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Oppenheim: Ascot Trebles
Thursday, June 16, 2016 RSS Feeds

Not even periodic persistent rain Tuesday and demonstrably soft ground for the first two days could impact the momentum and drama that is Royal Ascot. We hear a lot about the importance of emphasizing lifestyle as part of the attraction of horse racing, and if dressing up like something out of My Fair Lady doesn’t qualify as lifestyle, nothing does. But of course it’s not just that, it’s that there are big fields of the best horses in every category from Europe and beyond; that, you bet, everybody’s trying; and that, all things considered, it’s the most important festival week of horse racing on the planet.

Given the underfoot conditions, it’s a little surprising that the only race that read like a real soft-ground upset was Wednesday’s G1 Prince of Wales’s S., won by the 20-1 shot My Dream Boat, a 4-year-old from the first crop of, and thus far the only black-type winner by, the now Pennsylvania-based (formerly Irish-based) son of Speightstown, Lord Shanakill. He is a confirmed soft-ground specialist–but he was about the only one who prevailed over 12 races on the first two days, which were more dominated by the form horses, some of whom may have been winning in spite of the conditions.

There were three notable trebles that I noted over the first two days: three wins for USA-breds, on soft ground and without drugs or nasal strips; a treble for Godolphin yesterday–plus a win by their future stallion Profitable (Invincible Spirit) in the G1 King’s Stand S. on Tuesday; and a treble over the first two days for the week’s leading rider after the first two days–you remember him–Frankie Dettori.

USA-breds kicked off the meeting by winning the first two races on Tuesday. The monster that is Tepin (Bernstein) took her show on the road and prevailed, ultimately at good odds (she ended up co-third choice at 11/2) in the week’s opening race, the G1 Queen Anne S. at one mile on the straight course (there are two mile courses, straight and round; four of the mile races on the first two days were on the straight course), by a half-length over Godolphin and Prince A.A. Faisal’s thoroughly proven commodity–especially on soft ground–Belardo (Lope de Vega), who had won the G1 Dewhurst S. as a 2-year-old, and the G1 Lockinge S. last time out. Talk about a credit to connections, owner Bob Masterson and trainer Mark Casse, because, since we’re talking about this as the best race meeting in the world, it’s pretty good news that the top American horses like Tepin can come over here and replicate their American form under vastly different conditions. Tepin’s compatriot, the 4-year-old filly Miss Temple City (Temple City) herself ran fourth in the

G2 Duke of Cambridge Wednesday, having run fourth in the G1 Coronation at this meeting last year. Now that Mark Casse has joined Wesley Ward on the Royal Ascot scoreboard, Graham Motion is knocking on the door; he’s likely to be next, and well done to the Feld family and connections for trying twice with Miss Temple City, and at least they have the consolation that in her prep race for this, she beat the boys in the GI Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland.

The other two American-bred winners were 2-year-olds by the late lamented Scat Daddy, the G2 Coventry S. winner Caravaggio on Tuesday for Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore team; and the ultra-impressive Lady Aurelia, who is inbred 4×3 to Storm Cat (out of a Forest Wildcat mare), trained by Wesley Ward for a partnership headed by Stonestreet, in Wednesday’s five-furlong G2 Queen Mary S. for 2-year-old fillies. She won by seven lengths from Al Shaqab Racing’s Al Johrah, from the first crop of Bated Breath (Dansili), herself 2 1/2 lengths clear of the third-placed filly, Clem Fandango, from the first crop by Elzaam (Redoute’s Choice). Just to say seven lengths is impressive enough, but a time comparison with the five-furlong races on the first day confirms Lady Aurelia’s performance as way out of the ordinary.

If you look at the accompanying table, you’ll note there were four races run over the straight mile on the first two days. Tepin, a 5-year-old mare by Bernstein, won the meet’s opening race, the G1 Queen Anne, in 1:43.98 on Tuesday. On Wednesday, there were three races over the straight mile: the G2 Duke of Cambridge, won by the 4-year-old filly Usherette (Shamardal) in 1:43.33; the Royal Hunt Cup, won by the 4-year-old colt Portage (Teofilo) in 1:43.01; and the Sandringham H. (Listed), for 3-year-old fillies, won by Cheveley Park’s Persuasive (Dark Angel), in 1:44.27. These are slow times, but they are consistent. I’m satisfied the degree of softness was similar both days, which is why the 5-furlong times are so relevant when assessing Lady Aurelia’s performance. On Tuesday, the 4-year-old colt Profitable (Invincible Spirit) won the G1 King’s Stand in 1:02.69; and the 2-year-old colt Ardad, by Kodiac and another impressive six-figure graduate of a 2016 European 2-year-old sale, in this case £170,000 from Goffs UK (ex Doncaster), ran five furlongs in the Windsor Castle S. (Listed) in 1:02.56. Lady Aurelia ran five furlongs yesterday in 1:00.14–arguably 12 lengths or so faster than the G1 King’s Stand, won by a 4-year-old colt. The time confirms the impression this is one of the best performances by a 2-year-old in recent memory.

Usherette, trained by Andre Fabre, and Portage, trained by Mick Halford in Ireland, were the second and third legs of the Godolphin Wednesday triple, which was kicked off by Ribchester (Iffraaj) in the seven-furlong G3 Jersey S. to open Wednesday’s card. Oh, and of course, that leading rider for the first two days–Frankie Dettori, with three flying dismounts. You could almost say (groan), Frankie is truly in flying form.

Courtesy of the TDN

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