It’s Day Four of the (second) greatest show on turf and the action, as well as the stars, continues to come thick and fast. There are a couple of things we have learned so far, not least of which is to trust your eyes if the form doesn’t make much sense. There was no better example of that than Wesley Ward’s enormous, beautiful filly Acapulco. Her sole start before Wednesday yielded a third placed finish, and the bare form was nothing to write home about. But she looked HUGE in the paddock, and romped home to an impressive victory. So do your homework, look at the form, but do be prepared to change your mind based on what you see.
2:30, Albany Stakes. A six furlong race for 2yo fillies, and it is a tough start to a cracking Friday card. Many of the main contenders are unexposed, and many have them 100% records, and so it’s anyone’s guess as to how much each of them will improve in this contest. Illuminate is the standout chance for Hannon and Hughes, whilst Wesley Ward saddles Back At The Ranch and Laxfield Road. It is impossible (and, indeed, foolish) to ignore Mark Johnston’s runners in any 2yo race this season, and his pair of Fireglow and First Party must warrant a second look, although both would need to improve to challenge here. Miss Moneypenny finished fourth in her last outing, but the winner was a certain Buratino – although she is likely to find a couple too good here.
3:05, King Edward VII Stakes. A small but quality field here, and all eyes will be on Stravagante, who was a superb winner on Derby day and looks like he’ll handle this step up to Group company. His third at Sandown in May is to no detriment, given the winner was a certain Jack Hobbs. OI’ Man River was a serious Derby prospect himself before disappointing in the Dante at York, but you have to be prepared to ignore both that run and his last in the 2000 Guineas if you want to back this colt. There must be hope that Father Christmas delivers outsider-backers an early present, although if you are looking simply for a seasonal themed horse name to back, you might prefer Festive Fare for the boys in blue. Mr Singh runs for the in-form John Gosden and Frankie Dettori duo, but is another who will need to improve to take the prize.
3:40, Commonwealth Cup. Not only is this sprint for 3 year olds a welcome addition to the Royal Ascot meeting, in my eyes it’s one of the most exciting and tantalising prospects of the week. Limato heads the home challenge, and he was simply unbeatable as a 2yo. He won well at Ascot first time out this year, in spite of the doubts voiced by his trainer that he hadn’t progressed much over the winter. Henry Candy once again warned punters at Haydock that he wouldn’t like the ground, and he was duly beaten that day by Adaay. Back on firm ground, you would have to like Limato’s chances of reversing that form, but yet again the trainer has stated that the others have now caught up with Limato physically. I’m a big fan of this colt but the consistent negatives from connections can be off-putting. Adaay should have no problem on the ground, and is certainly on an upward curve. Meanwhile Hootenanny, such a brilliant winner of the Windsor Stakes last year, returns for Wesley Ward and will also like the ground. Then we come to the fillies – Tiggy Wiggy was third over 7 furlongs on her seasonal reappearance, before running a huge race over the mile in the 1000 Guineas to again finish third, and back at her preferred distance of a sharp 6 looks a cracking bet. Anthem Alexander is another smart filly who is sure to appreciate the fast ground.
4:20, Coronation Stakes. We mentioned on our Day One preview that Gleneagles must have been a brilliant miler for connections to not even be remotely tempted by The Derby, instead preferring to save him for this week. The same logic then can be applied to Found, who even as a filly was considered for the Epsom colts’ classic. She faces another Guineas runner-up, this time from the English version as Lucida looks to return to the winners enclosure as a 3yo. We also have a third Guineas runner-up in Irish Rookie, who was second in the French version, but thankfully we also have a winner in the field as Ervedya finished strongly to beat Irish Rookie in that race.
5:00, Duke of Edinburgh Stakes. Another big field handicap that looks very tricky to unpick, and the most eyecatching entry in my book belongs to the first reserve. Willie Mullins trainer? Check. Susanna Ricci owner? Check. Cheltenham? No – although given Sempre Medici did run at the Cheltenham festival earlier this year, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the wrong place. Ryan Moore has been booked to ride and any withdrawals nearer the time could make this an enticing prospect. Arab Dawn runs off a career-high mark but looks to be low enough in the weights to pose a threat, whilst Watersmeet is one of those rare handicappers who knows how to win regularly, winning four of his last five races and posting an improved RPR in each of those races. Warrior of Light and Ajman Bridge are two more who warrant both respect and a second look.
5:35, Queen’s Vase. Another 2m race and connections of Aloft must be hoping this colt can emulate the impressive Free Eagle by winning on his seasonal reappearance. He appears to be the classiest horse in the race, and the Ryan Moore / Coolmore partnership is always one to take seriously. Galileo sires another of the Coolmore entries in Bantry Bay, and this colt has run twice already this season. Joseph O’Brien takes the reins and his superior race fitness could prove vital. Antiquarium is another Charlie Appleby horse who started life on the track on the all weather surfaces over the winter, but has taken to turf well and may be open to further improvement. If Her Majesty The Queen hasn’t had a winner by this stage then victory for Fabricate would bring the house down…