Royal Ascot, five days of world-class turf racing, draws to a close on Saturday. This piece takes a look at the closing day feature, the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, a six-furlong turf sprint for older horses.
The Diamond Jubilee Stakes began life as the All-Aged Stakes in 1868. It was renamed the Cork and Orrery Stakes in 1926, in honour of Richard Boyle, 9th Earl of Cork. He had served three separate stints as Master of the Buckhounds in the 1860s and 1880s, an office which at that time entailed being Her Majesty's Representative at Ascot. It was renamed the Golden Jubilee Stakes in 2002, and given Group I status at that time to celebrate fifty years of Queen Elizabeth II's reign. Ten years later, it received its current name to honour the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
That Diamond Jubilee year produced the race's most memorable edition in recent times, when undefeated Australian racemare Black Caviar prevailed by a head over Moonlight Cloud despite sustaining a muscle tear in the race. On American shores, the 2015 rendition was a highlight, as Wesley Ward trainee Undrafted got up to win. From a breeding perspective, the most important winner of this race in recent times was Danehill (1989). After his racing career he became the first well-known shuttle stallion, and topped sire lists in Australia, France, and Great Britain and Ireland.
Through 2014, three-year-olds and up were permitted to enter the race. Starting with the 2015 running, this race was limited to ages four and older, since three-year-olds got their own Group I sprint at six furlongs in the Commonwealth Cup.
Odds listed are the American morning line odds, as published in Brisnet's International PPs.
Saturday, June 24: Royal Ascot
Diamond Jubilee Stakes (G1), four-year-olds and up, six furlongs on the turf, post time 4:20pm local time/10:20am CST
In a competitive, 19-horse renewal of the Diamond Jubilee, LIMATO looms large. He is a proper grade 1 horse, and though seven panels may be his best distance, he still proved proper Grade 1 class at this six-furlong distance by winning the July Cup (G1) last year. Yes, his last two races have been a bit disappointing. The Breeders' Cup Mile against true milers like Tourist and Tepin proved to be too much for him, and last out in the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai, a rainy week led to softer ground. LIMATO prefers better going, something he should get at the royal meeting. He does get a rider switch here, away from his previous regular rider Harry Bentley -- to Ryan Moore, who did ride LIMATO to a second-place finish in the 2015 Prix de la Foret (G1). A move to Ryan Moore is a positive at Royal Ascot (as it is most anywhere), and LIMATO is squarely the one to beat.
Still, an interesting challenger emerges to the well-proven LIMATO in Duke of York (G2) winner TASLEET. The four-year-old son of Showcasing is still relatively lightly raced. He has made just ten starts, with five wins and three seconds to show for them. The Diamond Jubilee will be TASLEET's biggest class test to date, as he has not yet faced Group 1 company. Though his last-out victory came over soft ground, he has plenty of back form over better going, so the course should not pose a problem. TASLEET has also shown solid versatility, able to run well from near the pace, or from rallying off it (like he did last out). Yes, he will have to take another step forward in order to beat his first Group 1 field. But, coming third off the lay and keeping rider Jim Crowley from his last-out win, he has a right to prove himself at this level.
SUEDOIS also deserves a look, particularly as a place chance or in exactas, trifectas, and omni/swinger bets. Typically this space will shy away from a horse like SUEDOIS, who so rarely visits the winners' circle nowadays. But, he has been as reliable as anyone for finishing underneath at this level: near the pace or more off it, good ground or soft, SUEDOIS contends. At the top level in these huge fields, that's as good as you can ask from almost anyone. Though SUEDOIS has never won at six furlongs, he has been second three times and third twice. One of those off-the-board finishes did come in last year's Diamond Jubilee -- but though he was fifth, SUEDOIS only crossed the wire half a length behind winner Twilight Son. He gets back rider Daniel Tudhope (yes, he's a David O'Meara/Daniel Tudhope production, just like last year's Arlington Million winner Mondialiste), with whom so many of his races have come.
#12 TASLEET (7/1)
#7 LIMATO (3/1)
#11 SUEDOIS (15/1)
Longshot: The Blue has been red hot at Royal Ascot this week, and Godolphin has a live Diamond Jubilee offering in #2 COMICAS (20/1). He has best made his name known over dirt, with a win in a handicap during the Dubai Carnival back in February, and a second-place finish in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) behind Mind Your Biscuits. But, barring this year's carnival, COMICAS has run on the grass. The form earlier in his career came over a seven-furlong trip, but he acquitted himself quite well in his first try going six -- home third in the Duke of York behind TASLEET and MAGICAL MEMORY. That was his first start off a lay; this will have COMICAS second off, and he will appreciate getting better ground at Ascot than the soft turf he had at York. Donning the blinkers once again, COMICAS will likely be prominent, which is a positive since this race does not have an overflow of pace. Then again, he is versatile enough to rate and rally, like he did two back in the Golden Shaheen. William Buick should be able to get the best of COMICAS; many of his best efforts have come with Buick in the irons, and it is a positive to see them reunited. If all goes well, Godolphin may not only get first blood at Royal Ascot, but also the last laugh.
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