Despite the pandemic playing havoc with travel and race schedules, Royal Ascot will have a notable American presence. British expat Graham Motion dispatches Sharing for the June 20 Coronation (G1), and meeting mainstay Wesley Ward has Kimari in the June 19 Commonwealth Cup (G1) plus six juveniles.
Sharing – Coronation Stakes
It would be apropos if Sharing uses a comeback victory in the inaugural Tepin S. at Churchill Downs as a springboard to Royal Ascot glory. Tepin famously became the only U.S.-trained horse to win the Queen Anne (G1) here in 2016.
Motion had no luck in the Queen Anne, with Animal Kingdom (2013) and Miss Temple City (2017) both disappointing. But Miss Temple City had performed better in her first two Royal appearances, finishing fourth in the 2015 Coronation and 2016 Duke of Cambridge (G2) on softer ground than ideal.
Sharing brings stronger credentials into the Coronation than Miss Temple City did. Unlike that Motion trainee, who had chased the top U.S. turf filly Lady Eli, Sharing ranks as the American divisional leader so far. Her Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) victory establishes her international bona fides, with the reliable Daahyeh second and Albigna, the favorite in Saturday’s Irish 1000 Guineas (G1), a hard-charging fourth. If Albigna wheels back for a rematch in the Coronation, Ascot would suit her much better than Santa Anita did, but the point remains that Sharing has proven herself at this level.
There’s another difference from Miss Temple City that might not be as positive. Sharing executes a slightly tighter turnaround, from May 23 compared to Miss Temple City’s prep in the May 15 Hilltop. On the other hand, Miss Temple City had been busy, while Sharing was just opening her sophomore campaign and presumably remains fresh at this stage.
Kimari – Commonwealth Cup
Not only does Kimari claim experience over the course, but the Ward pupil was arguably a tad unlucky to come up just shy in last summer’s Queen Mary (G2). She had no trouble in the running, just the rainy weather that slowed the course enough to help Raffle Prize, otherwise a 6-furlong performer, outstay her over 5 furlongs. To put it another way, on fast ground Kimari wouldn’t have been in a war of attrition that played to her rival’s strengths.
Showing similar speed in her front-running score in the Bolton Landing at Saratoga, Kimari then morphed into a closer. She recovered from a bumpy start to get up in the nick of time in Keeneland’s Indian Summer, beating males, but left herself too much to do in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2). Kimari flashed late for fourth to stablemate Four Wheel Drive, suggesting that she now wanted longer than 5 furlongs in American conditions.
Ward is targeting the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) on dirt as her end-of-season goal, a wise choice considering the 6-furlong distance and her stunning debut on the Keeneland main track. Kimari returned to action on dirt in the April 4 Purple Martin, rallying for a comfortable score over Frank’s Rockette and Edgeway in the Oaklawn slop.
Tackling males isn’t a concern, but it should be noted that this straight course serves up a stiffer 6 furlongs than she finds stateside. That might not be an issue if the ground is good Friday – as ever, stay tuned to the Ascot weather throughout the week.
Fillies have done well so far in the brief five-year history of the Commonwealth Cup. Quiet Reflection won in 2016 and two others have placed, Anthem Alexander (2015) and Forever in Dreams (2019).
Golden Pal – Norfolk
Ward told The Sun that Golden Pal might be “my best shot” of the week in Friday’s Norfolk (G2), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
Although Golden Pal was upset in his debut on the Gulfstream dirt, it could be worth remembering that Acapulco had a similar resume going into her 2015 Queen Mary triumph. She’d been third as the odds-on favorite on the Churchill main in her unveiling.
Golden Pal showed terrific early speed as the 1-2 favorite on April 17, but couldn’t sustain it. As fellow firster Gatsby passed him, Golden Pal fought on and hung tough to keep the losing margin to three-quarters of a length.
Obviously Golden Pal needs to step up from that effort to see out 5 furlongs on a straightaway, but the Ranlo Investments homebred has the pedigree to prosper on turf. He’s a son of Uncle Mo and the brilliant Lady Shipman, the near-misser in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
It’s also noteworthy that Ward didn’t have the luxury of his typical 2-year-old program with the cancellation of Keeneland’s spring meet. Thus his juvenile squad is something of an experiment in preparation.
The key might be how early or late they got their preps in: five of Ward’s seven Royal Ascot juvenile winners were coming off races in the latter part of April. The latest was Hootenanny, who was third at Pimlico May 16, 2014, but had debuted earlier at Keeneland.
Sheriff Bianco and Sunshine City – Windsor Castle
Qatar Racing’s Sheriff Bianco likewise placed a promising second in his unveiling on dirt, but May 22 at Churchill Downs. We’ll find out in Wednesday’s Windsor Castle if he can move forward on that timetable, in a potential pointer for his similarly situated stablemates.
Off a beat slow, Sheriff Bianco had to motor out wide to put his head in front of 7-10 favorite Cowan, who was on the rail. Cowan capitalized on his ground-saving position to put Sheriff Bianco away in the stretch. Yet the Ward juvenile didn’t quit in a clear second, and with a better start and post, might have put up a more persistent challenge. The winner clocked 4 1/2 furlongs in :51.76.
From the first crop of the talented Speightster, Sheriff Bianco is a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Never Gone South. Their dam is a half to $3 million-earner Peace Rules, from the family of current Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful Ny Central.
Ward expects Sunshine City to move up on the grass. She’ll need to after scoring for a $25,000 maiden claiming tag on Gulfstream’s dirt April 30, not exactly the profile you’d expect for a filly picking up Frankie Dettori at Royal Ascot.
On the plus side, the Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred sports a solid pedigree. She’s by Creative Cause out of a War Front mare descending from the deep female line of Tax and Elate.
Campanelle and Royal Approval – Queen Mary
The stablemates renew rivalry June 20 after furnishing the exacta in a May 31 Gulfstream turf maiden, when the 2-1 Campanelle upstaged 8-5 favorite Royal Approval. Outsprintng her to the early lead, Campanelle drew off to finish 5 furlongs in :55.66.
Stonestreet Stables’ Irish-bred Campanelle has a precocious pedigree. The 190,000 guineas Tattersalls October yearling purchase is by Kodiac and out of the Namid mare Janina, winner of the 2007 Marygate at York. That’s usually a stepping stone to the Queen Mary, but Janina went to the Albany (G3) instead and wound up sixth. Campanelle’s second dam, Lady Dominatrix, was a Group 3-winning sprinter at 5 furlongs over males.
Three Chimneys’ homebred Royal Approval is a more imposing physical specimen as a daughter of Hall of Famer Tiznow. Out of a Malibu Moon mare from the family of 2005 Kentucky Oaks (G1) heroine Summerly, she’s entitled to improve over time.
Flying Aletha – Albany
The stat to trot out every time Ward tries the Albany: he’s yet to win a 6-furlong juvenile race at Royal Ascot. Ward has exercised his mastery in the 5-furlong dashes, taking the Queen Mary three times and the Norfolk and Windsor Castle twice apiece. That makes sense, since those reward speed, but the Albany requires a touch more staying power for 2-year-olds in mid-June.
CJ Thoroughbreds’ Flying Aletha has more stamina in her pedigree than the typical Ward sprinter, being by Tiznow and from an Uncle Mo mare. Yet in an off-the-turf maiden at Gulfstream May 21, she was too fast for 2-5 stablemate Lime and opened up in the lane.
The Albany takes place Friday, the same day as the Norfolk and Commonwealth Cup. The complete running order for the five-day meet can be found at this link, “Royal Ascot adjusts schedule for COVID-19 landscape.”