THE five-day Royal Ascot meeting concludes today with plenty of Irish interest.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained More Beautiful can send punters home happy with victory in the Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2). A huge run is expected and all the vibes from Ballydoyle are very positive. More Beautiful ensured Aidan O’Brien got off to a perfect start when Irish racing resumed at Naas last week, the first race staged in Ireland following the coronavirus shutdown.
Seamie Heffernan was in the plate and was suitably impressed with this beautifully bred filly. More Beautiful was clearly in control with two furlongs to run and she stretched away in the closing stages to win in very taking style. Heffernan said: “She’s a War Front and every one of them have a lot of ability. She couldn’t have done it any easier and I liked what I felt today.”
Pinatubo was a costly failure in the 2000 Guineas and will face six rivals in today’s feature race, the St James’ Palace Stakes. He bids to bounce back from his disappointing third in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
The Charlie Appleby-trained son of Shamardal was defeated for the first time in the Newmarket Classic and will once again take on Wichita, who finished second.
Appleby said: “Naturally, you are always disappointed when you lose that unbeaten tag but I take the positive out of a negative and the positives are that he went down on his sword and that last year he improved with each run. Any improvement going forward from the Guineas and they have got him to beat.
“It was not as if he finished a well-held fifth or sixth in the Guineas. He went down by length and a quarter against two very nice horses. Kameko is going to go off as the Derby favourite and Wichita is a big, scopey horse open to improvement from two to three.”
But this a quality contest which also includes Threat, Arizona, Positive and Royal Dornoch who complete the field in the St James’ Palace Stakes.
All Irish eyes will be on Sceptical who will face nine rivals for the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes with the favourite aiming to give Tipperary handler Denis Hogan his first winner at the meeting. Sceptical who was purchased for just €2,800 as a Godolphin castoff will be ridden by Frankie Dettori and takes on last season’s Haydock Sprint Cup winner Hello Youmzain, while the William Haggas-trained One Master also features.
The Tin Man, winner of the Diamond Jubilee in 2017, looks to roll back the years for James Fanshawe, with Dream Of Dreams and Shine So Bright also set to run.
Sands Of Mali, Breathtaking Look and Speak In Colours complete the line-up.
It promises to be a cracker and Sceptical gets the nod to emerge victorious.
US-based British trainer Graham Motion looks to secure his first Royal Ascot winner with Sharing in the Coronation Stakes as seven runners were declared. Others in the line-up include Quadrilateral, who finished third in the 1,000 Guineas, and Run Wild, a comfortable winner of the Pretty Polly Stakes earlier in the month. It looks an open race.
Despite the lack of crowds, it has been an incredible week of racing with some real eye-catching performances. The John Gosden trained Frankly Darling was a brilliant winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes and has been cut to 3/1 for the Epsom Oaks on July 4.
Battaash was the sprinting king in the King Stand while once again the Aidan O’Brien trained Circus Maximus showed real guts to edge out Terebellum in the Queen Anne Stakes. But another Aidan O’Brien winner Russian Emperor really caught the eye with victory in the Hampton Court Stakes. He now enters the fringes of a wide-open Investec Derby picture.
Winning jockey Ryan Moore knew all about the eventual runner-up First Receiver having ridden him to a seven-length triumph at Kempton on his reappearance and decided to track Sir Michael Stoute’s runner in the early stages.
While that pair engaged in a duel from the furlong pole, Moore’s momentum carried him by the royal runner close home for a cosy half-length victory. Berlin Tango, who ran very creditably under a 4lb penalty, was a further length and a quarter away.
Russian Emperor was immediately cut to 8-1 (from 20) by Ladbrokes for the Investec Derby next month, although there was some debate afterwards whether the winner would be as effective at a mile and a half.