Today is the first day of Royal Ascot; before we get to the racing across the pond, we’ll have a quick update of the past weekend’s goings-on stateside. The was naturally disappointment in Camp Superfecta over Einstein’s tough trip in the Stephen Foster (and let’s give credit to Macho Again for putting in a fine performance), but the fact that Einstein still managed to get up for third after finally getting some racing room was heartening. Asiatic Boy definitely showed he’s looking to make an impact on American racing as well with a nice second-place finish.
Off the track, Quality Road continues to work toward a return to the races, but it will be under a different trainer – he’s been taken from Jimmy Jerkins and sent to Todd Pletcher (along with five of his stablemates, although not all went into a Pletcher barn). Make of that what you will. Friesan Fire is also recovering well from injury, although his return to training seems further in the future.
And so, to Ascot – first, the Queen Anne Stakes will likely produce a few Breeders’ Cup Mile entrants; it featured Gladiatorus, whose effort in the Dubai Duty Free earned him the world’s top racehorse ranking, as well as Paco Boy, who ended up winning despite doubts about his ability to handle the distance. It’s difficult to know what to make of Gladiatorus after such a lackluster performance – perhaps he just doesn’t like Royal Ascot. In case you are keeping track, the next set of rankings comes out on June 24th – in the last edition, Paco Boy was just under Mine That Bird (and two ahead of Rachel Alexandra). Clearly some serious number crunching is going to be taking place this week.
The King’s Stand Stakes again proved that the Aussies produce great sprinters; favored Scenic Blast (pictured) easily defeated tough Irish filly Fleeting Spirit and the rest of the field. (You may recall Fleeting Spirit finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last year). This marks the fourth time a horse from Down Under has captured this race. Clearly, the 4-year-old gelding is ready to take on the mantle – if Takeover Target wants to give it up. (He’ll be running on Saturday in the Golden Jubilee Stakes – and it’s possible Scenic Blast will as well – but so far only Takeover Target is having a film made about his life).
The St. James’s Palace Stakes was won last year by Henrythenavigator; this year, Mastercraftsman rewarded his many backers when the heavy favorite took the race. There would seem to be something of an iron-bound convention that an Aidan O’Brien trainee must win this race – Mastercraftsman is the sixth. Whether he will want to contest the Breeders’ Cup Classic remains to be seen, however; one mile seems to be his ideal distance. His victory today was exciting, but very close – I would imagine he’d be sticking with the Breeders’ Cup Mile come the fall if he makes the journey.
The Coventry Stakes was won by Canford Cliffs; it’s a bit early to say where the 2-year-olds will all fit but it’s no bad thing to remain unbeaten – even if it’s only in two starts. Some are already labeling him a freak, though, so he bears watching.
American-bred Judgethemoment won the 2-mile Ascot Stakes – who says we don’t breed distance horses any more? That said, Judgethemoment is by Judge T C – the same Judge T C who went from a modest stud fee in New York to an even more modest $2500 in Pennsylvania (via a brief high spot in Kentucky) – he’s now in Saudi Arabia. Someone got a deal. But there’s some speed in his bloodline somewhere as well – his half-brother Olympic Express (also known as Ecclesiastical) won the Hong Kong Mile, the Hong Kong Derby and the Hong Kong Classic Mile. And just because this is the internet, I managed to scare up some pictures of Judgethemoment as a foal. And if you wanted to see his 2-year-old half sister by Street Cry, be my guest. Judgethemoment’s trainer, Jane Chappel-Hyam, is doing awfully well, considering this is only her fourth year training on her own.
And finally for today, the Windsor Castle Stakes; while not quite as prestigious as the other races on the card, we can be proud that an actual American-based horse won – Strike The Tiger is a 2-year-old gelding trained by Wesley Ward. Given that there hasn’t even been an American-trained runner at Royal Ascot since 2005, it’s quite a coup – even if it’s just in a listed stakes and not one of the Group 1 events scattered throughout the meet. John Velazquez was the winning jockey, so it’s an American triumph all around. The second-place finisher, Fratellino, had quite an experience jump on the winner – today’s race was already his eighth lifetime start. Ward has a number of other runners giving Royal Ascot a go (Cannonball already finished behind Scenic Blast earlier today) – it’s a very good beginning.
Tomorrow’s highlights should include the Jersey Stakes with Gallagher and Donativum, the Windsor Forest Stakes with Lush Lashes, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes with Tartan Bearer and Vision d’Etat and the Queen Mary Stakes featuring Capercaillie – or perhaps you’ll want to back another Wesley Ward trainee in Jealous Again.
Check back Wednesday for more!