Royal Ascot 2017 - Day 2
Despite only being a Group 3, this is a race packed full of quality and the winner will undoubtedly be winning in Group 1 company before too long. The obvious starting point is with Le Brivido, trained in France by the master trainer Andre Fabre. He was narrowly beaten by Brametot in the French 2000 Guineas who has since gone on to follow up in the Prix Du Jockey Club, suggesting that he is probably the best three-year-old in Europe. The drop back to 7f certainly won’t inconvenience Le Brivido.
The obvious alternative is the Frankel colt, Dream Castle. He was unsuited by how the race set-up in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and a strongly run 7f looks ideal for him. He will be ridden by Josephine Gordon, last year’s Champion Apprentice, who is bidding to become the first female rider to win a race at Royal Ascot in 30 years.
Of those at bigger prices, Chessman strikes as a horse of whom we have yet to see the best of yet. He has been sent off as a warm favourite on both handicap starts this season, and despite being beat on both occasions, he is undeniably talented and has the potential to progress into a Group class performer.
Wesley Ward is aiming to win the Queen Mary for the third successive year with Acapulco and Lady Aurelia obliging in the previous two renewals. He has the warm favourite this time around with Happy Like A Fool. She is the obvious one; she won well on her debut and has the assistance of Ryan Moore in the saddle.
She is open to any amount of improvement, but the same can be said about the vast majority of the field. Two that make appeal were closely matched on their debut run where Mrs Gallagher got the better of Out Of The Flames. Mrs Gallagher did extremely well to win, rallying after being headed. Out Of The Flames, an expensive breeze-up purchase, showed the benefit of that initial outing when winning well at Windsor on her second start. With the extra run around her belt, perhaps Out Of The Flames can get the better of that particular argument on this occasion.
With Laugh Aloud a non-runner due to heat in her leg, Godolphin still have a great candidate in the form of last year’s winner Usherette. She has to prove her effectiveness on rattling quick ground but given she’s been supplemented for this contest and running in to form, she rates a creditable alternative. Last year’s Coronation Stakes winner Qemah adds even more ballast to the strong French challenge. She was disappointing at Lingfield last time out but it would be unwise to dismiss her on the back of that. She is classy and Rouget’s runners are in good form.
The real intriguing one is the ex-South African trained Smart Call, who is now in the care of Sir Michael Stoute. She ran a nice race at York on her first run in Britain, which will have put her spot on for today. She is the highest rated of these on official ratings and a multiple Group 1 winner in South Africa, and with the assistance of Ryan Moore she can outrun her price.
Jack Hobbs’ participation hinges on whether his connections deem the quick ground suitable. If he takes his place in the line-up and he handles the ground, then he is the most likely winner.
Highland Reel is an admirable globetrotter who won’t be fazed by the underfoot conditions. Whether this trip will see him at his best is debatable. French raider Mekhtaal appears to have improved from three to four and he doesn’t have a huge amount to find with the principles on all know form.
The one who is potentially the most interesting is Ulysees. He is a horse who carried a huge reputation last year as a three-year-old. His trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, excels with this type of horse and it will be no surprise to see him fulfil his potential this year. He produced a career best to win the Gordon Richard Stakes on his seasonal reappearance, travelling supremely well and beating a useful yardstick in Deauville in the process. He should improve from that again and may well be the one to beat.
A thirty-runner cavalry charge over the straight mile is always a sight to behold and this renewal boasts a whole host of fascinating contenders. Fastnet Tempest won the Victoria Cup over 7f here before producing a devastating turn-of-foot to extricate himself from a seemingly impossible position to win at Chester last time. He has sound claims but could prove vulnerable to a stronger stayer over this stiff mile.
El Vip has the credentials to win a valuable, big field handicap. After failing to settle at Haydock on his penultimate start, different tactics were adopted at Newcastle where he romped to victory in a visually taking performance. Following the injury to Frankie Dettori, Jamie Spencer retains the partnership and this horse is ideal for his favoured style of riding. His draw in 14 should enable him to get sufficient cover and a get nice toe in to the race.
Of the others, Yuften won the valuable closing handicap over course and distance on last year’s British Champions Day card. He has not been seen since Lincoln at Doncaster in April, where he travelled in to the race extremely well and looked like he would fight out the finish before not really picking up on rain softened ground. A return to quicker ground will suit and he retains the partnership with Andrea Atzeni, who knows the horse well.
Josephine Gordon has another chance to bag a winner as she has landed the ride on the John Gosden trained favourite, Gymnaste. Gymnaste beat a subsequent winner well in a Chester maiden before finishing an unlucky second in a Kempton Park handicap where she did not enjoy the rub of the green. She is better than she was able to show at Kempton and the return to turf and the step up to a mile is in her favour.
Gosden has another interesting candidate in the form of Present Tense. She is a half-sister to the brilliant Kingman, who won at this meeting as a three-year-old, as did her other half-brother Remote. She was far too green to do herself justice on racecourse debut before making amends at the second time of asking at Yarmouth. She was probably caught out by the drop back to 7f, softer ground and a slow pace at Leicester and she can bounce back returned to a mile on quicker ground.
Rain Goddess has not quite hit the heights expected of her, however, she has been highly tried and ran well in the French 1000 Guineas on her latest start. Judged on that run, this looks a realistic assignment on handicap debut and is respected for her top trainer/jockey combination.
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