Royal Ascot 2018 will, across its five days, feature many equine big-hitters who require no introduction. But half a dozen of the 30 races are for two-year-olds, some of whom will be less familiar or even not familiar at all.
The following will take a look at the some of the leading juvenile contenders on a race-by-race basis, with my own time-based and sectionally-based ratings included for comparison.
Coventry Stakes (Tuesday 19th June, 6f)
The Coventry Stakes is often the two-year-old highlight of the Royal Meeting and certainly promises to be this time round.
SERGEI PROKOFIEV (109 rating) is arguably the generational leader on bare form, with two emphatic wins from three runs in Ireland to his name. But the John Gosden-trained CALYX (110) ran superb sectionals – including a 10.88s penultimate 1f – in winning his only start, at Newmarket, and could easily be destined for the top. Godolphin may field BURJ (103), who ran fast though efficiently in winning by six lengths at Wolverhampton recently.
MOONLIGHT ROMANCE (97) won a $100k race at Belmont by five and a half lengths on the second of two front-running starts in Maiden Special Weights in the US, but this represents a whole higher level of competition. COSMIC LAW (107) and THE IRISH ROVER (106) come into the reckoning on their last-time wins at Epsom and at Newbury.
Sergei Prokofiev lands a listed race by five lengths at Naas in May.
Queen Mary Stakes (Wednesday 20th June, 5f)
Wesley Ward, responsible for the brilliant winners Acapulco in 2015 and Lady Aurelia in 2016, looks likely to rely on CHELSEA CLOISTERS (100), who beat little in a $60k MSW at Keeneland in April but did so by wide margins and from the front.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained pair FAIRYLAND (99) and JUST WONDERFUL (90) are close up in the betting for both this and the Albany Stakes, with the former beating the boys in a Listed race at the Curragh in May and the latter more than a second slower over 6f in winning a Maiden earlier on the same card.
Chelsea Cloisters wins by eight lengths on debut at Keeneland in April.
Norfolk Stakes (Thursday 21st June, 5f)
A race that the aforementioned Sergei Prokofiev and The Irish Rover could run in also. SHANG SHANG SHANG (106) may be the best of Wesley Ward’s contingent of the whole week, having beaten the aforementioned Moonlight Romance by two and a quarter lengths at Keeneland on her only start. But this year’s Norfolk Stakes looks to have plenty of strength in depth.
ANDRE AMAR (104) and VINTAGE BRUT (103) can be bought off the shelf at Monday’s Goffs London Sale…..that is, if you have a few hundred thousand to spare! The former ran the fastest juvenile sectional at Dundalk in recent times before blowing the start when second to Sergei Prokofiev at Naas.
Shang Shang Shang beats Moonlight Romance by two and a quarter lengths at Keeneland in April.
Albany Stakes (Friday 22nd June, 6f)
As mentioned, Fairyland and Just Wonderful are prominent in the betting for both this and for Wednesday’s Queen Mary.
For once, this race could take more winning, with the Mark Johnston-trained pair Natalie’s Joy and MAIN EDITION (108) looking formidable. The latter, a clear-cut winner at Windsor then Goodwood (the latter in an especially good time), seems the best fit for this contest and is over-priced at the time of writing.
Wesley Ward’s STILLWATER COVE (90) won an ordinary Maiden Special Weight at Keeneland on her only start by a short head from a filly who has been well beaten since. Jessica Harrington bids to go one better than with subsequent Classic winner Alpha Centauri 12 months ago courtesy of SERVALAN (96), beaten by Andre Amar at Dundalk before winning a Listed race at Naas.
Stillwater Cove hangs on to score by a short head at Keeneland in April.
Chesham Stakes (Saturday 23rd June, 7f)
NATALIE’S JOY (110) ran sensationally fast when slamming her rivals in a Maiden at Goodwood on her only racecourse appearance, nearly 1.0s quicker than a fairly useful older-horse handicapper on the same card and close to breaking a long-standing juvenile course record.
She qualifies to run in this by virtue of being a daughter of the French Derby winner Lope de Vega. That 110 rating would have her winning this far more often than not over the years.
EMARAATY ANA (97), who may go for the Norfolk Stakes instead, put in some sharp splits when beating the useful Blown By Wind at Windsor on his only outing. The filly BEYOND REASON (94) landed the odds easily at Kempton last time and should benefit from the step up in trip.
Emaraaty Ana beats Blown By Wind at Windsor in April.
Windsor Castle Stakes (Saturday 23rd June, 5f)
This may be the easiest target for the previously mentioned Andre Amar and The Irish Rover, with the longer-range betting headed by OUR PASSION (93), a Wesley Ward-trained daughter of Elusive Quality who won a $75k MSW at Belmont on her only start by ordinary margins (second and fourth have been beaten since).
The dual-winner JUNGLE INTHEBUNGLE (94) brings some solid form to the table, having beaten TIN HAT (92) in a competitive Conditions Stakes at Beverley last time, while DOM CARLOS (91) showed he is going the right way with a win at the Curragh last time.
Things will become clearer in coming days as to which two-year-olds will go for which races. But, at the time of writing, the claims of Main Edition, Natalie’s Joy, Shang Shang Shang and Chelsea Cloisters are among the most obvious.
Our Passion wins at Belmont on May.