The week after Royal Ascot always feel flat but, whilst the midweek action pales into insignificance after last week’s feast, there are some tasty races to look forward to this weekend. The highlight has to be the Irish Derby, a race in which Saxon Warrior is a hot-favourite to win his second classic of the season. It could easily turn the race into a procession in the absence of Masar and Dee Ex Bee, but Royal Ascot again highlighted that there’s no such thing as a certainty.
However, for many punters, the real highlight will be the two-day Northumberland Plate meeting at Newcastle on Friday and Saturday. The Gosforth Park Cup takes centre stage on Friday, whilst the Chipchase Stakes and the Northumberland Plate are Saturday’s highlights. We’ll also take a quick look back at Royal Ascot.
Carlisle (Wednesday 27 June)
The British Stallion Studs EBF Eternal Stakes (4.30) is a Listed Race for 3-year-old fillies. First run in 2003, its most famous winner is Opal Tiara who won in 2016 before going on to record several other wins at this level or higher. This season’s race looks a match on paper between the 102 rated Gavota for Roger Charlton and Richard Fahey’s 100 rated Dance Diva.
Newcastle (Friday 29 June)
The Gosforth Park Cup (7.30) looks sure to serve up a decent appetiser to Saturday’s Northumberland Plate, and this lucrative all-weather handicap over 5-furlongs looks sure to attract a high-class field. Entries include the likes of Atletico, Eastern Impact, Polybius, Haddaf, Tarboosh, Poyle Vinnie, and the once Group 1 class Goldream. However, the horse that catches the eye is the 2016 winner Orion’s Bow. He won that renewal off a mark of 91 but has now crept back down to below that winning mark. He’s also won two of his three course starts and he could easily return to form, if he gets a run.
The Stobart Energy Hopping Fillies Stakes (20.05) also takes place on Friday evening at Newcastle over 10-furlongs. Ratings suggest it’s there for the taking for the 108 rated Smart Call, though the ex-South African horse has failed to get her head in front for Sir Michael Stoute. Therefore, this could go the way of the lightly-raced William Haggas trained Maid To Remember for whom Danny Tudhope is booked to ride.
Newcastle (Saturday 30 June)
The Chipchase Stakes (12.55) is a popular Group 3 sprint run over 6-furlongs that is open to horses aged three and older. Since it moved onto the all-weather in 2016 it has been won by Markaz and Koropick and it looks sure to attract plenty of 100+ rated horse this year. Nebo catches the eye for Charlie Hills as he got within a neck of Gustav Klimt this season and soft-ground form which means he might take to this surface. Others to note include Dream Of Dreams, Kimberella, Never Back Down, and Yafta.
The Northumberland Plate (2.05) was first run in 1833 and is now sponsored by Stobart Rail. It is open to horses aged three and older and is run over 2 miles and 56 yards. It also carries a very tasty first prize of over £92,000, so there will be plenty of horses that have been specifically laid out for the demands of this all-weather marathon. This year’s field may well be headed by last year’s winner Higher Power, but there are high-class rivals everywhere you look. There are some old favourites like Clever Cookie, Curbyourenthusiasm, and Watersmeet. There’s also former Cesarewitch winner Withhold. Throw in the likes of Nakeeta, Time To Study, Dannyday and Dubawi Fifty and this looks sure to be great race. However, I might not even have named the winner yet.
Newmarket (Saturday 30 June)
This year’s Criterion Stakes (1.45) is shaping up to be a competitive contest and Godolphin will be hoping to follow-up last year’s success with Home Of The Brave with another winner of this Group 3. They have a few entries, including Dutch Connection and Toscanini. Roger Varian’s potential star Emmaus is also entered as is Larchmont Lad, Oh This Is Us, Mubtasim, and Sir Dancelot. They’re all rated within 7lbs of each though and you might be able to throw a blanket over them at the finish.
Curragh (Saturday 30 June)
The Irish Derby (5.20) is the biggest race of the weekend and, despite there being over 30 entries at the five-day stage, Saxon Warrior is around 1/2 to show that he wasn’t at his best in the Derby. However, with Derby 1-2 Masar and Dee Ex Bee unlikely runners, it’s hard to see what’s going to beat him unless it’s his own lack of stamina. One of his stablemates that caught the eye on both of his runs last year was Amedio Modiglini and it would be interesting if the money came for him.
Royal Ascot Review
There was hardly a murmur as Accidental Hero passed the line in front in the Queen Anne, as a horse that had previously looked short of stamina simply sprinted past his rivals in the latter stages. The early pace was very slow though so that may well have suited this former 7-furlongs specialist, so beware the form.
However, Calyx looked brilliant in the Coventry Stakes as he raced clear of his own group and stayed on to win from the far side group in which Sergei Prokofiev also ran a race full of promise for next year’s 2,000 Guineas. Both are bred to be classic contenders next year.
Blue Point’s win in the King’s Stand Stakes again highlighted the horse for course theory at Ascot as he took his record to 3 from 3 there. However, the form may not stand-up elsewhere as Lady Aurelia ran no sort of race and Battaash may come out in top if the Charlie Hills horses are in form next time he takes on Blue Point, especially on a flatter track.
Meanwhile, you had to like Without Parole’s attitude in winning the St James’s Palace Stake to enhance his unbeaten record. However, the form of all of Europe’s 2,000 Guineas form was again let down, and this year’s 3-year-old milers may not be a great bunch.
Day two of Royal Ascot was all supposed to be about Cracksman but he again showed quirky traits as Poet’s Word sailed past him to give Sir Michael Stoute a record breaking Royal Acot winner. However, he wasn’t as impressive as Stoute’s Expert Eye in the Jersey Stakes, and it will be interesting to see if this in and out performer can show the same form next time.
Frankie Dettori was all smiles as he won his sixth Ascot Gold Cup as he got a fine tune out if Stradivarius and the pair will be mighty tough to beat if he bids to complete the Goodwood Cup and Doncaster Cup treble.
Stoute was again on the mark in the Commonwealth Cup as Eqtidaar was another that delivered on some of his earlier promise. However, day four was all about Alpha Centauri who made up for an agonising defeat at last year’s Royal Meeting to spread-eagled the Group 1 Coronation Stakes field. IT’s easy to see her beating some of the three-year-old colt son that sort of form. Meanwhile, Ed Walker will surely be getting more owners after his Agrotera made a mockery of the Sandringham Stakes.
It was no surprise to see Stoute win another Hardwicke Stakes, whilst we saw another potential star sprinter in the Coolmore colours as Merchant Navy won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Roll on next year.