We’re back for the last day at Ascot, and we have to admit that we are going to miss it after it's over. Our results so far have been somewhere between fair and middling – could have been better; could have been worse – but irrespective of that, the Royal Ascot meeting this year gave us an appreciation for what a truly world-class sport horse racing is when every day is an event, when every race is truly something special. There is something in Ascot that the racing industry in the U.S. should learn from. Sometimes fewer, higher-quality races are better than 300 claiming races in a day, with half of them at tracks nobody has ever heard of.
The punters in England are going to catch a break with the weather for the last day of Ascot. It’s supposed to be a very, very nice mid-summer day over there. The course at Ascot drains well, but with all the rain they had earlier in the week, there is no way the turf will get all the way to firm. We’re expecting something in the “soft” neighborhood, which is just fine. It’ll be a great day of racing.
Here's the lineup of the first four races at Ascot on Saturday (all times are Eastern; all races are on turf):
Race 1 (9:40 a.m.): Chesam Stakes, 2-year-olds, 7 furlongs.
Race 2 (10:05 a.m.): Group 3 Jersey Stakes, 3-year-olds, 7 furlongs.
Race 3 (10:40 a.m.): Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes, 4 & up, 1½ miles.
Race 4 (11:20 a.m.): Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, 4 & up, 6 furlongs.
● ● ●
The Chesam Stakes drew a field of 17 juveniles. This is a good, deep, and varied group. The hot favorite is a Coolmore/Aidan O’Brien runner, 9-Lope y Fernandez, a son of Lope De Vega who broke his maiden at this 7-furlong distance at the Curragh on July 7. He’s a decent looking runner, but we don’t want any part of him at 6-5.
We like 12-Pinatubo. This Irish-bred, Charlie Appleby-trained Godolphin colt, who’s a son of top Godolphin turf sire Shamardal, is undefeated in two starts, winning on a synthetic racing surface at Wolverhampton in May, and on grass at Epsom on May 31. The latter race was very impressive, as he had to chase down a loose-on-the lead speed horse, which is never easy. He looks like a winner to us. We will bet him to win at 5-1.
Ascot Race 1
$30 W on 12-Pinatubo
● ● ●
There are 18 3-year-olds entered in the Jersey stakes, and it looks like a pretty good matchup between the two 900-pound gorillas on the international racing scene, Coolmore and Godolphin. Godolphin has 5-2 morning-line favorite 13-Space Blues, who’s trained by Charlie Appleby; Coolmore has 12-So Perfect, who, like all Coolmore runners, is trained by Aidan O’Brien, and who is 6-1. What makes this even more interesting is that Space Blues is a colt, and So Perfect a female – she’s one of only two fillies in the race (the other is 17-Angel’s Hideaway, who’s trained by John Gosden).
We like So Perfect, and we like her quite a bit. We’re always a sucker for a filly running against the boys, but there is nothing sentimental about this pick. We think So Perfect is the best horse. Her last race, a win in a Group 3 sprint at Naas Racecourse in Ireland, was superb, and her race before that, a third in a Group 3, was a good effort too. She seems primed for a top effort, and we will her to win, and we will do so enthusiastically.
Ascot Race 2
$35 W on 12-So Perfect
● ● ●
The Hardwicke has a very, very good field of nine. We like another filly running against the boys here, and it’s the outside horse, 9-Lah Ti Dar. Coolmore and Godolphin have runners, and there are several other runners with owners from Dubai, Lah Ti Dar, a 4-year-old daughter of Dubawi, has connections that are as British as they come. She is owned by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber (yes, that Andrew Lloyd Webber) and trained by John Gosden. Her last race was not good – she finished last as the favorite in the Coronation Cup at Epsom – but we think she will like the going at Ascot on Saturday, and that will be enough to put her in the winner’s circle. We will bet her to win at 7-1.
Ascot Race 3
$25 W on 7-Lah Ti Dar
● ● ●
The Diamond Jubilee is the capper for the week at Ascot, and there is a fascinating subplot in the race. Godolphin's 1-Blue Point is back, after winning the King's Stand Stakes at Ascot − on Tuesday. He will be attempting to win his second Group 1 race in just five days. This kind of quick turnaround is virtually unheard of these days, but we applaud trainer Charlie Appleby for trying. We think that there is nothing wrong with wheeling a horse back this way. When a horse is in form, let him run. In fact, we like Blue Point here. He has run faster than the other 17 runners here, and there is no question that his recent form and overall fitness is razor-sharp. We will bet him to win at 2-1, and hope he becomes the first horse since Choisir in 2003 to complete the Kings' Stand-Diamond Jubilee double.
Ascot Race 4
$50 W on 1-Blue Point
That's all for today, and that's a wrap for the Royal Ascot meeting. As always, good luck at the windows.