Day 3 of the Royal Ascot meeting saw us once again finish in profit, mostly thanks to Molatham winning the Group 3 Jersey Stakes under the in-form Jim Crowley. That left us +3.29pts on the day, and +16.99pts over the past two days. Fingers crossed we can keep the P/L ticking over on Day 4, which features a host of Group action such as the Hardwicke Stakes and Commonwealth Cup. Best of luck if you’re getting involved, and be sure to give me a follow on Twitter @JakePriceRacing for updates throughout the day, including a link to the Day 5 Preview once it goes live!
13:15 – Palace Of Holyroodhouse Handicap (Class 2) 3yo 0-105 – 5f
Art Power has won impressively on his last two starts, and could take a bit of beating in the first running of this 5f three-year-old Handicap. This Son of Dark Angel started his career at Newcastle in September 2019, running in a 6f Novice Stakes. Travelling powerfully into the race, Art Power hit the front at the furlong marker, but faded from that point onwards, holding on for third behind a couple of Horses rated 87 and 90. Dropped back to 5f for his next start at York in October, Art Power relished the shorter trip on Soft ground. Travelling strongly under David Allan, Art Power cruised into the lead and quickly lengthened away under a hands and heels ride to score by five-lengths.
Art Power returned to the track at Newcastle on the 1st June, the day racing resumed after the lockdown period. Back up to 6f that day, Silvestre De Sousa sent this Colt straight into the lead. Winding the pace up from the front, Art Power had them all off the bridle with 2f left to run, powering away to record a five-and-a-half length success. The Horse back in 4th that day was Magical Journey (94), who finished second in a Listed event on her previous start, so clearly Art Power set some fast fractions to get her out of her comfort zone. The soft ground at Ascot should suit this Tim Easterby charge, and dropping back to 5f with the stiff finish at Ascot will likely play to his strengths. This Horse should be rated a lot higher than 97 by the end of the season, and stall 19 is a positive.
14:25 – Norfolk Stakes (Group 2) 2yo – 5f
Eye Of Heaven’s form was boosted in some style by Tactical in the Windsor Castle Stakes on Wednesday, but he’s been backed off the boards since then and is now a general price of 13/8. That price is just far too short for the Norfolk Stakes, especially in a field full of lightly-raced Horses. Another Colt to have received a massive form boost however is Lipizzaner, who can put his experience to good use.
Lipizzaner is one of three Horses in this race to have had two runs, with his first coming at Naas in March before lockdown. Moving nicely into the race, Lipizzaner joined the leader with a furlong to go and kept on well to the line, just being beaten half-a-length by Jim Bolger’s well-backed Poetic Flare. Returning to the track after lockdown at Naas on the 8th June, Lipizzaner once more finished half-a-length second – but the conditions were completely different to his debut. His second run saw him stepped up to 6f, and the ground at Naas was rattling fast – as opposed to it being heavy on his debut. Once more hitting the front, Lipizzaner tried hard but didn’t seem to see out his race in the final 100 yards, eventually being beaten by Jessie Harrington’s promising Lucky Vega. As I stated previously however, that form took a massive boost at Royal Ascot on Thursday as the 5th placed Battleground went on to win the Listed Chesham Stakes in fine style. Lipizzaner should appreciate the drop back to 5f considering the stiff finish at Ascot, and the soft ground should also help his chances.
15:00 – Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2) 4yo+ – 1m4f
This looks like quite a weak renewal of the Hardwicke Stakes, especially as the soft ground has really gone against Anthony Van Dyck, who had the perfect preparation for this race in the Coronation Cup. With that in mind, Elarqam could take quite a bit of beating if coping with the step-up in trip to 1m4f. This Son of Frankel actually has a really good record on Soft ground, finishing 3rd behind Addeybb (122) and Magic Wand (115) at Royal Ascot last season in the Wolferton Stakes (form boosted by the 4th Mountain Angel on Thursday), before then reversing form with the winner that day to land the Group 2 York Stakes in July. His best effort last season came when finishing a close third behind Japan (122) and Crystal Ocean (128) in the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes at York, which is a level of form that many of these rivals could simply never reach.
Although disappointing at Leopardstown in September, Elarqam returned to the track at Haydock on the 7th June, running in the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes. Elarqam led the field along that day before being headed by the smoother travelling Lord North, but he showed a really good attitude to battle on in the final furlong, staying on strongly but just being denied by a short-head. The winner that day Lord North (116) has obviously given the form a massive boost since by winning the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday in impressive style, so Elarqam clearly has the form to back up his price. The way he stayed on once beaten at Haydock would really give you hope that this Horse can stay the extra 2f, and the in-form Jim Crowley is a Jockey filled with confidence right now.
15:35 – Commonwealth Cup (Group 1) 3yo – 6f
This looks like a good renewal of the Commonwealth Cup, and I really like the chances of Clive Cox’s Golden Horde. This Colt enjoyed a very successful Juvenile campaign, shedding his Maiden tag at the second attempt when winning a Windsor Novice Stakes by 4½ lengths, before then recording course and distance form when finishing 5th behind Arizona in last year’s Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot. Golden Horde went to Goodwood for his next start in the Group 2 Richmond Stakes, where he stayed on strongly to beat Threat (114), a Horse who had finished ahead of him in the Coventry, and would of course go on to subsequently land two Group 2 events. Connections sent Golden Horde over to France for his next start, running in the Group 1 Prix Morny on Heavy ground. Golden Horde seemed to handle the slower conditions that day just fine, as he ran a cracker to finish third behind Earthlight. Golden Horde then faced that rival for a second time in Group 1 company on his latest start, running in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes in Newmarket. Pushed along to try and make it a test for the re-opposing Earthlight (119), Golden Horde lead with a furlong left to run, but was caught in the final half-furlong by the French raider – finishing a neck second. Considering Golden Horde managed to make such a high regarded Colt work that hard clearly shows he is a top-class animal, and his official rating of 114 demonstrates that fact. Stall 10 should be a perfect draw as Adam Kirby can choose if he needs to stay down the middle of the track or come over to the nearside, and the softer going shouldn’t inconvenience him too much considering his good run in France last season.
16:10 – Queen’s Vase (Group 2) 3yo – 1m6f
Al Dabaran looked desperate to go up in trip during his Juvenile campaign, and boy does he get that here – stepping up by 5f from his latest run. This Colt started his career by easily beating the promising Ursa Minor by 2½ lengths at Newmarket, forging clear under James Doyle in the closing stages. Once more proving his ability to stay, Al Dabaran then ran in the Listed Pat Eddery Stakes at Ascot on King George Day, where he needed every inch of the 7f trip on good-to-soft ground to beat Sun Power (99) by a neck, getting up in the final strides. Stepped up to 1m for his next start, Charlie Appleby sent Al Dabaran over to France to run in the Group 3 Prix de Chenes, once more on good-to-soft ground. This Colt run a bit one-paced at the business end of the race, but he did his best work inside the final furlong, finishing a close up third behind Ecrivain – a Horse who went on to finish 4th in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere and 2nd in the Group 3 Prix Fontainebleau (before then bombing out in the French 2000 Guineas).
Al Dabaran was stepped up in trip once again on his final start as a 2yo, running in the 1m1f Group 3 Prix de Conde. Keeping on gamely under pressure as always, Al Dabaran was only beaten by ½ length into second that day by Hopeful (not seen since), finishing ahead of The Summit – a Horse who’s since won that aforementioned Prix de Fontainebleau, before then running second to Victor Ludorum in the French 2000 Guineas. Despite running over inadequate trips, Al Dabaran has clearly ran some really nice races, and crucially to his chances in the Queen’s Vase has proven he handles soft conditions. Dubawi has produced some top class 1m4f Horses such as Ghaiyyath and Old Persian over the years so you’d imagine he wouldn’t have any trouble with this new trip, especially because he has always been seen to best effect in the closing stages of his races.
16:40 – Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (Class 2) 3yo+ 0-105 – 1m4f
Good Birthday is a Horse I’ve been following for a while, and I’m pleased connections are going to give him another chance at running over 1m4f. This Horse ran in some big races as a three-year-old, winning on seasonal reappearance at Doncaster from a mark of 82, before then finishing a length third to Headman (Group 2 winner since, now rated 115) in the infamous London Gold Cup at Newbury. Good Birthday’s next start came in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot last season, but the 1m4f Handicaps at Royal Ascot have a huge bias towards runners drawn high – the top five drawn from stalls 8, 18, 19, 20 and 21 that day. Good Birthday was drawn in stall 7, but he was bumped leaving the stalls and squeezed back, essentially meaning his chance was gone as he needed to go forward and get a good position. Oisin Murphy never knocked him about that day and let him run on for 10th, but you can put a line through that run.
Since Ascot Good Birthday has ran well on each start; with his next appearance coming in a Class 2 3yo Handicap at Newmarket’s July Festival. Good Birthday had to come widest of the field that day, where he ran on well to finish a close 5th behind Walkinthesand (108), with Wednesday’s Royal Hunt Cup winner Dark Vision just ahead in 4th. Given a break after this run until Beverley at the end of August, Good Birthday finally returned to the winners enclosure when winning a Class 2 Handicap from a mark of 95, staying on late in the day to squeeze up the inside running rail and win by half-a-length. His Jockey made it seem like he actually won a shade cosily that day, but either way he beat a nice Horse in Desert Icon (96). Good Birthday made his final start of the 2019 season when running in the ever competitive Cambridgeshire Handicap at Newmarket in September. Once more doing his best work in the final furlong to make ground from the back, Good Birthday came through the field to finish third – and the race could hardly be working out much better. The winner that day was of course Lord North, who’s now rated 116 and won the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday. The 2nd Beringer is rated 104, and the 4th Mordin is rated 103 – so Good Birthday’s mark of 98 does seem very fair.
Good Birthday underwent a Gelding operation over the winter, and made his seasonal reappearance at Newmarket on the 7th June in another 1m2f Class 2 Handicap. The Guineas meeting at Newmarket this year was frustratingly biased towards front runners, and that’s exactly what the winner West End Charmer (109) did – making all under William Buick to win easily. Good Birthday only raced in midfield that day, but he still plugged on well for third once the winner had already flown – once more suggesting he’ll be better over 1m4f. Good Birthday will be 4lbs better off with that Newmarket winner in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes, but crucially Good Birthday is drawn in stall 14 – a draw which should be high enough to see him get a nice position under Silvestre De Sousa. Good Birthday has won on good-to-soft ground before, but this will be the softest ground he’s encountered since running at Ascot last season. If he does act in the going however, Good Birthday looks like a well handicapped Horse, who should appreciate the step-up in trip.