Royal Ascot, five days of top-class turf racing, draws to a close on Saturday. Continuing our look at the Group I events of the meet, this piece looks at Saturday’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
Back on American shores, Paul Mazur has a look at stakes racing at two different tracks. Saturday’s card at Arlington features a pair of turf stakes for Illinois-bred runners. Churchill’s Saturday evening card features the Foster (GI), as well as four other graded stakes.
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. He returns to defend his title. 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 2015, 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, Friday’s Commonwealth Cup.
Odds listed are William Hill odds at publish time. Odds will fluctuate based on bookmaker or pool.
Race 4: Diamond Jubilee Stakes, four-year-olds and up, six furlongs on the turf, post time 4:20pm local time (10:20am Central time)
American eyes will be on UNDRAFTED, the defending champion in this race. He has class, he has Wesley Ward in his corner, and he boasts generally strong six-furlong form. He also gets some pace to chase, with HOLLER, MATTMU, and SIGNS OF BLESSING all having shown some speed at turns. However, he has a few strikes against him. With more rain in the forecast for Saturday, the ground stands to be softer than he likes. He had the services of Frankie Dettori last year — but loses him to MAGICAL MEMORY here. He goes the the services of a perfectly solid rider: John Velazquez has not only won plenty of races on these shores, but has won a few Royal Ascot races as well. At European prices, UNDRAFTED may be fine value, but it is worth watching to see if he gets hit too hard in the American pools before backing him stateside for a repeat.
TWILIGHT SON comes in for his second start of the year. He was a well-beaten fifth behind MAGICAL MEMORY in the Duke of York (GII – ENG) in that 2016 bow, but several things suggest he can reverse that form here. For one, he could come sharper second off the lay. Furthermore, the ground was good in that last start. Though Ascot’s ground was upgraded to “good to soft” on Friday, there is more rain scheduled for Saturday, making it likely there will still be some cut. TWILIGHT SON showed excellent form over soft ground last year, with a Group I win at Haydock, and a second behind Muhaarar as well. He also gets a rider swap back to Ryan Moore; Ascot ace Moore was aboard when he was second in the Champions Sprint (GI – ENG) behind Muhaarar. Still, MAGICAL MEMORY has a shot here, third off the lay. It does stand out that Frankie Dettori hops off the defending champion to ride this one instead. MAGICAL MEMORY does have some class; though he spent most of last year in handicaps, he was third beaten less than a length behind TWILIGHT SON in the Betfred Sprint Cup (GI- ENG) last fall, and has two group-level wins this year. The ground is the biggest question, as the cut likely gives TWILIGHT SON the advantage over him, but with strong form, a strong rider, and good versatility as to where Dettori can put him in the pack, MAGICAL MEMORY has more than a punter’s chance here.
#9 TWILIGHT SON (4/1)
#4 MAGICAL MEMORY (7/2)
#10 UNDRAFTED (8/1)
Longshot: #7 SUEDOIS (12/1) has not quite shown Group I class yet, but this looks to be the right time to try the top level again. He has been second in both of his starts this year, including behind MAGICAL MEMORY in the Duke of York. He could take another step forward third off the lay. SUEDOIS has been a consistent sort at six furlongs. Also, he should like the rain in the forecast. His classiest win last year came in a Group III at Deauville, going about six furlongs over the soft turf. Finally, he could be a bit more forward than the top selections. He has a bit of versatility, but if he gets first jump on them, SUEDOIS could hold on with at least a place chance for a price.
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