It was a history making Royal Ascot. Not only was it the first time that the meeting has been held behind closed doors. We also saw the biggest priced winner in the meeting's history when Nando Parrado, returned at 150/1, won the Coventry Stakes on Saturday.
The first four days of punting were tough. However, it all came together on Saturday. I advised Chiefofchiefs (50/1) in the Silver Wokingham and Campanelle (7/1) in the Queen Mary. Add in Gulliver and Stone of Destiny who sneaked into the places in the Wokingham and it ended up being a profitable week for Victor Value subscribers.
Inside, you'll find my look back at Royal Ascot, which includes a horse who should be backed on his next start. As well as a horse returning from a long lay off that I fancy at Thirsk this afternoon.
Royal Ascot but not quite as we know it
What a fabulous five days of high-class racing we have just seen with the sport being the real winner. ITV racing recording it's highest viewing figures for Royal Ascot since 2012, all helping to make up for the lack of pageantry.
It worked and indeed in some ways it was better. The action on the track took centre stage rather than the fashion and the other ‘flim flam’ that tends to dominate the Royal meeting.
I didn’t really notice much of a difference. It wasn’t until the horses came into winner’s enclosure that I realised there was no crowd. All in all, I enjoyed it.
That said, we still need a crowd back at the races as soon as possible. At the weekend it was announced that French racecourses will be allowed crowds of up to 5,000 for meetings from July 11. Fingers crossed, it might not be too long before racing here takes place once more in front of paying spectators.
One thing that has struck me in the last few days is why do jockeys and trainers have to wear masks but footballers and touchline staff don’t? It seems strange to me. I can’t say I’m a fan of masked up jockeys and trainers in the paddock.
There is plenty to dissect from the meeting and going through the race videos will make interesting viewing. If you want my Royal Ascot eyecatchers, there should be plenty of winners among them, you can get them here.
I have managed to look at Saturday’s St James’ Palace Stakes and Coronation Stakes. Here are my thoughts on both races:
St James Palace Stakes
I talked last week about ‘team tactics’ in last weekend’s Irish 2000 Guineas and we saw more on Saturday.
Kevin Blake speaking on ITV Racing was too forgiving of the O’Brien team tactics, saying it was part of professional sport and happens in athletics. I don’t like it myself and I don’t think it has any role to play in sport which is dominated by betting.
The problem with dealing with this sort of tactical manoeuvring to advantage a stable or owner’s horses is how do you police it or judge it. Sadly such behaviour will continue until an incident happens and then it will be too late.
Palace an appropriate royal winner
We saw an impressive winner in Palace Pier. I talked myself out of backing colt, more fool me. As I said after his Newcastle win he was Group performer who could end up being the best 3-year-old colt. Hopefully some of you did back him.
He won it snugly in the end with Dettori not having to be too hard on him to win either. There was talk of the Derby and even the St Leger after the race. I think he may get 1m 2f but there are plenty of top mile races for him for now. After the race trainer John Gosden was talking about the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois for the exciting son of Kingman.
Pinatubo runs a cracker
Pinatubo finished runner-up reversing 2000 Guineas places with Wichita. Interesting that Paul Kealy (Racing Post) thinks Pinatubo could stay 1m 2f. You can’t say he doesn’t stay a mile but as I said last week, I think he needs to be dropped back to 6f for the July Cup. His ideal trip could well be 7f and races like Maurice de Gheest over 6 ½ f and the Foret over 7f offer the best opportunity to win a Group 1 this season.
Wichita ended up being a bit of sitting duck out in front for a closer and had to settle for third. A stiff mile is probably right on the upper limit stamina wise and although the ground was drying out he would have preferred it quicker.
Both Pinatubo and Wichita ran really good races after their Newmarket efforts. It was always going to be a big ask to back up their Guineas runs in just two weeks.
As for the Coronation Stakes. It was a truly run race and was won by a strong stayer in Alpine Star. Touted over the winter as the best of Jessica Harrington’s three-year-old fillies. She emulated her half-sister Alpha Centauri who won the race in 2018. It was stamina that won her the race.
The step up to 1m 2f can bring more improvement in the filly and who knows she may even stay 1m 4f. She’s been quoted for next month’s Oaks. Not the biggest filly but she looks well balanced and wouldn’t have any problem with the track. If she was to head for Epsom, she would be my choice.
The American filly Sharing ran really well to finish second. A winner on firm at the Breeders Cup. The ground had started to dry out but she would have preferred it even quicker, as this became a test of stamina rather than speed.
In third was Quadrilateral who had occupied the same spot in the 1000 Guineas, 13-days earlier. She wasn’t as keen as she had been at Newmarket and travelled like the best horse, but didn’t find as much as expected when asked for her effort.
The tongue tie she wore at Newmarket was off. It will be interesting to see if it returns for her next start. Maybe a hard race in the Guineas just took its toll on her in the final stages. A short break is probably needed to freshen her up. Although what sort of trip she needs is anyone’s guess.
Royal Ascot hot winner!
Santiago clearly enjoyed the softish ground and the strong pace in Friday’s Group 2 Queen’s Vase. After the race he was cut into a best priced 8/1 for the St Leger and wherever he eventually ends up, he should be backed on his next start. Previous winners of the Queen’s Vase who ran within 60-days have produced – 6 winners from 12 runners 50% +27 7 placed.
We can take a pause for breath after all the excitement and top-class action of the last three weeks. This week’s fare is more low key than what we've been used too of late. Well it is until the weekend when it’s the Irish Derby.
Horse racing returns to Scotland for the first time since lockdown with a fixture at Ayr. However, I am heading to Thirsk for Monday’s selection.
3:20 – Cape Coast has been absent from the racecourse for 1034-days. Highly progressive when last seen in action, winning at Pontefract and Ripon and bettering that form when occupying the runners-up spot in a valuable handicaps at Ascot and Chester.
I don’t know what’s kept him off the track for so long, so his well-being has to be taken on trust. However, given such a long absence I would expect him to be fit enough and first time up could be the best time to catch him.
A mark of 90 looks more than winnable and I think he can win this for the inform Mark Johnston yard.
Selection: Cape Coast
Until next week.