Coronation Stakes Preview
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Royal Ascot Preview
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.”
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?
Friday 21st June 2019 – Hermosa for a beautiful three timer?
Coronation Stakes (Group 1) 1 mile (7f 213y)
A race that has been graced by some truly brilliant fillies. Last year we had the pleasure of witnessing the stealthy grey, Alpha Centauri glide through the field from the rear to destroy her rivals by 6 lengths. The season before that it was the turn of dual 1000 Guineas winner Winter to triumph in what some would have thought an unrepeatable feat, particularly just two years later, but here again Ballydoyle’s Hermosa bids to follow in her footsteps. There has always been a strong French challenge in this race, with Qemah (2016), Ervedya (2015) and Immortal Verse in 2011 taking the prize back across the Channel. In this renewal, Longchamp Pouliches winner Castle Lady and 6th placed Watch Me line up, in a bid to repeat the feat.
It would seem that Hermosa has history on her side, with four of the last ten winners having won either the Irish or English 1000 Guineas on their last start. Further to that six of the last ten winners had run in either of those contests. Add in the French Pouliches form, where three winners of the Coronation Stakes had run (with two winning the Pouliches) and that leaves only one winner from the last ten renewals who came from a different source – Fallen For You who was a surprise victor at 12/1 in 2012.
From those stats it would seem that the field can be narrowed down somewhat, with three runners having contested the 1000 Guineas in England and Ireland and two runners the Pouliches in France. Of course, it is not all that simple though with Sir Michael Stoute’s twice raced filly Jubiloso second behind hot favourite Hermosa in the betting. Next in is H-A Pantall’s unraced 2 year old filly, Castle Lady, who has won all three of her starts this season, including the Pouliches last time out. She is worthy of great respect and will likely be a threat to the favourite. The others have something to find on form but can’t totally be dismissed out of hand. So let’s have a closer look.
Hermosa – generally 1/1*
Hermosa was something of a surprise winner of the Guineas at Newmarket, a fact reflected by her starting price of 14/1. She went from the front that day and never really looked like being caught. If that was meant to be a fluke, she then proved all doubters wrong with a scintillating show of galloping as she downed a quality field at the Curragh, confirming form with some of the more fancied opponents she had faced on the Rowley Mile. She again led from the front at the Curragh, winding the race up in style of a high-class filly as one by one her rivals came off the bridle in behind, while she still had the ability to sprint clear in the last few furlongs. With speed and staying talent she makes for a formidable rival.
It wasn’t always that way though, as she was something of a nearly horse in her 2 year old career, winning a Group 3, but three times hitting the frame in Group 1 contests like the Fillies Mile at Newmarket. Interestingly she was beaten in those races by fillies such as Iridessa, who she has overcome in both races this season. Watching her when racing, she is a big filly so it may be that last season she hadn’t quite grown into her frame. Now her improvement from 2 to 3 has been marked, eclipsing that of her rivals, and perhaps Aidan O’Brien has discovered how best to make use of her long stride.
I can see no reason why Ryan Moore won’t employ the same tactics as at the Curragh. From looking at her run style it seems clear to me that she could run over a longer trip, but it is that combination of pace and the ability to stay that makes her difficult to ignore. With Ascot being a track often kind to front runners, she is likely to be mighty hard to run down if leading into the straight.
Jubiloso – 7/2
Provides the race with an element of the unknown, having only raced on two occasions before. If anyone can pull off a coup of such a magnitude though it is Sir Michael Stoute, a trainer who has an undoubted knack of getting the best out of his runners at Royal Ascot.
Jubiloso from looks of it, while not an especially imposing filly, has a nice turn of foot and should appreciate the step up to a mile. She scored in a Chelmsford City maiden, and then was a runaway winner of a Newbury novice event, trouncing the field by 7 lengths. Of the 11 runners behind her that day, 8 have run since with only the 2nd, After John, recording a victory in a weak Pontefract novice event. Serious questions of the form must be asked in light of that, and while Jubiloso could only beat what she faced, she might be in for a shock when lining up with the likes of Hermosa.
This particular plot reminds me of another of Stoute’s runners, the filly Sun Maiden who lined up in the Ribblesdale last year, again on the back of just two runs and was short in the market, being sent off at around 3/1. She had also won a novice event by a huge margin on her previous start. Sun Maiden ran well then finishing 3rd, but for me that underlines the difficulties of pitching a filly with such limited experience into a race of this quality. I can’t understand her position as 2nd favourite, which must be purely on reputation. If so, I expect a few bubbles to be burst on Friday.
Castle Lady – 6/1
French raider who won the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches last time out at Longchamp. Runners from that contest have a very good record in the Coronation Stakes making H-A Pantall’s filly of strong interest.
At Longchamp she had to endure a bit of a wide trip throughout but quickened well in the straight and held off the final challenger, Commes, at the finish. When examining the form of her Longchamp triumph, a line through Kevin Ryan’s runner East makes compelling reading. Beaten 1 ½ lengths at Longchamp, she then went on to contest the Irish 1000 Guineas, where she trailed in some 18 lengths behind winner Hermosa. It’s likely that that was a below par run, but next the eye is drawn to Coral Beach, beaten only 4 lengths in France behind Castle Lady. Again, the Ballydoyle runner competed in the Irish 1000 Guineas, but was well beaten in 8th, 9 lengths behind Hermosa. Coral Beach’s performance is perhaps a more reliable marker, which does call to question the solidity of the Pouliches form.
While I expect her to run a nice race and be staying on at the finish, I think Castle Lady has work to do if she is to get close to Hermosa.
Pretty Pollyanna – 7/1
Michael Bell’s filly reappeared this season with a great performance when she finished a 4 length 2nd to Hermosa at the Curragh. That performance can be marked up, considering that she was fresh and keen early and had a trip without cover for much of the race. With it being her first run of the season, the daughter of Oasis Dream can be expected to come on for that.
Mainly campaigned over a 6 furlong trip as a 2 year old, where she notched a Group 1 in Deauville, she stepped up in trip in the Fillies Mile for the first time at the back end of last season, finishing a close 3rd. In 2nd that day was old rival Hermosa, who finished just ¾ of a length in front of Pretty Pollyanna. While that margin was clearly stretched at the Curragh, Hermosa had had a run already and certainly got the run of the race on the day.
Undoubtably this filly has the class to be seriously involved. She has speed, as shown by her 2 year old exploits, but while I expect her to see out the trip she may be vulnerable to a stronger stayer. If settling into the race better, she should be closer to Hermosa when they meet next week, but with the improvement the Ballydoyle runner has seemingly made this season I find it difficult to imagine Pretty Pollyanna beating her.
Just Wonderful – 14/1
Ballydole’s favoured runner when she lined up in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, ultimately finishing 6th behind her stablemate Hermosa. I marked her down as the one to take out of the race that day where she came from the back, closing well after Moore had given up chance of winning, to be beaten only just over 2 lengths. That said, she didn’t look the easiest ride wandering when under the whip. At the Curragh in the Irish 1000 Guineas she turned in a disappointing performance when 8th this time. Again, she showed tendencies to carry her head high and slightly to the side when under pressure, fading tamely when well positioned behind the leaders by Donnacha O’Brien.
I’m also not sure her 2 year old form amounts to much with the pick of it being a Group 2 victory from this season’s Fred Darling winner Dandhu, a horse that was soundly beaten in the 1000 Guineas. With that in mind, along with some worrying tendencies in her run style it’s difficult to have much trust in Just Wonderful for this assignment.
Happen – 16/1
Another Ballydoyle runner and an interesting candidate, being lightly raced (5 runs) and one who could be progressive stepping up to a mile for the first time. Notably she was beaten on reappearance by Lady Kaya, who ran such a fine race to finish 2nd to Hermosa at Newmarket. Her subsequent win in Group 3 company at the Curragh signalled she was ready for a step up in trip, as she stayed on from way back under a great ride to pip Dan’s Dream at the post.
Only tested in maiden company last season, she arrives as still something of an unknown quantity. On her run behind Lady Kaya this season, she looks to be capable of being seriously competitive. Her attitude displayed on her last run was impressive and while she took a bit of organising, showing still a lack of racing experience she should have learnt plenty there. A big filly who still looks like she could grow into her frame, it will be fascinating to see how she runs. Certainly not to be underestimated, I can see her making the frame.
Watch Me – 16/1
The second of the French challenge. Watch Me finished 6th behind Castle Lady at Longchamp last time out when she looked a little impeded in her run towards the finish. F-H Graffard’s filly was staying on nicely but got caught behind a wall of horses nearing the finish, with the jockey having to switch and losing momentum. Another who should run well, but I find it hard to see her turning form around with Castle Lady.
So Perfect – 20/1
Caught the eye when finishing behind Dandhu in the Fred Darling at Newbury, after which I ear marked her for a step up in trip. That wasn’t forthcoming as she was dropped back to 6 furlongs when winning at Naas last time out. She stayed on nicely there to run down the leaders in the last two furlongs, suggesting again that a step up in trip might be appreciated. The daughter of Scat Daddy gets that now and while I can see her running a decent race, her form doesn’t make her jump off the page and she will likely be outclassed.
Magnetic Charm – 20/1
What chance a royal winner? William Haggas’ Magnetic Charm put up a very likable performance at York on her reappearance, winning the sustained battle up the straight with Twist ‘N’ Shake. She will face that rival once again here and I would expect a similar outcome between the two of them. The daughter of Exceed And Excel should have improvement forthcoming, but even with that being the case she faces a huge task getting competitive against fillies who have achieved a lot more than her.
The others Main Edition and Mot Juste look a bit out classed in this company. Twist ‘N’ Shake though lightly raced and open to improvement needs to leave her last run well behind in order to make any sort of impression.
*Prices accurate at time of writing.
Jubiloso is certainly difficult to weigh up, but I’m not convinced by what we have seen of her so far and envisage a similar performance to Sun Maiden, at best. It is tempting to stick my neck out and say that Castle Lady will put it up to HERMOSA, or that Pretty Pollyanna will improve again from her reappearance and surpass her old rival, but I can’t quite see it happening. As a dual Guineas winner, where she showed great improvement between both of those runs Hermosa should be very difficult to beat. Her run style this season has been to go from the front, and I would expect the same to happen here. She looks to have the tactical speed to hold a position early and if getting to the front can boss the race again. I was impressed with Pretty Pollyanna at the Curragh and think she is nailed on to run a good race here, where I see her coming on from her first run to close the gap on Hermosa. I’m not convinced the form of the French Pouliches is as strong as in recent years, so while Castle Lady is respected, improvement is needed from her to triumph at Ascot. Happen is another difficult to weigh up, but from what I have seen she has the right attributes for this level of racing and while this race may be a step too soon, she can make the frame.
1 – HERMOSA
2 – PRETTY POLLYANNA
3 – CASTLE LADY
4 – HAPPEN
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