The fourth day of the five day Royal Ascot meeting sees the Picks & Ponderings team again tackle the Group One races. There are two Group One races, both restricted to the sophomore set – the Commonwealth Cup for turf sprinters and the Coronation Stakes for filly milers. Both races serve as convergent events bringing together a worldwide cast to test their mettle on the Ascot turf, and both races carry a purse of 375,000 pounds.
This weekend also features action from Thistledown near Cleveland, with Paul Mazur’s look at the Ohio Derby on Saturday June 20.
In the discussion that follows, purses are in British funds (unless denoted). Numbers given refer to post positions. Odds given are specific to their noted pools, and will fluctuate between different bookmakers and the American parimutuel pool.
Authorship of each race in this piece is denoted by initials at the end of the race, PM for Paul Mazur and NN for Nicolle Neulist. All races in this preview are slated for Friday June 19.
Royal Ascot — Race 3 — G1 Commonwealth Cup — Six Furlongs on Turf — post time 3:40 PM local time/10:40 AM ET
This year marks the inaugural running of the Commonwealth Cup, a six-furlong turf sprint for three-year-olds. It replaced the Buckingham Palace Stakes, a seven-furlong straight race for ages three-and-up. Sophomore sprinters previously had to face older in the Diamond Jubilee in order to contest a Group I at their distance at Ascot; now they have a race of their own. The Diamond Jubilee, which goes on Saturday over the same distance, now allows only older horses.
American invader Hootenanny wins last year’s Windsor Castle Stakes. He goes for a second Royal Ascot win in the Commonwealth.
If the top two selections in this race sound a bit familiar, do not adjust your dial. ANTHEM ALEXANDER and TIGGY WIGGY finished 1-2 last year in the Queen Mary Stakes (GII) at Royal Ascot, and both enter this year in strong form. In addition to having a win over the ground, ANTHEM ALEXANDER is not a type who needs soft ground to do her best. The conditions Friday should suit her. ANTHEM ALEXANDER should be able to sit off the speed, and make her move in the final two furlongs. This race marks ANTHEM ALEXANDER’s second start of the year. First off an eight month lay, she beat males in the Lacken Stakes (GIII – ENG) at Naas. That race covered this same six-furlong distance, and she gamely wore down the pacesetter and kicked away late. This set will prove tougher, but the class is there. That last start also happened on softer ground; she should prefer the faster going at Ascot this week. ANTHEM ALEXANDER will renew her rivalry with another class horse here in TIGGY WIGGY. They first met in that Queen Mary last year, with ANTHEM ALEXANDER winning by half a length. However, in their next two matches, TIGGY WIGGY got her picture taken. Both of those races were at Group level, and both were at the same six-furlong distance as the Commonwealth. She tried stretching out to longer distances in her first two starts this year, including a run in the One Thousand Guineas (GI – ENG) at Newmarket, but could muster no better than third in both of those starts. They were not bad, and she faced classy company, but this cut back to a six-furlong trip should help TIGGY WIGGY return to her best.
There is quite a bit of speed in this race: KOOL KOMPANY, HOOTENANNY, and HOME OF THE BRAVE are among the best. However, if one of the speedballs survives to win the race, that will likely be HOOTENANNY. This Wesley Ward trainee comes in second off the lay, with an easy allowance win at Keeneland to kick off his season. He proved last year that he could handle the ship to Ascot, and proved last year that he could win over the course. The firmer going should be no problem for him, either, as he kicked on well to beat stablemate Luck of the Kitten in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI) at Santa Anita last year. He has speed, but he can carry that speed six furlongs and beyond, and he can use that speed tactically. He will be bet quite hard in the American pools since American bettors will recognise him, but everything suggests that HOOTENANNY merits that action.
Two others to touch on, in a “last ones out” sense, are LIMATO and ADAAY. LIMATO streaked through his two-year-old season undefeated, and only tasted defeat last out when ADAAY beat him by a length in the Sandy Lane Stakes (GII – ENG). ADAAY did well to beat LIMATO last out, In a classy eighteen-horse field such as this, whittling the field down can be splitting hairs, and I would not try too hard to talk anyone who landed on LIMATO or ADAAY off. Their form does fit, and both come in with a chance.
Selections: (with odds given in the William Hill book and prices as of original publish time)
#14 ANTHEM ALEXANDER (6/1)
#18 TIGGY WIGGY (5/1)
#7 HOOTENANNY (9/2)
Longshot: In addition to HOOTENANNY, there is one other American shipper in this race: CYCLOGENISIS. This grey Stormy Atlantic colt has done nothing wrong yet in three starts stateside — but the most difficult field he has faced has been listed company at Presque Isle. His turn of foot was splendid, but he stands to be underlaid in American pools on familiarity. Instead, take a look at #15 NEW PROVIDENCE (20/1). She has raced nine times, including five tries in Group company, and never finished worse than third. Last out, she finished third beaten just a length behind ADAAY and LIMATO, two horses who will go off at far shorter odds in the Commonwealth. She will need to take a step forward to win this race, but her consistency against classy company suggests she should be in the mix come the end of the race. You would do well to toss NEW PROVIDENCE into an exacta ticket or to play her each way. — NN
Royal Ascot — Race 4 — G1 Coronation Stakes — One Mile on Turf — post time 4:20 PM local time/11:20 AM ET
Unlike the opening day Group One Queen Anne Stakes, the Coronation is not contested on the straightaway mile. Contested at a flat mile but around a single bend, the Coronation Stakes is the traditional Friday feature of Royal Ascot. Inaugurated in 1840, two years after Queen Victoria’s coronation (hence the name), the Coronation Stakes was given a Group Two rating in 1971 and cemented to Group One status in 1988. Like all the Royal Ascot races, the 2005 running was at York Race Course while Ascot received a facelift. Typically, this race attracts runners from the European three-year-old filly races and also provides clues to fall racing. Irish Group one nameplate Pretty Polly (1904) stands among the vintage winners. Two more recent winners of this race have come to the United States and taken down events on Breeders’ Cup Day, Ridgewood Pearl (1995) in the mile against males and Banks Hill (2001) in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Sky Lantern (2013) tried the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at two and was doomed by a bad trip; she came into this race off a win in the English 1000 Guineas. Two third place finishers, Just The Judge (3rd, 2013) and Euro Charline (3rd, 2014) shipped over to the states for Group One prizes – the former to capture the 2014 E. P. Taylor and the latter to annex the 2014 Beverly D. at Arlington.
Ridgewood Pearl wins the 1995 Coronation Stakes. That fall, she would beat males in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Three fillies rise to the top in the Coronation Stakes. English One Thousand Guineas runner-up LUCIDA, Irish One Thousand Guineas runner-up FOUND, and French Group 1 winner ERVEYDA are the ones that rise up to the top. Picking them apart is a mind-boggling challenge and tote/book watchers who are keen observers will do well with this event. With good-to-firm ground anticipated, LUCIDA gets the edge. Her only bad effort came in the fall of her juvenile campaign at Newmarket, and that was over soft turf. She won’t likely have that soft ground to trip her up and does have an excuse for her last out effort of misplaced irons. Things could just be going right this time around for this daughter of Shamardal, and she doesn’t project to be the favorite in the wagering. That will go to the well-connected FOUND, owned by the Tabor/Magnier/Smith trioka and trained by Aidan O’ Brien. FOUND was the bridesmaid in an Irish Group One, but hasn’t won since a Group One on Arc Day last fall. Unlike LUCIDA who appeared to dislike autumnal turf, FOUND has wins on good turf and a second two back on “heavy” going. FOUND makes sense, but there is another case of a favorite to use defensively: the zero-for-two record and depressed odds are reasons to look elsewhere; suspecting there might not be progression is another. Those who are more fond of FOUND will be pleased to know she’s lured Ryan Moore to ride. ERVEYDA’s work has come in France and she was second on Arc Day to FOUND three back. A winner of a Group Three and a Group One this year, her form is just as capable as FOUND or LUCIDA. The demerit on her is the sire line, with sire Siyouni best known for wins at two. Maybe success at three doesn’t follow. Yet, she’s one that moves to the fore should the forecast of good or good-to-firm ground not hold for Day Four at Ascot.
Selections: (with odds given in the Bet 365 book and prices as of original publish time)
#9 LUCIDA (5/2)
#2 FOUND (7/4)
#7 ERVEYDA (7/2)
Longshot: American hopes in this race lie with MISS TEMPLE CITY, but the American sophomore turf fillies have a clear leader in Lady Eli, and Lady Eli dusted this one at Keeneland in the spring. Those playing the American pools will see a depressed price on her based on familiarity, but those in the UK pools should get her north of 40-1. Lady Eli in this spot would intrigue, MISS TEMPLE CITY does not. Instead, look at #5 ARABIAN QUEEN (16/1). ARABIAN QUEEN won her last start in a Group Three in a very American manner by being forward on the pace for eight and a half furlongs – not doing the usual sit and wait then accelerate style that happens (though not always) in non-American racing. While MISS TEMPLE CITY is the American who runs like an American, ARABIAN QUEEN is the European who runs like an American, and could be the presser who gets first run or the speed who hangs around to the end. She’s shown – for her cadence – she’s not one dimensional as she pressed to win in career start despite her two other wins coming when she controlled all the terms. — PM
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