Royal Ascot two-year-old guide: the horses to watch in the six juvenile races
There are many facets to the five-day Royal Ascot meeting, starting on Tuesday, June 15, and chief among them is the chance to establish a pecking order among the latest crop of juveniles. With six races for two-year-olds at the fixture, there are ample opportunities to find out who could prove to be star for the rest of the season and beyond.
The first juvenile contest of the meeting can act as a pointer towards the following year's Classics but increasingly it has highlighted a potential Commonwealth Cup contender for the following year.
There have been some classy winners of the Coventry, with Dawn Approach (2012) going on to Guineas glory at three, while Caravaggio (2016) returned to the fixture the following year and landed the Commonwealth Cup.
Caravaggio's trainer Aidan O'Brien leads the way in the Coventry with nine winners, and he again appears to have a strong hand, with Amalfi Coast, Cadamosto and The Acropolis all under consideration.
However, the betting suggests fellow Irish trainer Donnacha O'Brien (Masseto) could be the one to beat.
For the home team, wide-margin Newbury winner Gisburn, Yarmouth debut scorer Dhabab and Ebro River, successful in the Listed National Stakes at Sandown last time, are likely players. Filly Kaufymaker is an interesting dark horse for US trainer Wesley Ward.
With Castle Star a notable absentee, the race certainly looks open and it is fascinating that a filly, Kaufymaker, heads the market.
It's difficult to quantify how she will stack up against the best Britain and Ireland have to offer, so a chance is taken on Gubbass for Richard Hannon. He won nicely on his debut at Leicester but has not been seen since and could have been forgotten about.
It will be foolish to write off whoever Aidan O'Brien decides upon for the race. Ebro River is certainly talented, but appears to have some quirks while Gisburn's Newbury win is working out well.
2.30: Queen Mary Stakes, Group 2, 5f
The Queen Mary pits some of the speediest fillies around against each other, and it has also been a race where the international flavour of the meeting comes to the fore.
Wesley Ward has an excellent record in the race with four winners since 2009,with Lady Aurelia (2016) being one of the most striking of recent years.
The evergreen Frankie Dettori is the rider to note, having won the last two runnings, and three of the last five, with two provided by Ward.
Ruthin, a six-length winner at Keeneland, heads the betting and should Dettori be aboard as well, she may give the deadly duo another winner. Twilight Gleaming, another Ward-trained raider, is also in contention with one of the pair to run in the Windsor Castle.
It's difficult to look past Wesley Ward given his record in the race, and whichever filly he decides on should be taken very seriously. Tenebrism could be the answer for Aidan O'Brien, while Illustrating, winner of a minor race at Catterick on debut, is regarded very highly by trainer Karl Burke and could be a dark horse.
5.35: Windsor Castle Stakes, Listed, 5f
Rounding out day two of the meeting is another five-furlong dash, which often attracts a huge field.
There are usually in excess of 20 runners, and it has paid to focus on those drawn very high, with the last three winners coming out of stalls 20, 24 and 22 respectively.
Not the easiest race to assess, but Archie Watson enjoyed a breakthrough royal winner in 2018 with Soldier's Call, and perhaps George Boughey could enjoy the same result. Boughey has been in excellent form all season with his juveniles, and has a few contenders to choose from, including Thunder Love, Forca Brasil, Navello and Beautiful Sunshine.
2.30: Norfolk Stakes Group 2, 5f
Another race over 5f but this race does not attract as big a field as the Windsor Castle. It has also provided some very tight finishes of late, the last three winners scoring by either a neck or a nose.
Favourites have a dismal record, with none successful in the last decade, so it can pay to look beyond the obvious. Wesley Ward and Aidan O'Brien have won four of the last eight runnings, but British trainers have claimed the last two.
The market for the race is pretty open, and several of those at the head of the betting have other options at the meeting. Instinctive Move was a tidy winner on debut at Bath and trainer Clive Cox is no stranger to having success at the fixture. He last won the Norfolk in 2012 with Reckless Abandon.
2.30: Albany Stakes, Group 2, 6f
Of all the juvenile races at the meeting, the Albany is the one that can be regarded as the most likely avenue of success for the home team.
British trainers have won eight of the last ten runnings, and they appear to have another strong hand. Flotus was highly impressive on debut at Goodwood for Simon and Ed Crisford, while fellow debut winners Cachet and Hello You also took the eye. Woodcote winner Oscula should also be considered.
Flotus did look very good at Goodwood, but Hello You was an easy winner of what looked on paper a very competitive fillies' novice at Wolverhampton. That form is already working out well and trainer Ralph Beckett is another enjoying an excellent season with his juveniles.
2.30: Chesham Stakes Listed, 7f
Of the six juvenile races, the Chesham is the most forward-facing, with winners often handed smart quotes for the following season's 2,000 Guineas.
Last year's winner, Battleground, went off favourite for the Classic at Newmarket, while the 2019 winner was the top-class Pinatubo. Churchill (2016) was the last winner who went onto Guineas glory
Aidan O'Brien has been the trainer to follow with four of the last ten winners, and he appears to have an excellent chance of another with Point Lonsdale. Brother to the classy Broome, he delivered a strong galloping performance on debut at Naas and could be considered by many the banker of the meeting.
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