Friday Feast As Ascot Rolls On


1000 Guineas winner Mother Earth |

After the drawn-out saga of Thursday's G1 Gold Cup, Royal Ascot moves back toward speed on Friday with the G1 Coronation S. and G1 Commonwealth Cup acting as a dual focus on a day that is forecast to see an abundance of rain. In terms of prize money and its longstanding status, the Coronation holds sway and another typically fierce renewal sees the May 2 G1 1000 Guineas heroine Mother Earth (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) bid to hold on to her title in a rematch with the compatriot in whose shadow she stayed throughout 2020. That is John Oxley's 'TDN Rising Star' Pretty Gorgeous (Fr) (Lawman {Fr}), who had that Ballydoyle peer behind when taking the G2 Debutante S. at The Curragh in August, when runner-up in the G1 Moyglare Stud S. over the same track and trip the following month and when taking Newmarket's G1 Fillies' Mile in October. While Pretty Gorgeous was delayed in her return to action by a bad scope prior to the 1000 Guineas, Mother Earth has made hay and can be said to have the jump on her old rival at present. By the time Joseph O'Brien's stable star was seventh on her belated seasonal bow in the G1 Irish 1000 Guineas on heavy ground at The Curragh May 23, Mother Earth had already followed her Newmarket victory with a fine second in the G1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches on unsuitably testing ground at ParisLongchamp.

That Ryan Moore has picked Mother Earth over the Irish 1000 Guineas heroine Empress Josephine (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) takes nothing away from the latter, who is reunited with Seamie Heffernan who was able to get such a tune out of her on that occasion. She bids to emulate her dam Lillie Langtry (Ire) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}), who was successful in this in 2010, and is open to further improvement having started her career only in late March. “This looks a good Coronation S., but I think Mother Earth deserves to be favourite,” Moore explained. “She was a filly I always rated at two and I wasn't in the least bit surprised that she was good enough to win the Guineas on her return. She was the form filly going into the race on her Group 1 efforts at two and she probably ran equally as well in deep ground when second in France last time. I think, ideally, she would prefer decent ground but she handles anything. This clearly is a pretty deep race though, with the Irish 1000 Guineas winner Empress Josephine and Fillies' Mile scorer Pretty Gorgeous two of many serious dangers but I think Mother Earth just about sets the standard coming in here.”

Joseph O'Brien said of Pretty Gorgeous, “We haven't had an entirely clear run with her, as she missed her intended return in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket due to an unsatisfactory scope. We had her as fit as we could get her for the Irish 1000 Guineas, but she's a big girl that takes plenty of work and she probably just wasn't quite fit enough for a Classic on testing ground. We were satisfied with her run there in that context and we feel she has come forward from that. She is one that will very much appreciate the rain that is due to arrive and I'd be hopeful that she will improve enough to be very competitive.”

Prior to his big horse Starman (GB) (Dutch Art {GB}) running on Saturday in the G1 Diamond Jubilee S., David Ward has a live contender in the Coronation in Primo Bacio (Ire) (Awtaad {Ire}), who surprised with the authority with which she took a competitive renewal of the Listed Michael Seely Memorial S. at York May 14. Beating the subsequent listed scorer Creative Flair (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) and the re-opposing 'TDN Rising Star' Snow Lantern (GB) (Frankel {GB}) by three lengths and two lengths in that mile contest, she has a potent turn of acceleration which is always significant in this race.

“She has improved a ton from two to three and her work all spring has been of a high quality,” Primo Bacio's trainer Ed Walker said. “It was an eyecatching performance at York–she sat last and quickened by them as if they were all ordinary and scooted clear. She wasn't stopping and Andrea [Atzeni] struggled to pull her up. She's really grown up and is much more relaxed. Ascot will probably be a different tempo and certainly a different test of stamina, but she certainly wasn't stopping at York. It will also be a different test of opposition.”

Despite her flop at York, Richard Hannon is happy to allow Snow Lantern to take her chance in this and bid to emulate the success of her mother Sky Lantern (Ire) (Red Clubs {Ire}) in 2013. “It would sound arrogant to say that I doubt she'll get beat because she's not good enough, but if she does everything right she's an extremely good filly,” her trainer said. “At York she just didn't settle and she did everything wrong. Sean [Levey] said that when she took hold of the bridle after just a furlong and a half she held her breath. She didn't breathe properly through the race and that's why she finished so tired, but she's done everything right at home and when we took her to Newbury last week for a gallop down the back straight with Mums Tipple and Ouzo.”

In front of Primo Bacio when winning the seven-furlong G3 Fred Darling S. at Newbury Apr. 18, Jeff Smith's G1 Cheveley Park S. heroine Alcohol Free (Ire) (No Nay Never) was fifth but beaten only two lengths in the 1000 Guineas with stamina for this mile not entirely proven or unproven. A wide draw will not aid her cause here, but trainer Andrew Balding is expecting an improved showing. “I think and hope that she's better than her Guineas run,” he said. “Things didn't pan out for her there–she was drawn on a wing slightly and gave away a couple of lengths by lugging into space. She's better than that.”

This is a deep renewal which also boasts Coolmore's Moyglare heroine Shale (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and, at the other end of the experience spectrum, Cheveley Park Stud's unbeaten Potapova (GB) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}). This time a granddaughter of a previous Coronation heroine in Russian Rhythm (Kingmambo), the Sir Michael Stoute-trained homebred who is a late May foal has just a brace of seven-furlong wide-margin novice wins at Chelmsford in November and at Redcar May 17 to commend her. More importantly, she carries the faith of the Freemason Lodge handler whose fourth winner of this was Russian Rhythm herself back in 2003. “Sir Michael has always believed she is hugely talented. I know she has only run twice, but she has impressed on both occasions,” the owner-breeders' managing director Chris Richardson explained. “It's a tall order putting her in against such proven opposition, but she has been working nicely and he felt she deserved to take her chance. She's in good form and she shouldn't mind the ground if we get the rain that is forecast. She's from a family we know well, Russian Rhythm won several Group 1s and [the dam] Safina was placed in the Sandringham at Royal Ascot for us. This is the last chance to run her just against 3-year-olds and she was never going to be ready in time for a Guineas.”

Fillies Rule Commonwealth Cup

Turning to the Commonwealth Cup, it is fillies again who could boss the show with George Strawbridge's unbeaten Suesa (Ire) (Night of Thunder {Ire}) foremost among them. She is looking to add to her tally after dominant wins in the 5 1/2-furlong G3 Prix Sigy at Chantilly Apr. 20 and G3 Prix Texanita over this six-furlong trip there May 17 and will handle any give if the forecast rain does arrive and be at home on the ground if it doesn't. The form of the Texanita has been boosted by the subsequent listed win of the runner-up Louliana (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) and there is no mistaking that Francois Rohaut's unexposed talent is a major player. Her sire is also responsible for two of the week's handicap winners Lola Showgirl (GB) and Highfield Princess (Fr).

“This has always been the plan for her and everything has gone fine so far, she hasn't done much wrong,” Strawbridge's racing manager James Wigan said of the bay, who was initially a bargain €17,000 Goffs November Foal purchase by her previous owner Georgiana Cabrero. “She's won on heavy going, but her last win was on better ground and Olivier [Peslier] felt that she appreciated it.”

Also unbeaten over sprint trips is Stonestreet Stables's Campanelle (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}), who captured the five-furlong G2 Queen Mary S. at this meeting 12 months ago before following up in the G1 Prix Morny over this trip at Deauville in August. Finding the mile of the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf beyond her when fourth and a place behind the re-opposing Miss Amulet (Ire) (Sir Prancealot {Ire}) at Keeneland in November, she is here without the benefit of a prep due to a bruised heel but Wesley Ward is giving out all the right signals.

“She's working fantastic,” he said. “We gave her a little time to get those heels back in order and every work she has done since has shown that she belongs in this race, Frankie worked her last Sunday and was all smiles when he got off her. The fact she has not had a prep race is no issue at all for me, my sprinters generally come off the bench fresh and fire first time out. Everything about this race looks real suitable for her. We know she likes the track and the distance and even if the bit of rain materialises she won't mind it.”

Of the colts, a conundrum is in play regarding the G2 Richmond S. and G1 Middle Park S. hero Supremacy (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}). Having won that Goodwood contest in imperious fashion by four lengths, he beat Lucky Vega (Ire) (Lope de Vega {Ire}) and other talented peers in a strong renewal of that Newmarket feature so it was a major upset when he trailed in last of eight on his return in the course-and-distance G3 Pavilion S. Apr. 28. Now blinkered, he is one of a trio from Clive Cox's stable alongside the Apr. 2 3-Year-Old All-Weather Championships Conditions S. winner Diligent Harry (GB) (Due Diligence) and last year's G2 Rockfel S.  and G3 Prestige S. scorer Isabella Giles (Ire) (Belardo {Ire}).

“I'm very happy that Supremacy has put his Ascot defeat behind him,” he said. “Although it was nothing major, he wasn't right when he came back and it was enough to take the shine off him. He had a high white-cell count and the rain didn't help on the day, as he definitely prefers summer ground. He finished last, but I was pleased anyway when the form of the race worked out well. That said, he will be sporting a pair of blinkers as he's quite a lazy horse at home, we've been pleased with his focus in them at home and Adam [Kirby] will ride.”

Diligent Harry, who also went down narrowly to the Pavilion and G2 Sandy Lane winner Rohaan (Ire) (Mayson {GB}) on one of his four all-weather starts also at Lingfield Mar. 10, is an intriguing back-up and Cox said, “It's a big step for Diligent Harry, as this will be his turf debut but he did remarkably well in the spring. He's only been beaten once, and that was by Rohaan, who has franked the form again and again, so that is rock-solid. I've been very pleased with him since and he's done plenty of work on grass, both at home and away. The turf won't be completely alien, although he's yet to do it in public, having missed a couple of possible races owing to soft ground. He's a very exciting prospect, win, lose or draw, and the fact that it's 3-year-olds only is a massive attraction at this stage of life.”

Like Diligent Harry, Yoshiro Kubota's 'TDN Rising Star' Dragon Symbol (GB) (Cable Bay {Ire}) has no 2-year-old form to his name with his debut coming on Wolverhampton's Tapeta at the start of March. After four wins by a cumulative margin of 15 3/4 lengths, he was set the task of competing in Haydock's Sandy Lane over this trip May 22 and proved well up to standard when denied a nose by the aforementioned Rohaan on heavy ground that probably compromised him and helped the winner. Rohaan cannot contest this due to the fact that he is gelded and if that turns out to be the strongest form on offer then the exciting Dragon Symbol could be the one to provide Archie Watson with that first Royal Ascot Group 1.

Oisin Murphy has been allowed to jump ship from Qatar Racing and's The Lir Jet (Ire) (Prince of Lir {Ire}) and he said, “I'm very grateful to Sheikh Fahad for letting me ride Dragon Symbol instead of The Lir Jet and my ride must go into the Commonwealth Cup with a great chance. He wouldn't want too much rain–that is my only worry–but I'm happy with the draw near Campanelle and Supremacy and hopefully I can get a tow off them. His work has been very good and he came out of Haydock well, considering it was bottomless ground. You only have to see this horse walk, trot and canter to see that he wants fast ground, so if it's good or faster I'll be happy but any worse than that and it won't be ideal.”

Alenquer To Frank Derby Form

Earlier on the card, the G2 King Edward VII S. sees M M Stables's Alenquer (Fr) (Adlerflug {Ger}) bidding to emulate Thursday's G3 Hampton Court S. winner Mohaafeth (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) in providing William Haggas with some consolation for missing the G1 Epsom Derby. Although the Apr. 23 G3 Sandown Classic Trial seemed a strong renewal at the time, the form has more potency now that the runner-up Adayar (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) has achieved the ultimate stardom. Third was Yibir (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), while the fourth Lone Eagle (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) has since suggested he is top-class by turning the tables on that Godolphin runner. “He's a nice horse, he had a little issue before the Dante which meant he couldn't run, but he's done well since then,” Haggas said. “He's in good shape, he won't mind what the ground is and I think he wants the trip. Not just that he'll get it–I think he wants it.”

So promising at Sandown, Yibir was subsequently disappointing when fourth in the Listed Dee S. at Chester May 6 and has now been gelded after finishing four-lengths second to the aforementioned Lone Eagle getting five pounds from that contemporary in the Listed Cocked Hat S. over an extended 11 furlongs at Goodwood May 21. “Yibir has shown a good level of ability, but I feel that we haven't quite got the key to him yet which is why he has been gelded since his last start,” Charlie Appleby said. “Conditions at Ascot should be there to suit him and we are hoping for an improved performance.”

Lone Eagle's trainer Martyn Meade has made no secret of his regard for Team Valor and Manton Park's Gloucestershire (Flintshire {GB}), who has just one piece of form to his name when successful over 11 furlongs at Kempton in December. At least the fourth-placed Ad Infinitum (GB) (Golden Horn {GB}) has provided some ballast by taking the Listed Height of Fashion S., but in real terms it sits a long way behind the exploits of an Alenquer or the G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud-winning exploits of Gear Up (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}). Oisin Murphy admits to being in the dark regarding this colt of potential. “He won a small race at Kempton at the back-end of last year and this a huge step up, so he has it all to do,” he commented. “It's an interesting enough race, but there isn't lots of strength in depth.

Opening the fixture is the six-furlong G3 Albany S., where some of the season's most exciting 2-year-old fillies come together including a pair of TDN Rising Stars in Flotus (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) and Cachet (Ire) (Aclaim {Ire}). If it turns soft, Flotus showed that holds no fears when successful on that surface by 4 3/4 lengths on her sole start at Goodwood May 22. Cachet is by a first-season sire who excelled with ease in the ground and was also dominant on her introduction when scoring by 5 1/2 lengths at Newmarket May 15. They tackle another impressive debut scorer in Amo Racing's Hello You (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}), who put 6 1/2 lengths between her and her nearest rival in a May 24 Wolverhampton novice on the Tapeta.

Cachet's trainer George Boughey has yet to strike at Royal Ascot, but he has another two in the line-up to effect that change in Nick Bradley Racing's Oscula (Ire) (Galileo Gold {GB}) and Hellomydarlin (Ire) (Galileo Gold {GB}). The former comes into this with the vital experience of Epsom having won the Woodcote Conditions S. there June 4, while Hellomydarlin has been to the tricky track of Goodwood to score on her sole maiden start seven days before this test.

Ballydoyle's juveniles have been strong in Ireland so far this season, but bar Cadamosto (Ire) (No Nay Never) slightly off the beat so far this week. The operation is represented by Prettiest (Dubawi {Ire}) here and that fact that the daughter of Alice Springs (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) was able to score on debut over an extended five furlongs at Navan May 30 bodes well for her future. “I obviously wasn't on board this beautifully-bred filly, but I thought she looked very professional when making all at Navan,” Ryan Moore said. “The second had shaped well when just touched off at Naas and the third had shown decent form, too. It will be different conditions here and a much steeper test obviously, but she looks a very promising filly and I am really looking forward to riding her.”

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