of note is #7 Desert Dreamer (8-1), who’s 2-for-2 at Newmarket. Rolling from off the pace, the Oasis Dream filly captured a key maiden to become a rare debut winner for Stuart Williams. The form has been franked repeatedly, including by next-out Marygate S. winner Nymphadora who re-opposes here. Desert Dreamer came back to beat males in a restricted novice at six furlongs, where she pulled early. The hot pace here back at five will help her settle and set up her closing kick.
Karl Burke’s #11 Illustrating (12-1) beat the Marygate fifth-placer in her debut at Catterick, despite looking unbalanced on the ski jump-like undulation and stumbling. The nicely bred filly is a daughter of Showcasing and 2005 Coronation S. (G1) winner Maids Causeway.
Another appealing longshot is #3 Cheerupsleepyjean (20-1), a convincing debut winner at the Curragh. Although she flopped in a listed stakes versus males on unsuitably rain-softened ground, the Fozzy Stack pupil will be a different animal back on a quicker surface. By Starspangledbanner, Cheerupsleepyjean is from the family of 2014 Queen Mary winner Anthem Alexander, Dandy Man, and Mother Earth.
Race 2 - Queen’s Vase (G2) (10:05 a.m. ET)
Aidan O’Brien and Mark Johnston have each won this race seven times, and both have major chances of adding another.
Top selection: #7 Kyprios (12-1)
O’Brien’s ostensible second-stringer arguably has more going for him than the Ballydoyle favorite, Wordsworth. A full brother to classy stayers Search for a Song and Falcon Eight, and a half to Sapphire and Free Eagle, Kyprios shaped like a future marathoner when getting up in his Galway debut. Although he’s run tamely in his two British forays, both came in Group company on soft, and I’d make the case that his very placement in those races is a tip. He looked at his sharpest when scoring on good ground at Cork in his reappearance. Kyprios exits a fourth in the Lingfield Derby Trial, where future Epsom Derby (G1) upsetter Adayar was second, and the step up in trip is just what he needs.
Other contenders of interest
Jessica Harrington’s #13 Taipan (12-1) likewise brings classic trial form to bear on the stretch-out, and adds blinkers that could help as much as the distance. The son of Frankel was a staying-on third, and then fifth, in the two Derby preps at Leopardstown behind Epsom favorite Bolshoi Ballet. Taipan had a messy trip when fourth in the Gallinule S. (G3), and with a fairer chance here, can reverse form with Gallinule runner-up Arturo Toscanini.
Johnston observed in his At the Races stable tour that #3 Dancing King (10-1) is “on a steep upward curve.” A perfect 4-for-4 since being gelded, the son of Free Eagle overcame traffic, and top weight of 133 pounds, to prevail in a Doncaster handicap at the St Leger (G1) distance. Thus Dancing King is taking a class hike from handicaps, but he’s proven over an extended 1 3/4 miles.
The aforementioned #14 Wordsworth (5-2) is a full brother to Kew Gardens, the hero of the 2018 Queen’s Vase and St Leger. Runner-up to one-time Derby favorite High Definition in their mutual debut, Wordsworth was most recently upset in the 1 5/8-mile Yeats S. He was a tad headstrong before being nailed late, and he lacks the experience of Kyprios.
The experience factor is the only hesitation about #6 Kemari (8-1), a Dubawi blueblood who just bolted up in a Yarmouth maiden. As much as I like Kemari as a long-term prospect, fellow Godolphin #8 Law of the Sea (15-1) shouldn’t be twice his price. The Gosden trainee can be forgiven his Chester Vase (G3) debacle since he came down with a cough.
Race 3 - Duke of Cambridge S. (G2) (10:40 a.m. ET)
Top selection: #3 Queen Power (9-2)
Sir Michael Stoute has trained four winners of this race, and Queen Power can make it five. Although she has placed in both prior tries at a mile, including a third here last summer, the five-year-old has returned stronger. Queen Power was just denied by Lady Bowthorpe in their Dahlia S. (G2) comeback, needing the run since jockey Silvestre de Sousa said she got tired. She then moved forward to post a new career high in a Middleton S. (G2) rout. Granted, Queen Power was the class of the field in that about 1 5/16-mile affair.
But because Queen Power enters in the form of her life, my hypothesis is that the long highly-regarded mare – a Shamardal half to Zabeel Prince from the immediate family of Rizeena and Summer Romance – can keep the momentum going on the cutback.
Other contenders of interest
Rampantly progressive favorite #2 Lady Bowthorpe (9-5) is the one to beat, not just off the Dahlia. The William Jarvis mare exits a gallant second in the Lockinge S. (G1) to top miler Palace Pier, who just won Tuesday’s Queen Anne S. (G1). A repeat of that would easily account for this field. Yet the scruple is that was a possibly taxing effort on softish going, and chances are that Lady Bowthorpe won't quite match it. If not, there’s not a great deal between her and Queen Power.
The price on Harrington’s #13 Valeria Messalina (15-1) looks far too generous, based on her near-miss to One Master in last year’s Oak Tree S. (G3) at Glorious Goodwood. The Holy Roman Emperor filly is at her best in these conditions, so her last-of-six in her reappearance on soft-to-heavy at the Curragh is a toss. Note that Valeria Messalina gets three pounds from both Lady Bowthorpe and Queen Power.
Also overpriced is #9 Lavender’s Blue (12-1), who was third in that three-way Dahlia finish and adds cheekpieces. Trainer Johnny Murtagh could be right that #1 Champers Elysees (10-1) can regain her old spark. But last year’s Matron S. (G1) heroine is conceding two pounds to Lady Bowthorpe and Queen Power, and five to the rest.
Race 4 - Prince of Wales’s S. (G1) (11:20 a.m. ET)
If last year’s all-conquering filly Love can pick up where she left off, she’d justify her short price. But that is precisely to be determined after a nearly 10-month absence. Aside from the usual uncertainty of progression from three to four, Love is in no soft comeback spot. She’s never faced colts, let alone older males, and O’Brien has said that the quick ground is why she’s here rather than waiting for the Pretty Polly S. (G1) versus distaffers. That constellation of circumstances makes it tough to back her blindly at the odds.
Top selection: #1 Armory (3-1)
Although overshadowed among the riches of Ballydoyle, Armory has quietly emerged as a high-class campaigner. His third to Magical and Ghaiyyath in last fall’s Irish Champion S. (G1) represents better company lines than Love, and the Galileo colt has backed it up in the interim. Second in Australia’s Cox Plate (G1) to ex-Ballydoyle star Sir Dragonet, Armory returned triumphant in the Huxley S. (G3) over Sangarius. Perhaps most important, O’Brien revealed to At the Races that Armory was set for this task, so he’s no afterthought.
Other contenders of interest
Defending champion #3 Lord North (9-5), last seen romping in the Dubai Turf (G1) on Dubai World Cup night, typically fires fresh. The Gosden charge was rebounding from a few losses since his Royal heroics, however, and it would be a rare achievement to repeat in this race. Only three horses have managed to win it twice, the last being Muhtarram (1994-95) – for Gosden.
Champion #7 Love (8-5) would add to her historic resume if she can answer all the questions here. The projected slow pace is another variable that could go either way. Might it make it easier on her fitness-wise, having just to sprint home rather than endure a sustained test off the bench? Or would ring-rustiness manifest itself when the decisive dash comes?
The pace puzzle could magnify the chances of #4 My Oberon (20-1), who has tactical speed and adds cheekpieces. The crafty William Haggas has been eyeing this target for the improving son of Dubawi. Forget his seventh in the Lockinge two back. That was an ad hoc run only because Haggas thought he wasn’t going to work out logistics for the Prix d’Ispahan (G1). My Oberon was able to travel to France after all, where he came agonizingly close in third to Skalleti.
The aforementioned #5 Sangarius (30-1) has the opposite profile, of a once-promising type who’s turned out to be more frustrating than not. Yet the Juddmonte homebred’s biggest career win came over this course and distance in the 2019 Hampton Court S. (G3), and Stoute has won this race four times.