The latest Flat Racing review from our trader Neal Hough. Here's all the action from Royal Ascot, including some highs and lows and an amusing insight into the workings of the trading desk! Ever wondered what they get up to at meetings? Wonder no more...
Tuesday : King Caravaggio
Queen Anne Stakes and Tepin took home the crown without the aid of Lasix or the well talked about nasal strip she beat an ordinary bunch of European and Uk milers with Lockinge winner Belrado chasing her home in ground that suited him . The winner probably won't be going for the Sussex but I think we can expect the 3yo crop to defeat their elders at Goodwood .
Coventry Stakes and the first of two memorable 2yo performances of the week. Caravaggio previously mentioned on the blog after making his winning debut at Dundalk powered to victory even though being drawn on the wrong side he easily got to the front and Ryan Moore allowed him to drift over to the far side where Mehmas was leading that group to win very comfortably by over 2 lengths hitting the line hard. The 10/1 for the 2017 2000 Guineas was taken and now he stands at 5/1. We can expect to see the winner in all the top class 2yo races at 6 and 7f until the end of the season.
The Kings Stand was won by the seasons best and most progressive older sprinter at 5f in the shape of Clive Cox trained Profitable. Adam Kirby always had the 4yo travelling well and had enough in the tank to hold of Cotai Glory in the closing stages The favourite, Meccas Angel had ground to suit but was unable to fire after being more prominently ridden than in previous races she will be given the once over before being aimed at a repeat of the Nunthorpe at York later in the season.
This year's renewal of the St. James Palace stakes was being talked about as the 3yo mile championship with the winners of the English, Irish and French Guineas all doing battle but Galileo Gold held sway under a canny front-running ride from Frankie Dettori. Many will talk about how far Ryan Moore had held up The Gurkha but he met some trouble in the short Ascot home straight and was still 1 length behind at the line. The front two will no doubt be looking to head to Glorious Goodwood for a rematch where I expect Aiden O’Brien to employ a pacemaker to ensure a repeat of Ascot can’t happen again and I would expect The Gurkha to turn around the form.
The Ascot stakes over 2m4f was won from the front in honest style by Jennies Jewel with Ronnie Whelan the jockey judging the fractions to perfection but in all honesty it didn't make for great viewing on bad ground with a selection of hedge hoppers in behind.
The final race of day 1 was the Windsor Castle stakes won very nicely by the John Gosden trained Ardad at 20/1 having only won his maiden at Yarmouth the week before he can go on to win group races and perhaps he will be seen in the Molcombe at Goodwood next .
Wednesday : Ladies impress and the resurgence of Godolphin.
The Jersey stakes opened the card and Ribchester (pictured, left) owned by Godolphin won this race nicely after travelling the best in the race and on this evidence can step back up to Group 1 company with connections talking about a possible tilt at the Sussex at Glorious Goodwood he will have to step up considerably to test any of the Guineas winners to be competitive in that race . A welcome Royal Ascot winner for trainer Richard Fahey who lost all the horses that he trained for Ribchester's previous owner David Armstrong earlier in the month .
On to the performance of the week Lady Aurelia, a well backed 2/1 favourite, the Wesley Ward trained 2yo ridden by Frankie Dettori who had broken the track record at Keeneland on her debut on dirt now had to go a stiff 5f on soft ground , she broke very well as all of Ward’s horses do but then the way she travelled in the race was impressive but when Dettori asked her to go about her business with about 1.5 furlongs left it was nothing short of breathtaking and the jockey was celebrating with nearly 100 yards left she eased to the line over 7 lengths clear with unbeaten French filly Al Johrah in second . Afterwards Ward was quick to dismiss the Nunthorpe as a target and instead pointed at the Prix Morny but I’m not sure they will be able to ignore the Nunthorpe as she will only have to carry 7st 11 vs the older horses. Just to make a point of her victory and ability the time she clocked was 10 lengths faster that of Profitability when he won the Group 1 Kings Stand the day before over the same course and distance.
Another fast-improving filly is the 4yo Usherette 9/4F, Godolphin owned again) the Andre Fabre trained horse now unbeaten in 4 starts in 2016 and winner of 6 of her 7 lifetime starts easily won the Duke Of Cambridge stakes dropping back to a mile she travelled noticeably better than anything else in the race to hit the front with a furlong to go and was eased near the finish to win by over 2 lengths . Andre Fabre afterwards was glowing stating that she was probably one if the nicest fillies or mares that he has ever trained , high praise indeed from the Little Master who has trained some of the best around and we can expect to see her next in the Falmouth Stakes at the July meeting at Newmarket where she will be prohibitive odds her end of season target has already been mapped out as Fabre believes she can beat Tepin in the Breeders Cup Mile .
My Dream Boat (Kirby and Cox again 2nd Group 1 wins for the week ) lowered the colours of Found in a small field Prince Wales’s stakes where the Japanese horse A Shin Hikari disappointed but perhaps his demolition job in the Prix D’Isphan took more out of him than connections thought. The winner will head to the Eclipse at Sandown next where judging on the weather you are having in the UK he may need an outboard engine to run in.
The Hunt Cup was the 3rd winner of the Day owned by Godolphin and all 3 were not trained by either of the 2 in-house trainers based in Newmarket this one trained by the excellent Mick Halford in Ireland who had him trained to the minute to win over the same course and distance the horse had won a big handicap last season on similar ground he beat the big daytime gamble Librisa Breeze in to second who had he been drawn lower may have given the winner even more to think about .
The Sandringham Hcap was won in very good style by Persuasive (11/4fav) to end a very good day for the punters the John Gosden trained 3yo filly again ridden by Frankie Dettori who has improved in all 3 runs this year is now ready for a step up in class and was very well backed all day from much bigger prices we can expect to see her campaigned in Listed or Group races perhaps in France next.
Thursday : Aiden’s Day and Queen’s Hat debacle.
Before the racing had started we were already behind the 8 ball after the national hunt expert who trades next to me stuck his head above the parapet to announce ‘Don’t worry lads I’ve got the Queen’s hat betting covered today, I’m going out first no fear here‘. Suffice to say a colleague who works for another company came on first for a small bet on Orange at 8/1 then 2 further chunky bets laid at 11/2 and the market was suspended with no other firms having gone up we smelt a rat but it was already to late. With much expectancy we waited for the Queen’s carriage to appear at the top of the Ascot straight when a Blue coat was spotted we thought we had got away with it but no - the brightest Orange hat sat atop the monarch's head and all was lost and for once all was quiet from the seat on my left.
The Norfolk was won in fair style by the ‘Sprint King’ Robert Cowell’s Prince Of Lir who having won nicely on debut at Beverley in a conditions race again beat the same horse The Last Lion the winner needs a stiff 5 furlongs but there was some talk of the Nunthorpe later in the year as the 2yo do get large weight concessions from their elders .
Godolphin trained another winner when Hawksbill won a competitive renewal of the Tercentenary Stakes under William Buick he may look to the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood as both trainer and jockey think he will stay 1m4f .
The Ribblesdale stakes (Ascot Oaks) was won in convincing style by Even Song (2/1Fav) very confidently ridden by the best in the business Ryan Moore she hadn't been seen since looking like she needed her first run of the season at Newmarket in the Pretty Polly over 1m2f this 2f longer trip was what she needed and this lightly raced Coolmore owned 3yo filly can only improve and being a half sister to last year's St Leger winner Simple Verse a crack at the last classic might not be out of the question after she runs in the Irish Oaks next .
The Gold Cup the most prestigious race of the week was won impressively by Order of St George (10/11F) giving Aiden O’Brien has 7th win in the last 11 renewals of the race the only doubt pre race was the trip and the horse answered every call to pull away after meeting some minor trouble during the race for a decisive win - for me the winner could drop back to 1m4 to 1m6f and run in anything from the King George at Ascot to the Melbourne Cup but next stop will be trying to repeat last years demolition in the Irish St Leger .
The last 2 races on the card where the Britannia Hcap for 3yo’s won by the Jamie Osbourne trained Defrocked who is a fast improving handicapper who hit the front to soon and hung to the far rail and just held on in very tight finish. The King George V stakes was won by another fast improving handicapper Primitivo trained by Alan King more used to Cheltenham success than on the flat but this 3yo has improved by over 20lb during the season and the way he won here he hasn't stopped improving yet.
Friday : Aiden's second strings and the French filly.
The Albany stakes kicked of Day 4 and the ground had dried up to good to soft and Aiden O’Brien won the race with second string Brave Anna who wouldn't have been there if not for her owner persuading the trainer to take her this full sister to Hit It A Bomb needed the full Seamie Heffernan drive to prevail but the jockey got 9 days for his troubles now any of you that read previous blogs might remember this was the same jockey who rode Port Douglas like a kitten in the Chester Vase. Please watch a replay of both finishes and let me know your thoughts @NealHough. She looks like a filly who will appreciate further on better ground and expect to see her racing over 7f in the near future .
Across The Stars won the King Edward VII stakes under Frankie Dettori for Sir Michael Stoute just 13 days after not handling Epsom in the Derby kudos to Kieran Fallon who looked after him that day after not acting on the course as he certainly improved here and looks like a horse who will enjoy further but the trainer advised that he probably won't be aimed at the St Leger . A trip to Goodwood may be on the cards but he may have a break after 2 quick races. The third here Muntahaa is the horse to take from the race improving for the step up in trip to win his maiden at 1m4f he again came forward and was never closer than the line he must be followed in his next start.
Full marks to Karl Burke and to the winning connections of Commonwealth Cup winner Quiet Reflection who confirmed that her Haydock form was as good as it looked and apart from the wayward Kachy who hung his chance away she was much the best here and we can look forward to seeing her in all the top 6f Group 1 races later in the season - the trainer noted she may have a break but I’d like to see her run in the July Cup over an easier 6f than Ascot if she gets her soft ground she likes . The winner owned by the Ontoawinner syndicate proves you don't have to Coolmore, Godolphin et al to have a winner at Ascot .
The Coronation stakes saw me get as animated as I have trading a race since getting Camelot beaten in the St Leger in 2012 and caused great amusement on the desk not one to get carried away I found myself screaming ‘Go on the French filly ‘ as Qemah (pictured, left) hit the front and powered away to a decisive victory in a rough race where numerous fillies can count themselves unlucky Nemoralia for one and the Dermot Weld trained Tanaza were both blocked numerous times .
I had decided that Jet Setting was a lay and had put her up in our 'happy hour' slot as the horse to lay for the day and with Quiet Reflection winning the race before liabilities were high but the money stayed in the satchel and all were smiling and repeating the ‘Go on the French filly ‘ line for many an hour afterwards.
The Duke of Edinburgh stakes was won by the improving Kinema trained by Ralph Beckett who had to endure a stewards' enquiry after causing the third-placed horse Kings Fete to ease in the final furlong under our rules of racing there as no way the winner would get thrown out and after a televised stewards enquiry the result stood much to Beckett’s joy the last high profile stewards enquiry he had was the loss of the St Leger (won back on appeal) .
The Queen’s Vase brought down the end of day 4 and like the first race Aiden O’Brien bookended the day with another second string winner this time Sword Fighter (33/1) fought of all his rivals with a gutsy win over the 2mile trip under a good ride from Colm O’Donoghue . We can expect to see the winner again at York in the Great Voltigeur and then on to the St Leger itself he must have decent ew claims as we know he stays and is definitely being aimed at the race .
Saturday : Moore, Moore, Moore... how do you like it, and finally hats off!
When the prices got put out on Thursday morning for the Chesham stakes after the last declaration stage only one horse was backed and that horse was Churchill at all rates from 3/1 down to his sp of 8/11 fav. The punters seemed to know the result before it happened and he didn't disappoint them, much to our annoyance! He held on to win by half a length but his superiority was much more he travelled well under Ryan Moore before hitting the front to soon and drifting to the rail . All the top class 7f and 1mile 2yo races await and he is a sure fire contender for all the classics in 2017.
Sir Isaac Newton, the 3.6m horse had always seemed to underperform in his career but he was another winner on the day for Ryan Moore and Aiden O’Brien in the Wolferton Handicap his chances had been enhanced after Portage had won the Hunt Cup a horse he had been third to last time out he always had the ability but was becoming frustrating horse to follow but it all fell right for him on the day and according to his trainer his work at home is of the highest order but he just isn't taking it to the course .
The Hardwicke stakes saw the Queen’s Dartmouth a 4yo trained by Sir Michael Stoute a dab hand at this race he has trained 10 winners of the race and 7 of the last 11, Dartmouth who has improved with each run this season passed the post first much to the delight of all race goers especially Her Majesty but the dreaded stewards enquiry klaxon went of , however it would have taken a brave or stupid steward to demote the Monarchs horse and all was ok much to the delight of French jockey Olivier Peslier who did the steering. Stoute, a genius with these late-maturing types excels at having them at concert pitch for these races and a tilt at the King George may be on the agenda, however Dartmouth needs supplementing for that race.
Ryan Moore brought up his treble for the day when he supplied Henry Candy with his first Royal Ascot winner since the 1970’s on board his talented sprinter Twilight Son in the Diamond Jubilee stakes the yard had been very much out of form but Moore got him on top in the last furlong to win by a comfy neck in a close finish with three others , his next target will be the July Cup at Newmarket and he now heads the market for that race and should improve again to hold obvious claims.
The Wokingham used to be an impossible handicap but now you have to be rated 100 to get in to the race and it fell to the ‘Sprint King’ Robert Cowell and the well ridden Outback Traveller to get the better of ante-post favourite Brando who was coming back at him all the way to the line both if these horses are to be followed and there is a chance the winner may be better still over 5f in a very fast run race , expect to see Brando in all the big sprint handicaps at Goodwood and Ayr .
The last race of the week Queen Alexander stakes over the marathon staying trip of 2m5f was won by the Adam Kirby ridden Commissioned trained by big jumps trainer Gordon Elliott and brought to the end another high class week of racing .
Moore and O’Brien took top jockey and trainer awards but Ascot is more than that and anyone who saw the American filly Lady Aurelia scorch the soft Berkshire turf will know they have seen one of the most amazing performances of a lifetime now that's what high quality flat racing is all about .
Next time …....….down to earth with a bump as poor quality and bad ground take over.