Royal Ascot 2019 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 takes a look at some of the leading juvenile contenders on a race-by-race basis, with my own sectional ratings included for reference.
The Coventry Stakes is often the two-year-old highlight of the Royal Meeting, and was won by Calyx last year, and Caravaggio and Dawn Approach in the recent past.
There is no outstanding candidate this year, with the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair ARIZONA (100 rating) and MONARCH OF EGYPT (103) disputing favouritism with Richard Hannon’s once-raced Newmarket maiden winner THREAT (99) at this stage. Monarch Of Egypt, a son of the US Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, has not been seen since winning well at Naas in April.
The Ger Lyons-trained SISKIN (107) has a bit more of that attribute, having won a minor race at Naas and a Listed race at the Curragh in May, and he turned in some smart sectionals (approximately 34.0s for last 3f) when beating a couple of Ballydoyle’s less vaunted juveniles on the latter course. He is good enough to get placed in an ordinary year.
The main Wesley Ward representative, Lady Pauline, was pulled out at the weekend due to a setback, but KIMARI (105) is a highly able replacement.
She won a Maiden Special Weight on dirt at Keeneland on her only start by 15 lengths and in a much faster time than the other 4.5f race on the card. The filly she beat that day, Halfmoon Reef, won readily at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
Godolphin have two very promising contenders in CHASING DREAMS (Charlie Appleby, 103) and FINAL SONG (Saeed bin Suroor, 104), who won their only starts by five lengths at Newmarket and Ascot respectively. The former had next-time winners GOOD VIBES (now 98) and KEMBLE (now 89) behind, while Final Song gets a significant upgrade for a 23.1s last 2f.
The Queen Mary has varied greatly in strength over the years, with recent winners having included stars like Lady Aurelia and Acapulco, and this looks like being one of the better editions.
Race replay: Kimari collects at Keeneland.
It generally takes a useful performance to win the Windsor Castle, and BOMB PROOF (102) is at the head of my list of candidates, having beaten three next-time winners in a good time, and with useful sectionals (33.83s last 3f), at York on his only appearance. Trainer Jeremy Noseda is looking to bow out with a bang and has the right material here.
The Wesley Ward-trained fillies CHILI PETIN (88) and FOOLISH HUMOR (91) both won their only starts by two and three quarter lengths back in the US but have weaker claims than some of their stablemates elsewhere. The former took a MSW at Keeneland from one who has been beaten twice in ordinary company since, while the latter scored on turf but in just a respectable overall time.
Race replay: Foolish Humor is first at Belmont.
A race for which the runners are far from certain and in which the ground could play its part. SUNDAY SOVEREIGN (109) has raced only on softer than good but was impressive in winning a maiden at the Curragh by three lengths from 100-rated Arizona and even more so when running away with a minor contest at Tipperary by seven (easily faster than two fairly useful older winners on the same card).
Representing the small stable of Paddy Twomey, but the owning might of King Power since the Curragh, Sunday Sovereign has the engine to win at this sort of level if he gets suitable conditions.
MONARCH OF EGYPT (103, see Coventry remarks) and PISTOLETTO (100) are the apparent main Aidan O’Brien contenders, the latter more impressive in winning at Tipperary on his debut (when there might have been a track bias) than in a messy contest at Naas last time.
Ward’s MAVEN (90) beat a next-time winner in a MSW on dirt at Aqueduct in April on his only start, but neither the time nor the form looks exceptional, while his ANNA’S FAST (87) won a MSW at Keeneland on her only start, but in an ordinary time and from several non-winners since.
VENTURA REBEL (102) took advantage of Lady Pauline’s caving in late at this course in May but is useful and would have place claims in this (also engaged in Coventry Stakes).
Race replay: Maven makes all at Aqueduct.
Ward’s NAYIBETH (106) looks up to the required standard, having run fully 1.11s quicker than Chili Petin did two races earlier when winning her only start at Keeneland in April. The runner-up, Owlette, was beaten four and a quarter lengths and has won well at Woodbine since, while there was daylight back to the third.
Final Song and Chasing Dreams seem more likely to go in the Queen Mary (see comments there), and Aidan O’Brien’s ETOILE (96) may be the main danger, having won a Group 3 at Naas on her only start in just a fairly useful time. Improvement should be forthcoming, and probably needs to be.
Race replay: Nayibeth wins at Keeneland.
PINATUBO (102, also a possible for the Coventry) and LOPE Y FERNANDEZ (99) look the best contenders, with the latter seeming to be cut from similar cloth to O’Brien’s Churchill, winner of this race in 2016, when winning a maiden at the Curragh on Friday in a useful time and with good sectionals.
Pinatubo impressed when winning at Wolverhampton and Epsom, though Oh Purple Reign did little for the form of the latter when beaten at Beverley at the weekend.