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Royal Ascot 2019

If the Cheltenham Festival is national hunt racing’s Mecca, Royal Ascot, although arriving comparatively early in the season, marks a pinnacle in the flat racing calendar. Five days of scintillating action, with the best from the UK, Ireland, Europe and further afield all gunning for a share of the spoils. While prize money is far higher in many places around the world, the prestige of a Royal Ascot winner leads many to view this as the greatest flat meeting in the world. When Undrafted won the Diamond Jubilee for US trainer Wesley Ward in 2015, the multiple Group 1 and Breeder’s Cup winning trainer was led to proclaim it as, “the biggest race I’ve won.”

With little over a week to go, questions abound. Will Battaash bring his best to trounce his rivals in the King’s Stand? Who will win the battle of the Guineas victors in the St James’s Palace?  On Wednesday, will Sea Of Class flow smoothly on return after her long absence? Can anyone topple Stradivarius in his bid for back to back Gold Cups? Can Invincible Army remain invincible this season in Saturday’s Diamond Jubilee?

In a daily big race preview I will bring you the low down on five top races at the meeting in what promises to be a memorable week of racing action.

Wednesday 19th June 2019 – A Royal Rumble: Can the Ocean swallow up the Sea?

Prince Of Wales Stakes (Group 1) 1 mile 2 furlongs

This undoubtably looks the race of the meeting, with last year’s Epsom Derby winner Masar, Irish Oaks heroine Sea Of Class, Champions Day victor Magical all set to line up. Were it not for the extraordinary Enable, a notable absence here, you could add an Arc and Breeder’s Cup turf to the haul of spoils plundered by those three runners. Throw into that mix hardened 5 year old Group race performers Crystal Ocean and Waldgeist and it’s clear this is going to be a spectacle. Such is the strength in depth of this race it’s almost possible to forget that Enable was ruled out of making her intended reappearance here.

Recent years renewals have been far weaker than what lies in store a week on Wednesday. Last year Sir Michael Stoute’s Poet’s Word sprang something of a surprise in running away from the below par 2/5 on favourite Cracksman. He faced six rivals then, with nothing ever threatening to land a blow on the first two, 3rd placed Hawkbill trailing in some 10 lengths adrift of the winner. Shock results are not uncommon in this contest, with My Dream Boat winning at 16/1 in 2016. In fact, there have only been two successful winning favourites in the last ten renewals.

It’s predictably tight at the head of the ante-post market, with the two fillies Sea Of Class and Magical vying for favouritism and behind them three runners separated all with strong chances. It would be a real shock were the winner not to come from one of the first five in the betting, but with such strength in depth there are others who at their best could stake a claim. Here are the major runners.

Magical – Generally 9/4*

Arrives at Ascot searching for a four timer, having already landed three Group races this term, including most recently the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh. Aidan O’Brien’s filly has proved herself to be highly adaptable winning Group races at distances between 7 and 12 furlongs, in the same vein as Ballydoyle’s recent high class and versatile race mare Found.

That doesn’t quite tell the whole story though as in the races she has won this season her closest rival on each occasion has been her stablemate Flag Of Honour. It would be fair to say that those three Group races were very weak affairs. Last time out at the Curragh three of her four rivals were off the bridle passing the four pole, meaning O’Brien’s filly could only win as easily as she liked. Magical’s 3 year old form probably offers more clues to her ability, where she won the Fillies & Mares Stakes on Champions Day and then was a close second to Enable at the Breeder’s Cup. Both those runs came over 12 furlongs, so there may be some lingering doubts about her best trip, having run this season solely at 10 furlongs and remaining at that trip here.

While Magical undoubtably has plenty of ability, I think she is stepping back in here against a totally different class of horse when compared to what she has faced this season. This is a far better contest than the Fillies & Mares that she won, and I feel she would need to better her Breeder’s Cup Turf performance (Waldgeist back in 5th) to win, which I on all evidence seems unlikely.

Sea Of Class – 11/4

Unraced as a 2 year old, William Haggas’ filly was a revelation last season going on from her maiden 2nd to win back to back Listed contests, the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks and oh-so nearly land the Arc on her final start. She ran an unbelievable race that day at Longchamp coming from a seemingly impossible position off the home turn, slicing through the field before the line just came too soon for her – Enable winning by a neck.

In six runs last season she was held up, and in her final three switched off out the back before unleashing with her characteristic run from the clouds. Her last three runs have been over 12 furlongs, while she drops back to 10 furlongs here.

While her form marks her out as a worthy second favourite and she probably is the best horse in the race, this will be her reappearance run after the best part of 8 months off. She faces high class, race fit opposition and because of her run style, along with the nature of the track at Ascot (short home straight) she will need to be super sharp on Wednesday. It’s certainly not beyond possibility that William Haggas has her hard fit and ready to run to her best, but I would imagine she has bigger targets further down the line this season. With that in mind then, I feel this is the time to take her on.

Crystal Ocean – 9/2

Has looked better than ever in two runs so far this season. In previous seasons, while admirably consistent, a win at the top level has still eluded him. Just touched off in the St Leger as a 3 year old, last season’s King George saw him go down on his sword in a driving finish with stablemate Poet’s Word, before again filling the bridesmaid’s role behind Cracksman in the Champion Stakes. This is a horse that does very little wrong but has so far just come up short in the heat of battle. Regardless, he runs Ascot particularly well, winning once and placing three times in his four career outings at the track.

Of his runs so far this season I was particularly impressed with his Sandown win first time out. He showed as impressive a turn of foot that I’ve seen from this horse, surging ahead at the furlong pole to quickly put the contest beyond his rivals. That was over the Prince of Wales trip of 10 furlongs, a distance he has only been beaten at twice before from five runs.

Sir Michael Stoute is a master at bringing his horses along gradually, meaning they often reach their peak in their fourth or fifth seasons of racing. I have a feeling he may now be about to get the beat out of Crystal Ocean. With Ryan Moore retained by Ballydoyle, Dettori takes the ride, a jockey who has a 26% strike rate when teaming up with the master trainer Stoute. He rides Ascot perfectly and is sure to have Crystal Ocean well positioned. I think he will try to kick and hit the front two furlongs out, and over a shorter trip this time he could be difficult to run down.

Waldgeist – 6/1

Andre Fabre’s runners at Ascot are never to be underestimated and Waldgeist is another who possesses more than enough ability to be involved at the business end. He warmed up for this in the Group 1 Prix Ganay, where he demolished his four opponents, with Study Of Man beaten 4 ½ lengths and Ghaiyyath in 3rd. Jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot hardly had to work on him to go past the weakening front two as he stretched away impressively.

That’s probably not the best form, considering Zabeel Prince beat Study Of Man next time out, but for a first run of the season it is likely he will come on again at Ascot. Form wise he ties in well with some of these, having finished a fine 4th in the Arc last season and so behind runner up Sea Of Class. Next time out at the Breeder’s Cup he finished some 13 lengths behind winner Enable, behind Magical who he meets again now. It’s probably not fair to count that as a true run though as consistency is usually this colt’s forte and he was far closer to Enable in the Arc. Waldgeist does also have form at Ascot when just failing to justify favouritism in the 2017 Cumberland Lodge. However, that is his best performance on foreign soil, where he is yet to win despite competing five times abroad.

Likely to be primed for the race, with the 10 furlong trip perhaps slightly on the sharp side but not too much of an inconvenience, I can see him running well and playing a part in the finish, while probably finding one or two too good.

Masar – 8/1

Godolphin’s Derby hero a year ago hasn’t been seen since winning at Epsom. Roaring Lion advertised the form of his Derby victory well and second placed Dee Ex Bee has shown himself to be a force in staying contests this season. For a colt that has raced mainly at a mile, notably a trip over which he produced a devastating performance in the Craven Stakes, before coming up just short in the 2000 Gunieas, I wouldn’t have thought the trip of 10 furlongs at Ascot not to be of any concern.

What is a concern is that he has been out for so long after a set back ruled him out of last year’s Eclipse at Sandown. Even if running to his Derby form, he probably needs more in this field and I think this task may be too much for him on reappearance after such a long time out.

Zabeel Prince – 12/1

Rodger Varian’s representative has hit new heights this year, last time out winning the Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan at Longchamp. I was especially impressed that day by how Zabeel Prince recovered after stumbling from the stalls and losing ground, something that didn’t hinder his effort towards the end of the race. That’s enough to suggest he should be fine with the step up to 10 furlongs, having previously only competed over a maximum of 9.

This is a horse that has risen through handicaps to take his chance at the top level and has proven he is well worth a place in a race of this nature. As a 6 year old though he does seem to have a lot on his plate to make an impression here, especially considering two competitors he beat at Longchamp – Study Of Man and Trais Fluors – were both well beaten when they faced Waldgeist and Crystal Ocean respectively in contests earlier this season. Could be involved for a place.

Of the others probably only Salouen and Magic Wand are worthy of a mention, both have pieces of decent form but need a huge run to figure. Salouen and at least one of the other Ballydoyle runners Magic Wand or Hunting Horn are likely to inject pace into the race.

*Prices accurate at time of writing.


I can’t see anything from outside the four market leaders claiming victory here. The market has it between returning Sea Of Class and race fit Magical, already three runs into her campaign, but I’m not sure it’s as simple as all that. Were we to have seen Sea Of Class perform to her level already this season I would have no qualms putting her up as I think she has the most ability in the race. However, with this coming on the back of a long absence, along with the nature of the race and track means now is the time if any to take her on. Magical is flattered for me by her success so far this season, in that I don’t think the form amounts to much and I’m surprised she is so short in the betting. Andre Farbre’s Waldgeist is highly respected and can make the frame. My idea of the winner though, and to finally break his big race duck is CRYSTAL OCEAN. In terms of form he is bang there, in my opinion the drop to 10 furlongs is a plus and Frankie in the saddle makes further appeal. I have seen subtle signs of improvement this season, and what with Sir Michael Stoute having an uncanny knack at priming older horses for Ascot I have a feeling this could be his year.





Edmund Culham

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