Diamond Jubilee Stakes Preview

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Our guest blogger, Ed, has prepared another preview for us – his final preview in the Ascot series – and it’s a fantastic read.

This preview is for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot this week. Spaces are our Royal Ascot Festival Special are going fast and the first tips for today have already been sent out, so if you’ve been sitting on the fence, don’t hesitate any longer – sign up today.

We’ve made ten points profit in the past week, and we’re going to carry our form in to the Festival too.

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?

Saturday 22nd June 2019 – Invincible or chinks in his armour?
Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group 1) 6 furlongs

The final Group 1 of the meeting. Expect a real cavalry charge here over the straight 6 furlongs. As with many sprints this is a race that can throw up surprise results with only three favourites winning in the last ten years. One of those winners was the Australian wonder mare Black Caviar, who came to Ascot with an unblotted form book of 21 wins from 21. The crowd had their hearts in their mouths that day as she only just scrambled home, jockey Luke Nolen easing her down before he had crossed the line. Luckily, she managed to hang on, but it does just go to show that there are no clear cut favourites in a contest such as this. Previous winners at big prices include Art Connoisseur at 20/1 in 2009, Society Rock (25/1) two years later and American raider Undrafted scored at 14/1 in 2015.

Despite the seeming unpredictability of the contest, there are trial races that have consistently provided the winner. Four of the last ten winners have run the start before in the Group 2 Duke Of York Stakes on the Knavesmire, while the contest in Ireland that provides the best line of form is the Greenland Stakes at the Curragh, with two winners from that source. That’s 6 of the last 10 winners from just two races, more impressive still if you consider two of the other ten winners had run their prep race abroad. Something to focus on then, as is the fact that most recent winners have been in their 4 or 5 year old season.

That’s the case for 8/10 winners, along with two 3 year old winners (eligible to race if foaled in the Southern Hemisphere) with no winner over the age of 5 since Soldier’s Tale in 2007.

Predictably then, as the Duke Of York winner, James Tate’s Invincible Army heads up the market at around 3/1. The lack of strength in depth of the British and Irish older sprinting division is perhaps shown by the presence of two French runners near the head of the betting, Inns Of Court and City Light priced at around 6 and 7 to 1 respectively. Godolphin’s Blue Point joins them at around the same price. However, there are a few lurking who could be dangers to their more fancied rivals. Let’s see what we can make of them.

Invincible Army – generally 3/1*
James Tate’s colt has looked better than ever this year in winning at Doncaster on reappearance and then following up in the key trial for this race the Duke Of York Stakes. Usually up with the pace in his races, he came from a bit further back at York, but impressively put three lengths between himself and his rivals in the last furlong. This was a horse that previously often did a bit too much early on in his races, which has in the past dented his finishing effort. A different more relaxed run style marks an improvement in his development.

Twice this season he has beaten Kevin Ryan’s Major Jumbo into 2nd place, who while a decent yard stick has spent much of his career as a handicapper, only stepping up to Group company this season. The Ryan runner provides a good comparison of the form as he followed his 2nd at York by running behind Inns Of Court in France (more on that later).

Despite it being such a good trial for the Diamond Jubilee I’m not overly convinced by this year’s York renewal. Limato was back in 4th that day, and while Henry Candy’s horse is high class it’s likely as a 7 year old his time for challenging for Group 1s is gone, a point reflected by his price for this race of around 40/1. Those looking more optimistically at the form could point to Brando who finished 7th and then came out and won a good Hamilton conditions race, where he beat Donjuan Triumphant and Sands Of Mali.

Invincible Army has been a good, consistent sprint performer for two seasons now, however his highest success in those campaigns was in Group 3 company. When tested at the highest level in last year’s Commonwealth Cup he came up well short, finishing in 9th behind some of the opposition he will face on Saturday. He deserves his position at the top of the market as a Duke Of York winner, but I believe that to be more a reflection of the weakness of the division than due to his ability. It may be the case that this season as a 4 year old he will come to life on the big stage, but I would still be willing to take him on until we see him win at the top level.

Inns Of Court – 5/1
The Diamond Jubilee is not a race where French raiders do notably well, albeit that S Wattel’s City Light was just touched off in this race last year. Andre Fabre’s runners must be respected though, particularly one coming to Ascot on the back of two victories. The latest of those came over 5 furlongs at Chantilly where he was mightily impressive when cruising past his rivals to win by over two lengths. Before that he had beaten the aforementioned City Light at Maisons-Lafitte.

At Chantilly he defeated Kevin Ryan’s Major Jumbo by 3 lengths, virtually the same margin that Invincible Army had previously beaten that runner at York. Inns Of Court’s victory did come over 5 furlongs though, a trip that Major Jumbo is arguably more effective at, so it was an impressive effort in terms of the speed shown by Fabre’s runner. This is a horse who has Group 3 winning form over 7 furlongs and has twice been denied by the shortest of margins in Group 1 company, once over a mile and the other again at 7 furlongs. Arguably that is better than what Invincible Army has shown on the track thus far.

What is most impressive about Inns Of Court is that despite his staying potential he has the speed to mix it with the top sprinters. That speed has been highlighted in both runs this term, and when blended with staying ability it makes him a real threat to all. I expect Andre Fabre’s runner to go very close on Saturday.

Blue Point – 6/1
Godolphin have not won this race since 1995 but have a strong hand with the second of their runners Blue Point also prominent in the betting. Charlie Appleby’s colt has had a successful season already, running away with three Group races in Meydan, including lastly the Al Quoz sprint on Dubai World Cup night.

With the reliable Sands Of Mail beaten some way in the Al Quoz, Blue Point was operating at a very high level in Dubai. I do often have reservations siding with horses that have had busy campaigns in Dubai, as I think it takes the edge off them, certainly in the early season.

It is impossible to ignore the claims of Blue Point though, and you would have to expect Charlie Appleby has given him a good break since his work in the desert and that he is ready to roll now. This was a horse that surprised everyone last year in the King’s Stand as he broke the ultimate speed ball Battaash, wearing him down in the final furlong. He wasn’t as good when upped to 6 furlongs in the July Cup on his next start and probably only improved on that slightly for the drop back to 5 when 3rd in the Nunthorpe.

So, while clearly adept at both 5 or 6 furlongs (50% and 54% strike rates respectively), he is entered in the King’s Stand and I would think connections would be tempted to give him the chance of retaining his crown, especially with them having a strong contender in Inns Of Court already in the race.

City Light – 7/1
City Light came agonisingly close to winning this race last year, when finishing a short head behind Merchant Navy. He reared leaving the stalls, which left him near the back of the field from the start, making 2nd an impressive performance under a typically cool Christophe Soumillon ride.

In his warm-up for this race the son of Siyouni ran well when just behind Inns Of Court at Maisons-Lafitte. Inns Of Court was first off the bridle that day, but got first run and City Light couldn’t close the gap in time. He will undoubtably come on for that outing. His 2nd in this contest last year obviously entitles him to a healthy deal of respect. Then he was coming into Ascot on the back of three wins and after finishing as runner up that day his season tailed off, running three times and only once making the frame. His comparative freshness this year may be an advantage, as a horse who typically does well in his first few starts after a break.

My worry with City Light is that he wins all too infrequently, if you take away his three race streak from last season he has only a maiden and handicap victory to his name. Still I am slightly attempting to pick holes and as much as I am expecting Inns Of Court to run a good race, on form City Light should be right there too. I’m not sure he will be able to reverse placings.

Bound For Nowhere – 10/1
Wesley Ward loves aiming his runners at the Royal meeting and Bound For Nowhere has run here twice before. 4th in the Commonwealth Cup as a 3 year old, he was only beaten ¾ of a length in this race last year when just behind City Light in a driving three way finish.

Last year he was away and gone from the stalls quickly displaying a typically American style of racing, the others trailing some five lengths behind. Somewhat surprisingly he didn’t fold when challenged, but stuck well to the task when the pack closed in the last furlong, showing decent staying ability to hold on for 3rd. Interestingly, he then stepped up in trip to a mile where he won at Listed level back in the US, confirming estimations that he can see out a strongly run 6 furlongs at Ascot. His prep run at Keeneland saw him go down to Imprimis (who now looks set to go for the King’s Stand).

It’s likely Bound For Nowhere will go off quickly in front again and while he stays, I feel he will again be the target in the later stages for a more patiently ridden runner. Having had two attempts at Ascot glory over 6 furlongs, he looks like he needs a few breaks if he’s to break his duck at the third attempt.

The Tin Man – 10/1
James Fanshawe’s stable star and a very likeable performer, who won this contest in 2017. He again ran a fine race last year when bidding to retain his crown, finishing 4th behind Merchant Navy. Saturday marks his forth run in the race and while he has the potential to go well again, as now a 7 year old he no longer fits the criteria for a potential winner.

Sands Of Mali – 12/1
An admirably consistent horse, who has a fine record at Ascot. Winner of the Champions Day Sprint Stakes here at the end of last season he had also run at the Royal meeting when 2nd in the Commonwealth Cup.

With that performance and on one other occasion last season he beat favourite for this race Invincible Army, which suggests he clearly has claims if finding some of last year’s form. Whether he will do so is the problem as his runs in the Al Quoz at Meydan and particularly last time out, when he should have been winning a Hamilton Conditions race, have been poor. In Scotland he went off the evens favourite but could only manage 3rd behind Donjuan Triumphant, who re-opposes here.

From what we have seen this year anyone backing Sands Of Mali is relying on a return to Ascot sparking him into life. If the course were to have an effect, he would be dangerous and shouldn’t be discounted lightly.

Dream Of Dreams – 12/1
Looks to be an improver for Sir Michael Stoute after beating The Tin Man quite comfortably at Warwick in a Listed event last time out. Timewise though the race was on the slow side. Looking through his form from last season he clearly has something to find with the market principles, having been beaten on four occasions in Group 3 company. He was also well behind Sands Of Mali on Champions Day. Needs more.

Emblazoned – 25/1
John Gosden could have a lurker here in Emblazoned, who has been virtually forgotten in the market at 25/1. The son of Invincible Spirit is very lightly raced, having only had 6 runs. When stepping up to Group company for the first time last season he ran some great races, only beaten 2 ½ lengths behind Sands Of Mali and Invincible Army in a Haydock Group 2, before finishing 3rd in the Commonwealth Cup again just behind the first of those rivals, but beating Invincible Army.

When reappearing at Haydock he just lost out to Shabaaby, in what looked a reasonably strong conditions event. He hit the front, was headed and then went on again only to be run down by Shabaaby late on. That suggests he may come on for the run and I make him an interesting runner, who I can see being in the shake-up.

There are too many in here to mention at even larger prices with Yafta, who was sent off joint favourite with Invincible Army at York at 33/1 and Greenland Stakes 2nd Speak In Colours (40/1) who leads a decidedly weak Irish challenge, both capable on their day. They may be value to sneak a place.

*Prices accurate at time of writing.

Verdict
As with most big field sprints there are a whole host of candidates here with the potential to figure. With Blue Point more than likely to go for the King’s Stand, that opens the way for Godolphin’s other runner, the French based INNS OF COURT. He looks to have both an impressive cruising speed, turn of foot and ability to sustain his run. Previous form with City Light looks good, and is potentially stronger than the British equivalent. Having said that, Invincible Army does look to be a better horse this year than last, with perhaps a less one-dimensional run style. I expect him to be on the premises, but I still feel he has something to prove at the top level. John Gosden’s Emblazoned has form last season that closely ties in with Invincible Army, beating him once from two starts. With his only run under his belt this season being a respectable effort and with improvement to come, I can’t see him as a 25/1 shot. He can make the frame at healthy odds.

1 – INNS OF COURT
2 – CITY LIGHT
3 – INVINCIBLE ARMY
4 – EMBLAZONED

Edmund Culham

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