The better weather is making the ground less of a decisive factor as Royal Ascot rolls to its Saturday finale, and a couple of Godolphin celebrities lend star power to the curtain closer. Since just three Group races are on tap, we’ll start off with the listed juvenile contest to offer our standard four-race preview of the card. Race 1, The Chesham 1st – #9 LOPE Y FERNANDEZ (6-5) is an awfully short price, but the Aidan O’Brien colt could not have been more stylish on debut at this seven-furlong trip. A Lope de Vega half-brother to last season’s Vintage (G2) winner Dark Vision, the €900,000 (a little over $1 million) Arqana August yearling must have been showing plenty at Ballydoyle to go off as the 15-8 favorite in his Curragh premiere. The bay did everything right, from traveling well early to responding on cue and drawing off. While the form hasn’t been boosted since, Lope Y Fernandez had far more panache than a typical O’Brien firster, and that could be a harbinger of his raw talent. 2nd – #15 YEAR OF THE TIGER (10-1), in contrast, turned in the usual educational debut for O’Brien and promises to move forward significantly here. By Galileo and out of the brilliant Tiggy Wiggy, Europe’s co-champion two-year-old filly of 2014, Year of the Tiger was given an easy time in a six-furlong Curragh maiden. He finished willingly to snatch second behind the promising filly Lil Grey, who ran sixth of 25 in Friday’s Albany (G3). With that first day of school out of the way, and stepping up an extra furlong, Year of the Tiger might offer the best value. Four of the last 12 Chesham winners entered as maidens. 3rd – #10 MOHICAN HEIGHTS (12-1), who beat the aforementioned Lil Grey in their mutual debut at Leopardstown, just topped Monday’s Goffs London Sale when going to trainer David Simcock for £520,000. Hitherto with Fozzy Stack, the son of Australia led throughout in his seven-furlong maiden and repelled every challenge. The half-brother to five Group performers, including the stayer Eye of the Storm, is entitled to keep progressing for new owners Qatar Racing and Sun Bloodstock. 4th – #12 PINATUBO (5-1) is a logical contender for Godolphin on a day that the elite team could paint Ascot blue. Two-for-two so far, the Charlie Appleby pupil has launched powerful rallies in both his Wolverhampton debut and the Woodcote at Epsom. Although both were turning six-furlong races, the Shamardal colt should have no problem going up to seven. The caution is that in the last dozen years, only two Chesham winners had already raced twice. That factoid might be meaningless in his case, but it does point to the larger truth that Chesham winners are usually those just getting started. Others to note: Sir Michael Stoute hasn’t had a juvenile stakes winner at Royal Ascot since 1996, so the presence of #6 HEAVEN FORFEND (12-1) is notable, especially since he was an unlucky second in his Newbury debut. The Cheveley Park homebred sports a solid pedigree as a son of Frankel and Heaven Sent, a Group 3-winning sister to Megahertz. Trainer Paul Cole, tied with O’Brien as a four-time winner of this race, has an intriguing shot in #7 HIGHLAND CHIEF (12-1). The first winner sired by Gleneagles, he defied 16-1 odds to prevail in a five-furlong dash at Newbury. Soft ground might have played right into his hands at a trip that figured to be too short, and he has a right to improve at this distance. #1 ARDENLEE STAR (20-1), a grandson of Islington, captured his Thirsk debut, while O’Brien’s #5 HARPOCRATES (12-1), a “nephew” of Camelot, can’t be discounted after placing in his first pair. Race 2, The Jersey (G3) 1st  – #9 MOMKIN (10-1) is a bit of a stab in first-time blinkers, but arguably ranks as the best of those with classic form – a key angle in this race of late. The past seven Jersey winners were all dropping in class, and shortening up to seven furlongs, after losses in one version of the Guineas or another. Momkin, midfield when 10th in the 2000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket, previously missed by only a neck in the Craven (G3). The Craven winner, Skardu, has gone on to run well in both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) (third and fourth) and just finished fourth in Tuesday’s St James’s Palace (G1). Less exposed than some in here, Momkin reunites with Andrea Atzeni for the first time since his maiden score at two. 2nd – #13 SPACE BLUES (5-2) has everything going for him except the lack of classic form, making him very much the one to beat. The Appleby pupil dismissed John Gosden’s well-regarded Private Secretary in their mutual debut last fall, opening up in hand, but took a couple of starts to regain the winning thread this season. The cutback to this trip has worked wonders. After an eye-catching victory in a handicap at York, where he had to cut across much of the course to find clear sailing, he rolled from well off the pace to defeat URBAN ICON, MARIE’S DIAMOND, and ANGEL’S HIDEAWAY in the Surrey at Epsom. 3rd – #17 ANGEL’S HIDEAWAY (8-1) didn’t put her best foot forward at Epsom, but the Gosden filly fits in the Jersey courtesy of her fine fourth in the 1000 Guineas (G1) to Hermosa. Just behind her was Fairyland, who ran a mighty fifth (beaten in a photo for third) when trying older heavyweights in Tuesday’s King’s Stand (G1). Angel Hideaway’s efforts over the straight seven furlongs at Newmarket are respectable as well, a close second in last fall’s Oh So Sharp (G3) and a staying-on third in the Nell Gwyn (G3). The Cheveley Park runner had solid juvenile form over this course, including a score in the Princess Margaret (G3) following a fourth in the Albany (G3). 4th – #12 SO PERFECT (6-1), a very smart performer who’s never run a bad race, would be ranked higher if not for a scruple about her carrying three pounds more than the other fillies (thus the same as the boys) and that the stiff seven furlongs may stretch her stamina a bit. Otherwise, the O’Brien trainee brings credentials in her own division as well as versus males, including placings in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint and Phoenix (G1) (to Friday’s Commonwealth Cup [G1] hero Advertise) and her recent conquest of the Lacken (G3). The daughter of Scat Daddy holds an engagement in the six-furlong July Cup (G1), and she should make her presence felt on the wider sprinting scene. Others to note: #15 URBAN ICON (7-1) has to find more to reverse Epsom form with Space Blues, but note he was eighth in the Guineas two back and thus meets the classic criterion. #5 HAPPY POWER (5-1) graduated from handicaps to deal with older horses in listed company, finishing third to the progressive Safe Voyage in the Spring Trophy and most recently beating his elders in the Ganton. Had the Jersey been on Wednesday as before, the soft-ground aficionado would have been in his element. The course might have dried out more than he’d want now. Fellow King Power runner and Andrew Balding stablemate #2 BYE BYE HONG KONG (10-1), who controlled the pace to defeat elders in the Royal Windsor, exits a fourth in Zaaki’s course-record Diomed (G3) at Epsom. #4 DUKE OF HAZZARD (30-1), fifth to Persian King in the French 2000 Guineas (G1), is capable of a good show on the odd occasion, as in his third in last summer’s Chesham at this track and trip. Race 3, The Hardwicke (G2) 1st – #8 SOUTHERN FRANCE (4-1) comes off a career-best in the Yorkshire Cup (G2), where the O’Brien colt forced Stradivarius to pull out extra to see him off, and they stretched five lengths clear of the useful Mildenberger in third. That effort followed a solid third in his Vintage Crop (G3) reappearance to Master of Reality, who just finished third to Stradivarius in Thursday’s Gold Cup (G1). Southern France had shaped like a real up-and-comer last term. Despite the fact that he was a far cry from reaching full development, he’d placed to stablemate Kew Gardens in both the Queen’s Vase (G2) here and in the St Leger. At that time O’Brien mentioned it was all about next year for the Galileo colt, and next year is now. The cutback to 1 1/2 miles for the Hardwicke has been the idea ever since York. 2nd – #3 MASAR (5-2) is a better fit in this spot for his long-awaited comeback than Wednesday’s Prince of Wales’s (G1) would have been, but the Godolphin celebrity still offers cramped odds in his first start since his 2018 Derby (G1) heroics. And although the winner of the Epsom classic warrants respect, it’s worth pointing out that he was the best horse at the trip that day, beating Dee Ex Bee (who wants further) along with Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior (who shortened up). This marks the first serious test outside of his own division for the Appleby pupil. He’s qualified to pass it, yet asks to be taken on at the price. 3rd – #2 DEFOE (4-1) finally earned a Group 1 laurel in the Coronation Cup (G1), hitting top gear late to overhaul Kew Gardens with SALOUEN third, COMMUNIQUE fourth, and LAH TI DAR a subpar sixth. The Roger Varian trainee had shown that level of ability in the past without having it all come right for him on the day, which prompts the question of whether he can duplicate that career high in his follow-up. That said, the son of Dalakhani may have benefited from being gelded over the winter. 4th – #9 LAH TI DAR (7-1), an underlay as the 6-4 Coronation Cup favorite, can be forgiven for failing to handle Epsom, and a return to her best would put her in contention for John Gosden. Yet that’s the rub. She had to work pretty hard to get past Rawdaa in the Middleton (G2) two back, admittedly at a distance shorter than ideal. The Dubawi filly (and full sister to St James’s Palace beaten favorite Too Darn Hot) reached top form last fall, chasing Kew Gardens home in the Leger and placing to Magical in the British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1), and needs to rediscover it. Others to note: #4 MIRAGE DANCER (5-1) represents Stoute, who’s won this race 11 times. The Juddmonte homebred son of Frankel and Heat Haze prepped with a repeat score in the Tapster at Goodwood, and the five-year-old could be poised for a breakthrough season. #7 SALOUEN (12-1) wired the course-and-distance Buckhounds in a romp before holding third in the Coronation Cup, the concern being that any edge provided by tactical speed might be undermined by the presence of the similarly styled #1 COMMUNIQUE  (15-1). Race 4, The Diamond Jubilee (G1) 1st – #3 CITY LIGHT (7-1), unlucky not to win this race last year, is an attractively priced alternative to the favorites. The French shipper reared at the start, spotting tactical position, in a miscue that got less attention compared to favorite Harry Angel’s woes, and he still flew late to miss in a photo to O’Brien’s Australian recruit Merchant Navy. This race shapes up deeper, especially now with the surprise addition of BLUE POINT, but City Light is entering off a more targeted preparation by trainer Stephane Wattel. Unlike last year when he progressed through the winter all-weather scene before earning his turf bona fides, the son of Siyouni was given a single prep. His close second in the Prix Servanne to Godolphin’s Inns of Court not only set him right for this, but the form was franked when the winner added the Prix du Gros-Chene (G2). Inns of Court was going to be my top pick here before he was surprisingly taken out at Thursday’s final declarations stage, and Blue Point kept in. 2nd – #1 BLUE POINT (2-1) is obviously all the rage after bursting Battaash’s bubble (and my opinion along with it) with his title defense in Tuesday’s King’s Stand (G1). At the risk of being incorrigible in putting him second again, I’m a little queasy about his prospects of successfully wheeling back in four days to pull the big sprint double last achieved by Australia’s Choisir (2003). Considering that Blue Point has historically fired fresh, I have no idea how he’ll cope on a turnaround unprecedented for him. The step up from five to a stiff six furlongs wouldn’t be a concern in general, since he actually set the course record here at this trip. He’s being asked to go the more demanding distance, however, in these concrete circumstances. Appleby made no mention of this possibility after the King’s Stand – on the contrary stating he’d probably get a little break. To be fair, maybe he just didn’t want to roil the betting markets until absolutely sure that his star sprinter was spot-on, and all indications are he’s come out in grand shape. Nevertheless, this switcheroo with Inns of Court smacks of a change of plan, and it could be significant that Appleby cited Sheikh Mohammed’s sportsmanship in an interview. 3rd – #8 INVINCIBLE ARMY (4-1) had been trading as the favorite after two convincing wins this season, most recently in the Duke of York (G2). While a longtime fan of his, I’m not sure he’s ready to spring the hat trick and seize leadership of the six-furlong crowd. Those beaten in the Duke of York have fared better in this race than the winners of that prep have over the last dozen years (so arguably I should heed YAFTA and PROJECTION). It’s also tough to ignore the fact that he prepped beautifully last season, only to flop in the Commonwealth Cup at this track and trip behind SANDS OF MALI and EMBLAZONED (note that Emblazoned, 20-1 here, adds blinkers and Dettori). That said, the son of Invincible Spirit could be a different proposition at four. 4th – #5 DREAM OF DREAMS (15-1) was tabbed as my Saturday longshot in the Royal Ascot Betting Guide thanks to his recent progress for Stoute. The son of Dream Ahead posted a new career high last out in the Leisure at Windsor, beating the grand old veteran THE TIN MAN. Admittedly, Dream of Dreams was capitalizing on the twin advantages of recency and a seven-pound weight break. The Tin Man, the 2017 Jubilee winner, has claims to gain revenge at level weights. Still, the way Dream of Dreams knifed between foes to win well might be a hint that he’s on the way to new heights. Others to note: #2 BOUND FOR NOWHERE (12-1) wasn’t beaten much by City Light in the 2018 running, so he logically comes into serious consideration for trainer Wesley Ward. He’s explicitly using the second-off-the-layoff plan to ensure a stronger effort than a year ago. Yet compatriot Imprimis, who mugged him in the Shakertown (G2), didn’t do their current form any favors when sixth in the King’s Stand. #14 SANDS OF MALI (12-1), just denied in last summer’s Commonwealth Cup, prevailed in a bog in the British Champions Sprint (G1) last fall. Sure to move forward off his Hamilton tune-up, he would have wanted the rain to persist. #11 LE BRIVIDO (10-1) unexpectedly wheels back four days after his fifth in the one-mile Queen Anne (G1). Is this O’Brien’s magic touch, or a last-ditch attempt? Good luck, and hope you’ve enjoyed the spectacle of Royal Ascot! Royal Ascot scenic (c) Frank Sorge/