The Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2)


Stellar Mass and Kevin Manning going out to win the G3 Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown last year.

The Queen’s Dartmouth returns to defend the crown he won last year when he beat Highland Reel.

Since then he hasn’t advanced like the one he beat.

Next time out he was third in the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes Highland Reel turning him over to win by 4L. He filled the same position in the Newbury Arc Trial. It was a better performance when he stepped back up to G1 level when running second to Erupt in the Canadian International at Woodbine at the end of his season. His comeback run this season was good, he beat Simple Verse in the G2 Yorkshire Cup a neck. Should he be victorious it will be an eleventh win in the race for Sir Michael Stoute including four of the last five.

Idaho has yet to show us he has the ability of his full brother Highland Reel. In ten run’s he only won twice, a maiden first time out and the G2 Great Voltigeur Stakes at York last year. Since unseating Seamie Heffernan in the Leger he could only manage fifth in the Canadian International and on his seasonal debut he was given a hands and heels ride in the Coronation Stakes when 7 1/4 L behind his elder brother. He’ll come on an awful lot from that run.

Wings Of Desire ran second in the King George and then disappointed in the International at York where he was well beaten. He makes his reappearance here and his fitness will have to be taken on trust. His stable mate Western Hymn has had the benefit of a winning run in the Ormonde Stakes where he beat US Army Ranger.

Dal Harraild steps into G2 company for the first time over a trip short of his optimum. He will need some progression if he is to win this. The same applies to Muntahaa and the other Stoute inmate Across The Stars.

The Irish Derby form of last year may be significant here.

Harzand won a battle with Idaho by 1/2 L with Stellar Mass 3 3/4 L further back in third. Idaho’s effort was a step up on his Epsom Derby run and it’s arguably the best piece of form for this race.

A case can also be made for Stellar Mass. He won twice after the Irish Derby albeit in lesser company and his stable has really begun to fire in the last couple of weeks.

The Stoute horse will have been prepared to prime for this day in particular. That doesn’t mean he’s not vulnerable. The ground will a concern for him and could blunt him. Idaho will strip fitter since the Coronation and he will love the quick conditions as will a healthy Stellar Mass who is capable of outrunning his odds.

Recommendation : Idaho 9/2 win 

                                         Stellar Mass 50/1 ew

The Commonwealth Cup (Group 1)

Caravaggio winning the Coventry Stakes last year. Picture courtesy of Getty Images and Julian Herbert.

Caravaggio comes here looking to extend his unbeaten run to six.

His introduction to the racecourse was at Dundalk last year where you could see immediately he was something special. He followed up in the Marble Hill Stakes before coming to prominence when winning the Coventry Stakes here last year.

We only saw him once again as a juvenile when he took the G1 Keenland Stakes where he was returned as the 1/8F. That was his best performance to date. He glided across the ground winning effortlessly. A set back meant the end of his season and we had to wait until this year to see him again.

That came in the Lacken Stakes at Naas a month ago. Again he was imperious. When Ryan Moore pulled him out and asked him to quicken his trust of speed was immediate and in a matter of strides it was over and the job of pulling him up had begun.

He’s all speed inherited from his father Scat Daddy who himself was a son of Johannesburg, a very quick two-year old for Aidan O’Brien in the early noughties.

Two very good English horses oppose him in Harry Angel and Blue Point.

Harry Angel trained by Clive Cox, who won the Queen Mary yesterday, has been purchased by Godolphin and will wear the blue cap. He has mixed his four runs with two wins and two seconds. First time out last year at Ascot he was beaten a nose. Then he was thrown into the deep end for the G2 Mill Reef Stakes where he duly obliged by a cosy 2 1/2 L.

Godolphin also own Blue Point. He’s more experienced than the other two, this will be his eighth start. He’s won four including last years G2 Gimcrack Stakes. He was beaten by The Last Lion when stepped up to G1 level in the Middle Park Stakes and again in the Dewhurst when he was third to Churchill. After that the sprinting route looked the more likely option.

His return to the track came back here at Ascot in May for the Pavillion Stakes. He went off favourite and he got the better of Harry Angel easily. That was Harry Angel’s second defeat. He returned to the winners enclosure next time out in the G2 Sandy Lane Stakes where he was a very easy winner.

There’s also another unknown quantity in the race, Wesley Ward’s Bound For Nowhere. He’s had two runs at home in America, the first at Turfway Park where he was an easy winner and the second in an allowance race at Keenland where again he did it easy. There’s no telling how good the form is but he won pillar to post so you can expect him to break quick today.

The fact that the challenge from the Godolphin pair is so good means Carraviggo is a reasonable price at a shade of odds on. He could be exceptional even by Ballydoyle standards.

Naas racecourse will be very happy if Alpha Centauri trained by Jessica Harrington does the business in the Albany. She’s won both her races there. She put in a cracking trial at listed level the same day Caravaggio won and she’s a worthy favourite in the opening contest, the Albany.

Recommendation :

The Commonwealth Cup : Caravaggio 10/11 win

The Albany Stakes: Alpha Centauri 11/4 win

                                     Double on both

 

 

 

 

The Gold Cup (G1)

Picture courtesy of Getty images and Horsephotos

The Gold Cup winner of last year comes back to defend his crown and is trading a shade odds on. On soft ground Order Of St George was sheer class in winning this last year, the 3L margin belying the ease of the victory. That was on very different ground to what he’ll encounter today.

He’s since been turned over in the Irish St Leger when a 1/7 shot and then put in a sterling performance to run third in the Arc though couldn’t follow that up at Ascot on Champions Day in the Long Distance Cup when again beaten at odds on.

This year first time out he was ring rusty when going down to Torcedor in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan in April with Twilight Payment was back in third. He then got back to winning ways when beating Twilight Payment 2 1/4 L at Leopardstown in the Savel Beg Stakes a few weeks ago in May.

Torcedor also beat Twilight Payment prior to winning the Vintage Crop beating him 5 1/2 L in early April. He’s been a revelation since moving to Jessica Harrington on the retirement of David Wachman and is a horse on the up.

Best of the home team is Simple Verse. She has shown a return to the form that marked her out as a very good three-year old when she won the St Leger and Champions Fillies & Mares. She was only beaten a neck by Dartmouth on her prep run for this, the Yorkshire Cup last time out and the question is, as it it with most of these, will she stay the trip.

The crowd favourite will be Big Orange who a durable stayer who finds two miles well within his compass. He comes here on the back of a 5 L victory in the Henry 11 Stakes.

Sheikzayedroad would also be popular, he won last years Doncaster Cup over a two furlongs shorter trip than this beating Quest For More who went on to take the Prix Du Cadran over this distance on Arc weekend taking the scalp of Vazirabad, France’s best stayer in the process.

Order Of St George is plenty short enough though undoubtedly he is the class act. The issue is reliability having been beaten when expected to win convincingly.

If the favourite is to be opposed then a chance is taken with Torcedor. He like many of these has to answer the question of staying. At 22/1 it’s worth taking a chance on Jessica Harrington doing an amazing Gold Cup double having already taken the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Sizing John this year.

Recommendation : Torcedor 22/1 ew

The Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (Group 1)

Highland Reel leave the ring at Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Stakes

The Prince Of Wales’s Stakes over 1m2f is the centre piece for the second day of Royal Ascot. It’s a great contest for older horses. After today wins for Ribchester and Barney Roy the bragging rights are Gololphin’s. Will that continue with their Jack Hobbs taking on Coolmore’s Highland Reel in this?

Jack Hobbs and Highland Reel have already lit up the season and as of yesterday they vied for favouritism at around 11/4. This morning the money has come for Highland Reel and his is best priced at 5/2.

In Dubai in March Jack Hobbs took the scalp of Highland Reel over 1m4f on soft ground at Meydan in the Dubai Sheema Classic. Highland Reel did what he does best, broke from the gate to boss the race. He brought the field to the top of the straight and when Ryan Moore asked him to quicken it became obvious that he was glued to the tacky ground. He was eased down to trail in last.

Jack Hobbs having tracked Highland Reel into the straight was full of running. When William Buick pressed the button he easily picked up loving the surface stretching away to beat Seventh Heaven and Postponed. We haven’t seen him since.

Highland Reel went onto the Coronation Cup at Epsom a couple of weeks ago where order was restored. Breaking fast he was soon in command and unlike in Dubai when he rounded Tattenham Corner he went through the gears. He loves a battle and when Godolphin’s Hawksbill came at him with his head hanging you could nearly see his gritted teeth. Within strides the fight was over Hawsbill capitulating in the end being passed by another Godolphin runner Frontiersman to chase home the O’Brien colt.

Ulysses takes on the front two. He comes here on the back of a win in the Gordon Richards Stakes over this trip where he was a length ahead of Deauville who ran so well yesterday when third in the Queen Anne. He possess the potential to put Sir Michael Stoute back on the top of the tree. He’s a four year old who didn’t match his early promise at three but in the hands of a master with older horses he could yet reach the summit. The Stoute team is also represented by the Fillies and Mares Breeders Cup winner Queens Trust who didn’t shine in the Middleton on her come back run in May trailing in fourth.

Decorated Knight might just be ahead of Ulysses on form through Deauville. He took the Tattersalls Gold Cup, also over this trip, from Somehow with Deauville 4L behind in third. It was his second strike at G 1 level having taken the Jebble Hatta in early March. Like Highland Reel he was also glued to the ground when contesting The Dubai Turf on World Cup night and he will find these conditions much more to his liking.

Aidan O’Brien also sends Johannes Vermeer who ran fourth in the Tattersalls across the water and he is steadily improving after an injury hit season last year.

Jean-Claude Rouget makes the trip from France with his G1 Prix D’Ispahan winner Mekhtaal. He’s stepping up a furlong in trip from the D’Ispahan and is one whose definitely on the improve having chased home Cloth Of Stars at G2 level in his previous run.

Godolphin also run Scottish who last time out was sent to Australia for the Caulfield Cup where he ran a very good second.

The ground will favour Highland Reel whose won three G 1’s on fast ground already. A Breeders Cup Turf, a Secretariat Stakes and a King George here last summer at Ascot. Jack Hobbs should also handle it having won the 2015 Irish Derby on good to firm ground.

It looks like a match. It’s probable both are better at 1m4f than this shorter trip, class will tell.

Let’s hope we get the battle we didn’t get at Meydan. It will be Highland Reel’s toughest test, his biggest fight. it could get ugly in the last furlong, he might just get nutted on the line but then he might just get the last dig in.

In the Jersey Stakes Ger Lyons Glastonbury Song steps down in class from the Irish Guineas and could go well on ground he could relish at a decent price. He’s worth backing with a bookmaker paying 4 places.

Recommendation :

Prince Of Wales’s Stakes : Highland Reel  5/2 win

Jersey Stakes                    : Glastonbury Song 25/1 ew