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 1 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 1 sprint at six furlongs in the Commonwealth Cup.
Odds listed are the American morning line odds, as published in Brisnet's International PPs, as well as the William Hill price as of publication time, Friday afternoon, June 21.
Saturday, June 22: 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
If the name BLUE POINT looks familiar...you've probably been watching Royal Ascot, too. After all, BLUE POINT already won the King's Stand (G1) on Tuesday of this week, holding Battaash comfortably at bay to win his second straight King's Stand. Now, he wheels right back, stretches out an extra furlong, and faces seventeen other foes in the Diamond Jubilee. Some horses are just 5f horses, some are just 6f horses, but BLUE POINT is one of those who can effectively do both -- in his previous start, he won the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) at Meydan, a six-furlong sprint. And, who holds the course record for six furlongs at Ascot? One BLUE POINT, who set the record in May of 2017, when he was three.
The biggest question is the spacing of the races: BLUE POINT has never spaced races more closely than two weeks apart, and he hasn't won either time that he raced so quickly together. Perhaps he handles it better now -- he's 5 now, and those quick returns happened when he was 2, so he's far more mature -- but if you're looking at holes to poke in this world-class sprinter who also happens to be an Ascot horse-for-the-course, that's your hole.
Beyond the clear horse to beat, there are a few ways you can go. Last year's winner Merchant Navy doesn't take another crack at the Diamond Jubilee -- but second-place CITY LIGHT, third-place BOUND FOR NOWHERE, and fourth-place THE TIN MAN all do, and all three come into the race in solid enough form. Among those, it's THE TIN MAN who is preferred. Six furlongs at Ascot suits him beautifully, as he won this last year and was fourth beaten only a length last year after not having the greatest trip in the world. He's agnostic when it comes to ground, with strong races on any kind of footing, and he should get a good run from his fairly high draw (17).
A word on BOUND FOR NOWHERE, since he is the American raider for Wesley Ward -- he was a good third in this race last year, and he has raced at so many distances, but I still wonder whether he may be better going even shorter than this. Between that and the softer ground earlier in the week, I would have loved to see BOUND FOR NOWHERE contest the King's Stand on Tuesday. It wouldn't surprise me to see him run well again...but with so many other good horses in this field, and with Wesley Ward horses being overbet on that familiarity angle in the US pools, I'd rather leave him as one to sprinkle for the lower rungs of the exotics.
There are also plenty of newer faces; among them, EMBLAZONED deserves a long look. His rider, Frankie Dettori, is scorching the turf this Royal Ascot: seven wins in the first four days, including four on Thursday alone. And, EMBLAZONED is a young up-and-comer: just four years old, just six starts underneath him. He has yet to win a Group race, though he raced to a G1 placing and a G2 placing last year under Dettori. Though he was caught late at Haydock on May 11, it was his first race since June of the previous year. He needed a race before finding his best last year, too, and EMBLAZONED will benefit from the slightly better ground he should get in the Diamond Jubilee.
#1 BLUE POINT (2/1 US morning line; 9/4 UK William Hill)
#16 THE TIN MAN (10/1 US morning line, 11/1 UK William Hill)
#6 EMBLAZONED (20/1 US morning line, 20/1 UK William Hill)
Longshot: If a rider is running hot at Royal Ascot, that can help tip you toward a longshot in a big field. Of course, no one's running as hot as Frankie Dettori this year -- but if anyone's coming close, it's Daniel Tudhope. Most familiar to Chicago racing followers for winning the Arlington Million with Mondialiste in 2016, he has won three races at Royal Ascot already, with another two placings to his credit. In the Diamond Jubilee he takes the reins of #5 DREAM OF DREAMS (15/1 US morning line; 16/1 UK William Hill). The five-year-old is an up-and-comer; he ran four placings last year in either G2 or G3 company, including a 2nd-place finish at Newbury going 7f on the straight over good ground. (The Diamond Jubilee is at 6f on the straight, over ground that, with no rain likely overnight, should be either good, or good, good to soft in places.) DREAM OF DREAMS has won both his starts this year -- both at 6f, and both comfortably enough to think he'll take the next step up in class. (In his most recent effort, he actually beat THE TIN MAN.) Do note that at this point his odds are sitting slightly shorter than EMBLAZONED -- but, in Arlington terms, we're talking about the Jose Valdivia of Royal Ascot -- just like there's plenty of "I'll just bet Valdivia" money at Arlington, there's plenty of "I'll just bet Dettori" money in the American pools at Royal Ascot. So, come post time, I fully expect DREAM OF DREAMS to be a longer shot than EMBLAZONED.
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