Published 17:04 19/6
The journey from hero to zero can be a short one, and if you believe some people PINATUBO is on his way along it. “Pinaturbo” has become “Pinatuboat” to the wags on social media.
Steady on, fellas! Last year’s unbeaten two-year-old champ does not suddenly become a three-year-old chump just because he finished third in what the clock says (but the Form Book has yet to confirm) was a good 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
On that occasion, Pinatubo emerged from traffic in mid-pack with the fastest split in the field from 3f out to 2f out to look a big threat to all, only for Wichita to respond and for Kameko to sweep past them both late on.
Pinatubo appeared beaten on merit, though those splits do offer encouragement that he will build on the effort paced a bit more evenly. As it is, we do not have to look very far for evidence that he is – or perhaps was – a better horse than he managed to show that day.
At two, he was stunningly brilliant, especially when winning the National Stakes at the Curragh by nine lengths in a quick time. He was more workmanlike when winning the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on his final start but still had Wichita nearly five lengths back in third that day.
That latter race was on good to soft (officially “soft”) ground, which made some of us think that Wichita had been unsuited by it and would run much better on top of the ground in the Guineas, which he did.
Simplistic, perhaps, but Wichita and Pinatubo encounter ground conditions in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot at 3:00 on Saturday likely to resemble the Dewhurst more than the Guineas, even if it dries further following midweek deluges.
The bookies can scarcely separate them: Pinatubo deserves to be clear favourite on the balance of his form.
There are five others in the field to be concerned about, including two stablemates of Wichita (Arizona and Royal Dornoch) who may seek to ensure the race is run on Aidan O’Brien’s terms. The Pinatubo we saw at two, and caught more than a glimpse of in the Guineas, should not be unduly troubled by them, by Palace Pier(good though he was against inferior rivals at Newcastle) or by Threat and Positive. He deserves to be about 6/4 in this company.
The running of the Coronation Stakes at the same distance 35 minutes earlier should make for some useful sectional comparisons, but the race is not one I am keen on from a betting point of view.
Cloak of Spirits and Quadrilateral were placed in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket recently, which might be enough usually, but that was a weak edition behind the impressive winner. The US raider Sharing is better than that pair but may not have her ground.
The two who interest me most in the other Group 1, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at 3:35, are Hello Youmzain and One Master, both good enough on their day to win what looks a slightly substandard renewal.
Hello Youmzain should be well suited by this test but I am unconvinced about the form of Kevin Ryan-trained reappearers (Glass Slippers ran as if not quite fit on Tuesday). One Master is every bit as good at 7f as this 6f and could ideally do with the leaders cutting their throats in this. I’ll pass, on reflection.
I do think that there is a worthwhile bet in the Coventry Stakes at 1:50, however, not with Admiral Nelson (highly impressive at the Curragh but possibly passing trees) or even with Creative Force (who I backed for this after he beat subsequent Norfolk Stakes third Imperial Force at Newmarket), but with QAADER.
The Mark Johnston-trained colt won really well at Newbury eight days ago, a race from which the third has won since, and his late splits (approximately 11.5s for the final 1f) were excellent as he took off to win by four lengths. That makes Qaader the highest-rated of these in my book, though he will have to show all of the anticipated improvement to beat some promising rivals.
Not only is the ground nowhere near as fast as when she blitzed to victory in 55.66s round a bend at Gulfstream in May, she has drawn stall 1 and faces strength in numbers, as well as a likely good one from Ireland in More Beautiful and a British filly whose form is working out well in Sacred.
I will be giving the Wokingham Handicap at 4:10 a wide berth but the opening Silver Wokingham at 12:40 actually looks solvable. APLOMB is well-treated on his second to Tinto at this course and distance in October, which came on soft ground, and boasts a promising reappearance at 5f on good to firm at Newmarket. He should be clear favourite for this.
The main purpose of the Queen Alexandra Stakes at 4:40 in recent years has been to allow those who wish to avoid the traffic to leave the course early. That no longer applies, and it certainly does not appeal as a betting heat, either.
Simon's Best Bets (scale 1-5 points):
12:40 ROYAL ASCOT – SILVER WOKINGHAM HANDICAP
1 pt win APLOMB (5-1 general)
1:50 ROYAL ASCOT – COVENTRY STAKES
1 pt win QAADER (5-1 BetVictor, Betfred, Boylesports, Coral, Ladbrokes)
3:00 ROYAL ASCOT – ST JAMES’S PALACE STAKES
2 pts win PINATUBO (2-1 BetVictor, Ladbrokes, 15-8 bet365, Betfred, Boylesports)