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By Anil Mukhi | 19 Jun 2019 |

Anil Mukhi

Following on from my previous piece, published here on Monday morning, there has been a change in the Ascot weather, with substantial rain on Tuesday and more wet weather in store. That said, the timings were not too slow on the opening day, so it’s not yet the proverbial “bog” but more rain might make it get there.

Meanwhile, here are some notes on the four remaining Group 1 events on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday of Royal Ascot 2019. All times are in BST. Indian Standard Time is 4-1/2 hours ahead. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Ascot Gold Cup (2-1/2 miles, 4:20 p.m.) 

The centrepiece of the meeting, this supreme test of stamina was at one time the logical follow-up for the leading three-year-olds in England a year after their Classic campaign. That era is long gone, with the last Epsom Derby winner to run prominently in the Gold Cup being Blakeney in 1970, who finished a fairly close second. These days, specialist stayers contest the race and none is more of a specialist at extended distances than Stradivarius (by Sea The Stars). A pupil of the John Gosden academy, he stitched together a skein of staying victories in 2018 (including this very race), which earned his connections a million-pound bonus, instituted to encourage the production of top-class stayers. In addition he has banked the useful sum of £1,707,481 in stakes.

With Frankie Dettori astride and a triumph earlier this year under his belt, Stradivarius is fairly priced at around Evens. However, he will have to be at his most determined best to cope with the ground, as also his 10 rivals, headed by Lexus Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter (by Teofilo), who picked up the valuable Dubai Gold Cup in March on his seasonal debut. There is a lot of confidence behind this 4 to 1 Godolphin representative trained by Charlie Appleby and steered by James Doyle, the same connections as those involved with Blue Point, triumphant on Tuesday. 

Likewise, last year’s Epsom Derby runner-up, Dee Ex Bee (by Farrh), is in fine fettle this term, scoring twice under Silvestre De Sousa, who retains the mount on Mark Johnston’s representative. Irish champion trainer Aidan O’Brien sends out three runners, with the mount on Capri (by Galileo), the 2017 William Hill St. Leger hero, going to young Donnacha O’Brien and that on Flag Of Honour (by Galileo), the 2018 Comer Group Irish St. Leger winner being allotted to Ryan Moore. Both are 12 to 1 and you can be confident that the master professional would have tuned up his wards for improved performances. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

Commonwealth Cup (6 fur., 3:40 p.m.) 

Unfortunately, Calyx (by Kingman) is on the shelf due to injury, else he would have been the public choice in this sprint, restricted to three-year-olds. Unbeaten at 2, the Ballydoyle-trained Ten Sovereigns (by No Nay Never) palpably failed to stay in the Qipco 2000 Guineas last month and reverts to sprinting for Aidan O’Brien, with Ryan Moore up. Steady support has ensured he will start as the favourite at around 6 to 4.

Beaten just a length by Calyx when they clashed on this track in the Coventry Stakes at this meeting last year, Advertise (by Showcasing) can add to his future stallion credentials by putting up a bold show here. However, Martyn Meade’s yard has been under a cloud due to infection and his runners are only just recovering their form. Kevin Ryan’s Hello Youmzain (by Kodiac) surprised in the Armstrong Aggregates Sandy Lane Stakes – easily accounting for Calyx – but it is clear that the latter was not quite right at the time.

Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Jash (by Kodiac) is the dark horse here, with a record of 3 wins from 4 starts. His only loss came at the hands of Ten Sovereigns last year and there was only half a length between the pair. His form in 2019 – a win in the King Charles II Stakes – was given a boost when the runner-up there, Azano, scored in France in a Group 3 event last Sunday. So Jash looks poised for a big effort.

Coronation Stakes (1 mile, 4:20 p.m.)

A dozen three-year-old fillies are left in at the time of writing for this equivalent to the St. James’s Palace Stakes. It will come as a huge surprise if dual 1000 Guineas (English and Irish) winner Hermosa (by Galileo) gets beaten and she looks and shapes like the proverbial “banker” at Evens. Her team (trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore) has already shown itself to be in sublime form at this year’s Royal Ascot meeting. 

If she is to be beaten, there is no better-bred individual amongst her opponents than Juddmonte’s unbeaten Jubiloso (by Sharmardal), who is out of a half-sister to Frankel and Noble Mission! Making a jump to Group 1 company from allowance level won’t be easy for her, and a more likely winner would be Godolphin’s Castle Lady (also by Shamardal), who is 3-from-3, with her most recent success coming in the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches-French 1000 Guineas. Finally, Pretty Pollyanna (by Oasis Dream) showed a glimpse of the fine form she displayed as a juvenile when runner-up to Hermosa in Ireland, but the margin of her defeat – 4 lengths – does not suggest she can turn the tables.
Saturday, June 22, 2019

Diamond Jubilee Stakes (6 fur., 4:20 p.m.) 

The final Group 1, which is run over a furlong more than the King’s Stand Stakes on the opening day, could have upto 20 runners, some of which may have already been seen under silks at the meeting. All the usual suspects have accepted, including the fancied 3 to 1 chance, Invincible Army (by Invincible Spirit) from the relatively small yard of James Tate. 

The others include old favourites such as Sands Of Mali (by Panis), The Tin Man (by Equiano), Kachy (by Kyllachy) and Limato (by Tagula), all of which have previous experience at Ascot. If Blue Point (by Shamardal) reappears, he could make the finish very interesting although Godolphin have no real need to subject him to another race as they have Inns Of Court (by Invincible Spirit) primed and ready from his base at Andre Fabre’s yard in Chantilly. Mickael Barzalona will don the distinctive royal blue colours.

Although he cannot be said to have a realistic chance, it’s worth noting the presence in the field of the first challenger from Singapore, Lim’s Cruiser (by Casino Prince). Trained by Stephen Gray, the Australian-bred gelding has earned over a million pounds and will have Vlad Duric in the irons. He is rated a 20 to 1 outsider.