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By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.) | 18 Jun 2021 |

The Royal Ascot tide reaches its high on Thursday and it starts to ebb a bit over Friday and Saturday. However, the anticipation still pervades because the jockeys, the trainers and the big yards are straining away to emerge with the best record over the five days. There is a forecast of rain for the concluding two days which could lead to last minute withdrawals and adds uncertainty to the proceedings.

Commonwealth Cup, Gr.1

This is the youngest race of the Meeting, having been established only in 2015. The Diamond Jubilee Stakes, Gr.1 was initially open to three year-olds and over. From 2015, the three year-olds were made ineligible for the Diamond Jubilee and the Commonwealth Cup was created for them. The inaugural running was won by Sheikh Hamdan's Muhaarar who followed up with another winner three years later in Eqtidaar. The race was won by the favourites in the first three years and outsiders in the last three. The Juddmonte stallion Showcasing has sired two winners in Quiet Reflection and Advertise. Showcasing is a son of Oasis Dream, the sire on Muhaarar. Sheikh Hamdan and Juddmonte's Prince Khalid Abdulla passed away earlier this year. For about four decades, Sheikh Hamdan and Prince Khalid Abdullah were avid supporters of the British racing. Both maintained a low profile and avoided controversies which is rare in the current racing world. A Royal Ascot winner this year in the Shadwell and Juddmonte colours would be very popular. 

This year, the race has twenty runners, more than any other  Gr.1 event of the Meeting. It might be an exciting race to watch but, perhaps, one for a casual flutter, nothing more. Wesley Ward, an American jockey-turned-trainer, has been a trailblazer, having successfully raided Royal Ascot for some years now. He will saddle Campanelle in this race. He had brought the filly over last year and won the Queen Mary Stakes, Gr.2. Then she was taken to France and picked up the Darley Prix Morny, Gr.1 before returning home. In the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, Gr.1, she was only fourth over a mile, the extended distance, perhaps, not to her liking. By Kodiac out of a Namid mare, she is meant for sprints. She hasn't raced for over seven months and that is a bit disconcerting. However, Dettori, who rode her in all the three Group races mentioned, will be astride once again. She can currently be backed around 6/1 which is a fair price. The form, the jockey and the trainer are in her favour. Ward's runners tend to get backed late and that is indication to wait for. 

Around the same odds as Campanelle is another filly, Mr. George Strawbridge's Suesa, trained F. Rohaut in France. Suesa is unbeaten in four starts which includes three black-type races. Some of the rivals she faces have pedigrees which are better suited to sprinting. Dandalla is the only course and distance winner in the race having won the Albany Stakes, Gr.3 last year, finishing well ahead of Mother Earth. She is trained by K.R. Burke who won this race with Quiet Reflection in 2016. Quiet Reflection is the only  filly to have won the Commonwealth Cup so far. Clive Cox, whose Golden Horde scored last year, has a trio of runners and of them Supremacy catches the eye. The colt enjoys the highest rating in the field courtesy of his winning the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes, Gr.1 and Qatar Richmond Stakes, Gr.2 last year. He came out this year for the Pavillion Stakes, Gr.3 over the course and distance, started an odds on favourite and finished dead last. His trainer had no explanation for the dismal performance. Most horses, though, have a bad day at office and Supremacy deserves another chance. Cheveley Park Stud is having a splendid Royal Ascot this year and Sacred -- second to Campanelle in the Queen Mary last year -- carries their colours. Her last run was in Mother Earth's One Thousand Guineas but before that she had won a sprint beating Saffron Beach. Like Campanelle, she will relish the return to sprinting.

Coronation Stakes, Gr.1

Queen Victoria's coronation took place in June 1838 at Westminster Abbey. Two years later, the first Coronation Stakes was run at Royal Ascot. The new race was patterned on St. James's Palace Stakes, to be run on the round mile but restricted to three year-old fillies. The race was not run during World War I as well as World War II. It was accorded Gr.1 status in 1988. The records of Victorian era jockeys Nat Flatman and Morny Cannon (5 wins each) and trainer John Porter (6 wins) still stand as do the seven wins in the colours of Lord Astor which came between 1910 and 1936. The remarkable fact about Lord Astor's feat was that all the seven fillies were bred at his Cliveden Stud.  Leaders among the current professionals are Aidan O'Brien and Ryan Moore (Dettori had his first winner only last year !), The Niarchos family has four wins but the Godolphin colours have not been seen in the winner's circle, though Sheikh Mohammed has had three in his own name. Nine favourites -- including three joint favourites -- have won in the last  twenty years with about eleven fillies going to the post every year. Six winners of a Guineas have won this race subsequently.

This year, thirteen fillies are in the fray and the form of four European Guineas is represented making it a far more competitive and compelling race than the colts' version, the St. James's Palace Stakes, Gr.1 on the opening day. Highest rated contenders are the two Ballydoyle fillies.  Empress Josephine (Galileo - Lillie Langtry) who pipped stable-mate Joan of Arc on the post in the Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas, Gr.1 and has been supplemented as a final entry. The other is Mother Earth (Zoffany - Many Colours), the winner of Qipco One Thousand Guineas, Gr.1 at Newmarket. Mother Earth was then taken to Longchamp for the Emirates Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, Gr.1 where she looked like landing the favourite's odds till the rank outsider Coeursamba upset her in the closing stages. Ryan Moore rides Mother Earth though he has not yet won on her. We also have Novemba (Gleneagles - Nevada) who won the German 1000 Guineas, Gr.1 at Dusseldorf. She was ridden by German punters' heartthrob Sibylle Vogt, led throughout and showed a clean pair of heels to Godolphin's Sky Angel who finished seven lengths adrift. David Egan is declared to ride her, the quarantine protocols probably leading to Vogt's replacement.  Novemba is trained by the Arc winning handler Peter Schiergen.

Logic says that the winner should emerge from the trio of Classic winning fillies. Racing, though, is no respecter of logic and disdains scripts. A filly who could spring a surprise is Snow Lantern, trained by Richard Hannon, Jr. Her sire is Frankel and her dam Sky Lantern bagged the double of Quipco One Thousand Guineas, Gr.1 and this very race in 2013 for Richard Hannon, Sr. Snow Lantern was second the only time she raced at 2. On her first start this year, she won a mile race at Newbury beating Derab who was thought to have a squeak in the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club, Gr.1. Snow Lantern started as the favourite, again over a mile, during the Dante week but ran too freely for her own good. She should be spot on come Friday.  

Diamond Jubilee Stakes, Gr.1

Ascot had a well established sprint race in the eighteenth century which was called the All-Aged Stakes. The name was first changed to the Cork and Orrery Stakes, became the Golden Jubilee Stakes and when Queen Elizabeth II's reign reached its seventieth year, rechristened the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. It was then restricted to four year-olds and over, and a separate race -- the Commonwealth Cup -- created for the three year-olds. From 2002 onwards, it has been a Gr.1 race. The old Aga Khan owned Costaki Pasha, the 1930 winner of the Cork and Orrery Stakes. Costaki Pasha developed bad habits at the gate and so was brought to India. The Aga Khan later discarded him and Costaki Pasha was bought by Rashid Byramji's father who trained him to win a few good races.  Another Cork and Orrery Stakes winner, Sylvan Barbarosa, was imported by Mr. Suresh Mahindra to stand as a stallion at the Broadacres Stud. The fields for this race are of a good size -- average of 16 this century -- but with only four favourites winning, it has "Punters Beware" written all over it. One of the winning favourites was that great Aussie racemare, the unbeaten Black Caviar,  who posted the twenty second of  her twenty five career wins in 2012. She was warmly applauded for a gutsy win though she started at a frugal 1/6 on ! Among the current professionals, jockeys Ryan Moore and Tom Queally have ridden two winners each while trainers Aidan O'Brien and James Fanshawe have both saddled a brace.

Starman (Dutch Art - Northern Star) is a well backed favourite for this race. His dam is a Montjeu mare who won her only race over a mile and a quarter but Ed Walker's ward has run only over six furlongs, winning four of his five races. Last time out, he scored a fighting victory over Nahaarr in the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes, Gr.2 with the favourite Oxted -- winner of the King's Stand Stakes, Gr.1 on Tuesday -- third. Of the three best backed horses of the Meeting, Battaash finished fourth and Lady Bowthorpe was only second. Starman is the third and he has his work cut out on Saturday. His main challengers could be Glen Shiel and Dream of Dreams. Glen Shiel started racing in France for Godolphin and was transferred from Andre Fabre to Archie Watson when he was 5 after being sold. For Watson he has won five times including the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes, Gr.1, a race in which Dream of Dreams and Starman were well beaten. Hollie Doyle has three wins on Glen Shiel and knows the gelding well. His odds are currently in double figures and he merits an each way consideration. The highest rated runner is Sir Michael Stoute's Dream of Dreams, a winner of Betfair Sprint Cup Stakes, Gr.1 beating Glen Shiels. He handles soft ground well and is to have Ryan Moore in the saddle. Nahaarr is quietly fancied to turn the tables on Starman. 


It is the Queen Anne Stakes which sets the ball rolling at Royal Ascot. The curtain comes down on the Meeting, traditionally, with the Queen Alexandra Stakes. The  Queen Alexandra Stakes is run over 2 miles, five furlongs and 143 yards and is the longest flat race in Britain. It was first run as Alexandra Plate in 1864, just after the Danish Princess Alexandra had married the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII. The race was renamed Queen Alexandra Stakes in 1931 when Alexandra was the Queen Mother.

It is Brown Jack (br g Jackdaw - Querquidella), born in Ireland, who invests the race with historical flavour. As a yearling, Brown Jack failed to elicit a bid at the Sales. He was bought privately by Mr. Charles Rogers, a well-known Irish trainer and dealer  for 275 pounds sterling. Rogers had him cut him and turned loose in a paddock. Brown Jack ran a couple of times in Ireland when trainer Aubrey Hastings bought him on behalf of Sir Harold Wernher and brought him to England. Brown Jack went hurdling and won seven of his ten races including the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

It was the Champion Jockey Steve Donoghue who saw him racing at Cheltenham and suggested to his trainer that he be trained for flat. It was sound advice for Brown Jack won several good long distance races including the Chester Cup, the Goodwood and the Doncaster Cup. Brown Jack's place in the history is secure as he won the Queen Alexandra Stakes six years running, ridden each time by Steve Donoghue. In 1934, when Brown Jack left the paddock for his sixth Queen Alexandra Stakes, his trainer Ivor Anthony -- who had taken over the gelding  after Hastings, his earlier conditioner, had died unexpectedly -- couldn't bear to watch the race. He sat under a tree in the pre-parade ring till the roar of the crowd told him that Brown Jack had won. He said to have then gone to lead in his horse, tears streaming down his face. Brown Jack, a darling of the Ascot crowd, was a horse of strange habits. He was liable to fall asleep at every opportunity. A bronze statue of the gelding by Sir Alfred Munnings adorned the Ascot lawns. It is not known if it is still there after the renovation.