Opportunity Knocks In Open Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee

Kinross | Scoop Dyga

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With Highfield Princess (Fr) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) sadly no longer with us and Shaquille (GB) (Charm Spirit {Ire}) retired, Europe's sprint category is in something of a lull at present. Elite-level performers are thin on the ground for Saturday's G1 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, with the best of them being Kinross (GB) (Kingman {GB}) who will be racing on ground that is quicker than ideal. When it comes to the baker's dozen tackling Marc Chan's standard-setter, it will probably be a case of who peaks on the day and who gets the throw of the dice in this high-speed game of jeopardy.

At present, Peter Harris's Mill Stream (Ire) (Gleneagles {Ire}) shades favouritism probably due to his G2 1895 Duke of York Stakes success being so fresh, but short-term memory is never a good thing when it comes to the hardy perennials that make up this division. Just 12 months ago, Khaadem (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) came back into bloom at odds of 80-1 that would have seemed ludicrous 11 months earlier as he conquered Goodwood's G2 King George Stakes. Only in October, King Power's beloved veteran Art Power (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) put it all together in the G1 British Champions Sprint Stakes, having often failed at the top level before, offering those with enough guile the bargain SP of 40-1.

Mill Stream's rider William Buick is aware that he is on one of the more promising types with his future ahead of him. “He did well to win at York–it was a messy race and he should have won by further,” he said. “Ascot's going to suit him and I think the sprint division is open at the moment. If you can mark up his Duke of York performance he's in with a shout, definitely.”

Ralph Beckett has Kinross in a different place than 12 months ago and said, “He ran a bit fresh and saw a bit too much daylight when he was seventh a year ago, so we'll be holding on to him longer and riding him to finish. Hopefully he'll be competitive, but it's a difficult one as it's really all about the second half of the year.”

Charlie Hills, who has Khaadem and also the G2 Greenlands Stakes winner Mitbaahy (Ire) (Profitable {Ire}) for Fitri Hay, warned that the 2023 winner is no spent force despite some indifferent form in the interim. “Khaadem hasn't really had his conditions since last year,” he said. “He loves fast ground, every time we've run him since it's been soft and he loves it rattling. He's won some very good races during his career, including a Stewards' Cup and a King George at Goodwood and a Palace House at Newmarket, so he's certainly got it in his locker when he gets his ground.”

“Mitbaahy seems to be improving at the moment, I was delighted with his last win and he's been as good as gold really since then,” he added. “He beat a couple of Group 1 horses in Ireland and I think Ascot should suit him well, as he obviously got the stiff six well at the Curragh.”

 

Keep Believing

If the ground stays as it is, the winner is going to have to run close to 72 seconds for the six furlongs and that proved beyond Kinross in last year's edition and it may be that a run in Tuesday's G1 King Charles III Stakes will act as the sharpener that last year's G1 Haydock Sprint Cup third Believing (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}) needs. George Boughey talked about his intention to back up Highclere Thoroughbred Racing's improving 4-year-old at this meeting following her authoritative win in the June 8 Listed Achilles Stakes over five furlongs at  Haydock, so toughness is obviously in rich supply and such a constitution will carry her a long way.

 

Is the Real Shartash Back?

Wathnan Racing has definitely been favoured by the Royal Ascot gods so far and the operation have a fascinating contender for this in the formerly high-class Aga Khan cast-off Shartash (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}). In the wilderness at three, the horse that beat Blackbeard (Ire) (No Nay Never) in the 2022 G2 Railway S. has been sweetened up by Archie Watson and handed his confidence back with a brace of wins over seven furlongs including in Haydock's Listed Spring Trophy, there

Wathnan's racing adviser Richard Brown said, “He's ended up with Archie Watson, who has gelded him and I think that has been the making of him. He has won twice this year at seven, but I think he will be at his best at the six-and-a-half point, so I think the stiff six at Ascot will be perfect for him. It's obviously a big step up in class and we will find out if he is up to this level.”

 

A Continuous Success Story

Ballydoyle have conquered the Royal meeting again this week and their representative in the G2 Hardwicke Stakes, Continuous (Jpn) (Heart's Cry {Jpn}), is arguably one of the best of the team. Coming through in the St Leger in September, he ended up being fifth in the Arc shortly after and it will be fascinating to see how he fares this term given that connections believed that he would progress with age and experience. Ryan Moore expects him to come forward for this return effort and said, “He is a very brave horse with the best form, but he will improve for the race.”

Aidan O'Brien added, “We're very happy with him and he's had two days away. We maybe didn't have the clearest run with him in the winter and the spring and he'll improve from the run, but he is ready to win and he's a lovely, straightforward, honest horse. We think this is a lovely race to start him back in, but we do think he will really come forward from the run.”

If Continuous is not yet firing on all cylinders, there is room for others to take advantage with one of the more obvious ones being Qatar Bloodstock and Ciaron Maher's Middle Earth (GB) (Roaring Lion). Seventh behind the Ballydoyle colt in the Leger, he has race-fitness to aid his cause having won the G3 Aston Park Stakes at Newbury last month where the Doncaster Classic third Desert Hero (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) was a disappointing fifth.

 

He Can Make the Cut

This race also sees John Sadler come to Ascot for the first time with the 2022 Golden Gates Stakes winner Missed The Cut (Quality Road), who has strong claims as a triple Grade III winner at Santa Anita. He has the sunshine to help and he is right in the mix on all known form. “This will be a first for me and I've won internationally before, I've won in Dubai and won Breeders' Cups and my last trip here was to pick up the Longines award with Flightline,” his trainer said. “We had such a good trip to London last time, I said it would be fun to run a horse at Royal Ascot and we have the right horse with the right ownership group. A lot of things fell in line that meant it looked like a fun thing to do.”

“We tried to make Missed The Cut a little bit of a dirt horse last year, but he wasn't at his best so now we have put him back on turf and has run four really nice races this year. You can see on his form he has no problem with American distances and has run over a mile and a half over there many times. We know he can run this trip and another thing that is lovely this week is the weather is gorgeous.”

A fascinating G3 Jersey Stakes is staged on Saturday, with Aidan O'Brien looking for more Royal Ascot glory with last year's G2 Coventry Stakes winner River Tiber (Ire) (Wootton Bassett {GB}). Third in a hot-looking G1 Irish 2,000 Guineas on his seasonal bow last month, the TDN Rising Star has ground to make up on the runner-up Haatem (Ire) (Phoenix Of Spain {Ire}) but is expected to have moved forward considerably for that reintroduction. He also looks to emanate one of the stable's past stars Mozart (Ire), who came from a placing in the Curragh Classic to win this before going to on to land the big sprints.

“He would not have been out of place in the St James's Palace Stakes after a very encouraging third in the Irish Guineas on his return, but we thought this was a very good spot for him,” Ryan Moore said. “As we saw last season, he doesn't lack pace and last year's Coventry winner looks the clear form pick in this along with Haatem. Haatem finished over a length in front of us in Ireland, but he carries a penalty here.”

 

The Frankel Factor

Haatem's three-pound penalty means that he comes here on the back foot, but the drop back to seven might play to his strengths while Juddmonte have their G1 Middle Park Stakes runner-up Task Force (GB) (Frankel {GB}) who didn't stay the mile of the 2,000 Guineas. Also in the famed silks is Frankel's half-brother Kikkuli (GB) (Kingman {GB}), so this is a key race for the operation.

“We just felt he was maybe a little bit weak at that stage and with him being a May foal, he had only just turned three when he ran in the Guineas and he was probably just going through a bit of a growth spurt and looked a little on the weak side in the parade ring,” racing manager Barry Mahon explained. “Ralph [Beckett] has been happy with him since and the drop back to seven furlongs I don't think will be an inconvenience. He was a staying on second in the Middle Park over six, so I think seven will be a nice trip for him and we're looking forward to seeing him back in action.”

Of Kikkuli, who was runner-up in the Listed Heron S., he added, “He was still learning his trade at Sandown and the ground had probably just got a little soft. We had no great worries about ease in the ground to be honest, but I just felt that day it blunted his speed a little bit. The winner got away from him and Ryan didn't give him a hard time. I think he will have learned plenty from that and he will come on again.”

 

A Familiar Story?

In the Listed Chesham Stakes, Ballydoyle have their Leopardstown maiden-winning TDN Rising Star Bedtime Story (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) to go to war with. Ryan Moore is happy she can make her mark in a race the stable has won six times, including with the filly September (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) who used the same maiden as a springboard in 2017. “You couldn't have asked for more from her than a smooth win on her debut at Leopardstown and the fourth has come out and won well since,” he said. “I rode in the race and I thought it went like a decent contest and she did it very well. You'd expect her to improve on that run and she clearly has a good chance.”

Charlie Appleby has not enjoyed a fruitful week, but he brought Pinatubo (Ire) here in 2019 and there was a lot to like visually about the Yarmouth debut of the stable's Age Of Gold (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) last month. Another of interest is Teme Valley and Ciaron Maher's Leicester maiden winner Pentle Bay (Ire) (New Bay {GB}) in a race that can be hit-and-miss coming so soon for the juveniles who are less precocious than those bred for sprint trips.

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