Ascot Braced for Super Saturday


Pinatubo | Racing Post

   After the quintet of thrilling Group 1 contests this week at Royal Ascot, Saturday sees a triple treat as the G1 St James's Palace S., G1 Coronation S. and G1 Diamond Jubilee S. provide the ultimate closing act. It is the St James's Palace which entices the most, with the May 6 G1 2,000 Guineas second and third Wichita (Ire) (No Nay Never) and Pinatubo (Ire) (Shamardal) re-enacting their Classic encounter as TDN Rising Star Palace Pier (GB) (Kingman {GB}) joining in for good measure. On last year's form, Pinatubo still holds sway and only this race will tell if he has truly been usurped as the kingpin of his generation. Big names such as Kris (GB), Giant's Causeway and Kingman himself were beaten in the Guineas before getting back on track in this race and it is far too early to be writing off such a remarkable 2-year-old talent. It may be that the rain-softened ground will aid his cause, as Newmarket was the fastest surface he had encountered. Charlie Appleby is keen to turn him out again.

“I'm really pleased with him. William [Buick] sat on him on Wednesday and he had a nice breeze,” he said. “You can definitely see this horse has sharpened up for his run in the Guineas. As much as I'm not going to get away from the fact I was delighted with the way we were going into the Guineas, he is a horse as we saw last year that progressed race on race and I feel that race has definitely brought him forward. There is a drying forecast, but that doesn't bother me because he has won on soft ground and even when he won the National S. it was on the slow side of good. Obviously, we have got to re-oppose the horse that was second in the Guineas and it is a good race, but I couldn't be any happier with our fellow.”

Wichita will not appreciate it if the ground is on the easier side, if his third placing in the G1 Dewhurst S. on soft ground is any guide. Aidan O'Brien, who also saddles the Guineas also-rans Arizona (Ire) (No Nay Never) and Royal Dornoch (Ire) (Gleneagles {Ire}), is the leading trainer in this race's history with eight wins and he has a tactical edge with safety in numbers.     “We're not sure about how he'll cope with the ground really,” the trainer said of Wichita. “He's a big, powerful horse but you can never be sure until they run on it. He does have a lot of power, so you'd think he'd be okay and we've been happy with him since the Guineas.”

Palace Pier has a lot to find on the formbook, having defeated this week's Golden Gates H. flop Acquitted (Ire) (Night of Thunder {Ire}) in a mile handicap on Newcastle's Tapeta June 6, but he is unbeaten and represents the Gosden-Dettori axis so is worthy of respect. Last year's G2 Champagne S. winner Threat (Ire) (Footstepsinthesand {GB}) and the G3 Solario S. scorer Positive (GB) (Dutch Art {GB}) add ballast despite coming up short in Group 1 company on their juvenile finales. John Gosden has warned that Palace Pier might be compromised by conditions.

“I'm not sure about the ground,” he said. “He's got a smooth action and might find it too tacky, but we're going to run. We went to Newcastle to get a run in and if he handles the ground I think he'll run very well.”

Like the St James's Palace S., the Coronation has also been shovelled onto the curtain-closer to allow the G1 1,000 Guineas fillies extra time for vital R & R. TDN Rising Star Quadrilateral (GB) (Frankel {GB}) ended a winter-long spell of expectation with relative disappointment when only a well-beaten third behind Love (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) in the June 7 Newmarket Classic, but she was too fresh and keen there and may be a different proposition this time. Last year's G1 Fillies' Mile winner has some high-class individuals to contend with again in the form of the G2 Debutante S. winner Alpine Star (Ire) (Sea the Moon {Ger}), the impressive Listed Pretty Polly Fillies' S. scorer Run Wild (Ger) (Amaron {GB}) and the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf heroine Sharing (Speightstown). She even has to reverse Guineas form  with the runner-up Cloak of Spirits (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) and has two Ballydoyle contenders to deal with, so this is no easy task.

Quadrilateral's rider Jason Watson sees her latest effort in a different light and said, “I think her run in the Guineas was mightily impressive considering how keen she was early on and it's done her a lot of good–it's taken the edge off and I think we'll her see a more relaxed horse this time. I have sat on her since and we've been happy with her. She just got over-excited first time out and I can't see why Ascot won't suit her as she's an all-rounder who is not ground-dependant or track-dependant.”

Harry Charlton, assistant to father Roger, added, “The team thought it was wrong to step straight up into the Oaks, having by chance run a bit keen in the Guineas after pinging the stalls. To go from a mile to a mile and a half seemed a bit unnatural. The way the race panned out wasn't ideal for her, but she still ran a good race to finish third. She seems in good nick and she took the run in the Guineas well. She is a horse that always eats well and I think she will improve for what she did. Newmarket probably doesn't play to her strengths, because she is a big, rangy filly and this might well suit her better.”

After the major yards have fought it out in the two 3-year-old highlights, another blueblood lines up as favourite for the Diamond Jubilee only this time for the little-known Denis Hogan stable. Godolphin cast-off Sceptical (GB) (Exceed and Excel {Aus}) is favourite to emulate the Royal success of his dam Jealous Again (Trippi) less than eight months after trading at 25-1 for his racecourse debut in a five-furlong maiden at Dundalk. He meets a different class of sprinter than those he dispatched in the Listed Woodlands S. at Naas June 8 and while he will have a legion of well-wishers here he is the market leader only through potential at present.

“There's so much about the horse, that I just hope everything goes well on the day really,” Hogan commented. “I suppose softer ground would be a bit of an unknown. My gallop here can get very soft during the winter and he seemed to cope with that alright, so I'd be hopeful. But at the same time, he's only raced on the grass once and that was on good-to-firm at Naas.”

Already proven in this territory, Haras d'Etreham and Cambridge Stud's G1 Haydock Sprint Cup hero Hello Youmzain (Fr) (Kodiac {GB}) has a lot in his favour, while Lael Stable's One Master (GB) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) is still unexposed at this trip. The dual G1 Prix de la Foret heroine was runner-up over this course and distance in the G1 Qipco British Champions Sprint, while it is hard to forget the finishing flourish of Saeed Suhail's Dream of Dreams (Ire) (Dream Ahead) in last year's renewal. Just a head behind Blue Point (Ire) (Shamardal) at the death, he was in front a stride after the line and Sir Michael Stoute is bound to have him cherry-ripe for his return.

Ascot's high-octane fixture also sees the G2 Coventry S. feature a clash between the TDN Rising Stars Admiral Nelson (GB) (Kingman {GB}) and Qaader (Ire) (Night of Thunder {Ire}), with Godolphin's Creative Force (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) just one of the other exciting prospects engaged. Admiral Nelson looked one of his stable's potential 2021 Classic protagonists on his winning debut over five furlongs at The Curragh June 12, the same day that Shadwell's Qaader lit up Newbury with a four-length debut win. The latter is joined by the June 2 Kempton winner Army of India (Ire) (Sepoy {Aus}) and the June 6 Newcastle winner Thunder of Niagara (Ire) (Night of Thunder {Ire}) from Mark Johnston's stable.

His son, Charlie Johnston said, “On homework, before they ran, Army of India was probably top of the pile. On the strength of what they beat, you would probably lean towards Thunder of Niagara, and on visual impressions you would probably lean to Qaader. All three have earned the right to be there, and we just hope at least one is good enough basically.”

Creative Force has had a relatively luxurious 16-day period to recover from his initial exertions and the form of his Newmarket success over this trip was boosted on Friday by the G2 Norfolk S. third Imperial Force (Ire) (Camacho {GB}). Trainer Charlie Appleby is quietly confident.

“He was very professional on his first start at Newmarket, when he jumped and travelled well. That was a pleasing introduction and he has come forward for the run. He is a half-brother to Persuasive (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}), who was proven in slower ground. He has a sensible draw in the middle and we will be disappointed if he doesn't run a nice race.”

In the G2 Queen Mary S., TDN Rising Star More Beautiful (War Front) is another gem for Aidan O'Brien who looked to have the world at her feet when successful on debut over this five-furlong trip at Naas June 8. Cheveley Park Stud's June 4 Newmarket winner Sacred (GB) (Exceed and Excel {Aus}) is one of those from the higher-profile stables charged with taking her on along with Stonestreet Stables' May 31 Gulfstream Park maiden special weight scorer Campanelle (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}). She is joined by fellow Wesley Ward trainee Royal Approval (Tiznow) who she beat on debut and their trainer thinks the winner of that contest has the edge.

“Campanelle is a filly with real quality and the time of the race was a Breeders' Cup quality time,” he explained. “She's a bigger, longer type of filly but has plenty of speed to her. She goes there with a big chance, I think.”

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