2022 Royal Ascot: Selections for Wednesday

June 14th, 2022

Wednesday’s card at Royal Ascot centers on the Prince of Wales’s (G1), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). A small but select field of five, with a muddled pace scenario, could make things trickier for the favorites.

Wesley Ward’s bid for a fifth Queen Mary (G2) with a flying two-year-old filly, promising three-year-old stayers in the Queen’s Vase (G2), and distaff milers in the Duke of Cambridge (G2) add to the Group race festivities on day two.

Race 1 (9:30 a.m. ET) – Queen Mary (G2)

#3 Dramatised (5-1) is the juvenile filly arguably as explosive as Ward’s #10 Love Reigns (3-1). Trained by Karl Burke for Clipper Logistics, Dramatised bolted up in her unveiling at Newmarket. The Showcasing filly flashed high speed on the bridle, and if she hadn’t briefly gotten disorganized in the Dip, she might have run up the score by more than four lengths. Dramatised regained her balance and charged through the uphill finish full of run, suggesting that she’ll blast all the way to the wire here. The form of her maiden has worked out pretty well, with the runner-up winning twice.

Love Reigns was spectacular in her premiere, drawing off by 9 3/4 lengths in an historically fast time for a two-year-old sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on the Keeneland turf. By freshman sire U S Navy Flag, himself a juvenile of historic import, the Stonestreet Stables runner looks as talented as Ward’s previous winners of this race. The question is if she might bump into an exceptional opponent. The other possible factor to note is the post position. Love Reigns is drawn toward the far side in post 5, while Dramatised is nearer the stands’ side (post 17) that can be preferred down the straight. Ward’s Campanelle won from post 1, though, in 2020.

Burke’s other filly, #21 Yahsat (15-1) (post 3) is overpriced considering her speed and the fact that both of her losses have come to very good fillies. Just nabbed by Powerdress in their mutual debut at Newmarket, Yahsat was similarly caught by Pillow Talk in the Marygate S. Powerdress is bound for Friday’s Albany (G3), and Pillow Talk is set to take on the boys in Thursday’s Norfolk (G2). In between those tough beats, Yahsat dominated males at Pontefract.

The unbeaten #12 Maria Branwell (7-1), drawn in post 16, is a relentless finisher who defeated males in the National S. Once revving up, she collared odds-on Crispy Cat, the near-misser to Coventry (G2) favorite Blackbeard in his prior start, and a Norfolk entrant. Longshot #7 Lady Beano (30-1) (post 18) might not have as gaudy a formline from her debut score at Catterick, but there was plenty to like about how the Dandy Man filly traveled and muscled her way through the boys.

#15 Olivia Maralda (15-1) is better than her bare record, having finished second in both starts to potentially smart rivals in Ireland. Last out, she was runner-up to Justify’s highly-regarded daughter Statuette (the possible Albany favorite). The slight cutback figures to help the $628,190 Kodiac filly, although post 1 might not. Also worth a mention is #6 Katey Kontent (10-1), 2-for-2 after a frontrunning romp at Windsor in fast time.

Race 2 (10:05 a.m. ET) – Queen’s Vase (G2)

A step up to 1 3/4 miles could be just what #2 Anchorage (15-1) wants after finding himself outpaced in useful Group 3 company. Bred on the Galileo/Danehill cross and from the immediate family of recent French Derby (G1) smasher Vadeni, the Aidan O’Brien pupil was a big two-year-old who needed time to strengthen into his frame. He put it together in a Thurles nursery under top weight of 136 pounds, in the pounding, galloping style of a colt bound to go a lot farther. Anchorage reiterated that impression when a respectable, if one-paced, third in the Eyrefield (G3) (where future Ballysax [G3] hero Paz Badile was second). Reappearing in the 1 1/4-mile Gallinule (G3), Anchorage was outmoved into the stretch but kept on for fifth. He’s eligible to improve second up over an extra half-mile.

Well-regarded #4 Eldar Eldarov (7-1) has won both starts for Roger Varian, a sparkling rally in a Nottingham maiden last fall and a more perfunctory decision in a handicap on the Newcastle Tapeta. The Dubawi colt, a grandson of the superb racemare and matron Albanova, was originally mentioned as a possible for Friday’s King Edward VII (G2). This might be a gentler introduction to stakes company.

The logical plays are Godolphin stablemates #6 Hafit (7-2) (a $2.8 million Dubawi) and #7 Nahanni (9-2) (a homebred son of Frankel). Hafit has been a consistent “nearly” horse in four straight stakes since his narrow debut win. He must have shown a bit more at home since jockey William Buick had chosen him over a couple of other Charlie Appleby colts, only to be edged in both the Zetland (G3) (by Goldspur) and again in a Newbury conditions (by Walk of Stars). Goldspur has since placed in the Sandown Classic Trial (G3) to Westover (the unlucky Epsom Derby [G1] third), and Walk of Stars was second in the Lingfield Derby Trial.

Hafit adds cheekpieces that could galvanize him here, but ironically he loses Buick this time to Nahanni. The winner of three straight capped by the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom, Nahanni missed the break in the Derby. That was a virtual elimination for a colt with his on-pace style, so it’s to his credit that he rallied for seventh. The caveat is that Queen’s Vase winners haven’t been exiting the Derby; in the past decade, only Kew Gardens (2018) rebounded from an Epsom loss, and he had a stronger profile than Nahanni.

#11 Perfect Alibi (8-1) and #3 Baltic Bird (10-1) are bluebloods on the upgrade following maiden wins. The Queen’s Perfect Alibi isn’t her best chance of a Jubilee Royal Ascot winner, but the filly’s hard-fought Newbury score gives her collateral form with Ribblesdale (G2) contender Sea Silk Road. Baltic Bird, a son of Frankel and Group 1 winner Baltic Baroness, romped in the same Yarmouth maiden that launched last year’s Queen’s Vase hero Kemari.

Race 3 (10:40 a.m. ET) – Prince of Wales’s (G1), WAYI for Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1)

Although the market is rapt by Bay Bridge (more on him below), the hot favorite might be inconvenienced by the lack of an obvious pacesetter. Moreover, all four rivals are worthy, making every permutation of a result imaginable. Unless there’s a major plot twist, the horse with the best turn of foot off a dawdling pace will be the winner.

Hence I’ve talked myself into #5 Grand Glory (8-1) for an upset. Tabbed as the Wednesday longshot of interest over the weekend, the French mare brings outstanding international form. Her fifth in the about 1 1/2-mile Japan Cup (G1) doesn’t put her far off #3 Shahryar (3-1), and she excels at this about 1 1/4-mile trip. Grand Glory prevailed in last summer’s Prix Jean Romanet (G1) over Audarya, the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) heroine who was a bang-up second in the 2021 edition of this race.

But Grand Glory’s primary appeal is her closing kick, as evidenced by three of her wins in the typical sit-sprint style of French racing. According to sectional data on france-galop.com, the daughter of Olympic Glory ripped her final 600 meters (about three furlongs) in :33.40 when beating males in the 2021 Grand Prix de Vichy (G3), :32.98 in her seasonal reappearance in the Prix Zarkava, and :33.43 (including a penultimate furlong in :10.76) in the Prix Allez France (G3) last out.

If the projected pace scenario bears out, Grand Glory is liable to produce the fastest finish. Of lesser importance, but still noteworthy, is that connections paid to supplement her. The $2.8 million Arqana December purchase could continue to repay the investment. But she will need to do so with new jockey Mickael Barzalona, since Cristian Demuro sticks with Shahryar. 

Japan’s Shahryar sports world-class credentials at 1 1/2 miles, so Demuro has said he might go to the front on the cutback. That’s the sensible play to make the most of his stamina, and the son of Deep Impact and sprint champ Dubai Majesty isn’t short of speed. He’s shown a strong three-furlong kick (according to umanity.jp) over about 1 1/8 miles in 2021 classic trials — :33.4 when third in the Kyodo Tsushin Hai (G3) (where the pace slackened a tad in the middle) and :34.1 in his record-setting Mainichi Hai (G3) with a fast pace set-up. Although Shahryar has been held up off the pace in Japan, he tracked the leader in the steadily-run Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) before quickening decisively.

Shahryar could well turn this into a wire job, especially on his firm-turf prerequisite. The only caveat is that the record-setting Japanese Derby (G1) winner is being asked to do a couple of new things simultaneously. He’s shortening up in distance, and trying a different, more undulating type of track. Now you add a new tactical wrinkle, and the unknowns are piling up at a relatively short price.

#2 Lord North (7-1) won the 2020 Prince of Wales’s off a similar race shape, catching his opponents in their less-favorable scenarios. There could be a sense of déjà vu here, albeit with better rivals. The Gosden veteran has since become the only two-time winner of the about 1 1/8-mile Dubai Turf (G1). Note that Lord North fired a :33.64 in the 2021 edition off a moderate pace at Meydan, compared to a :35.49 off a stronger tempo to dead-heat in 2022 (according to Trakus). The less demanding pace plays to his strengths.

While the aforementioned #1 Bay Bridge (1-1) is undoubtedly a rising star, it’s questionable if the circumstances will help him on the class hike. He needed 1 1/4 miles to score his first win, and Sir Michael Stoute initially kept the option of Saturday’s Hardwicke (G2) over 1 1/2 miles. #4 State of Rest (6-1) has won Grade/Group 1s on three continents with genius spotting by Joseph O’Brien. But his European laurel in the Prix Ganay (G1) was workmanlike, and my instinct is that he might prefer a more genuine pace at this level.

Race 4 (11:20 a.m. ET) – Duke of Cambridge (G2)

German shipper #6 Novemba (5-1) made a great attempt to wire last summer’s Coronation (G1) over the round mile course, only to wilt late on the heavy going and end up fourth. Trainer Peter Schiergen, who sent the great Danedream over to win the 2012 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1), interestingly gives Novemba another chance at Royal glory. Aside from her Coronation form that puts her awfully close to Mother Earth (below), she has form with the older males in Tuesday’s Queen Anne (G1). Novemba was beaten a grand total of five lengths by superstar Baaeed in last fall’s Prix du Moulin (G1), and got nearer to Real World in the Prix Daniel Wildenstein (G2). Schiergen believes that the Gleneagles filly wants better ground, and her comeback loss can be ignored as a fitness-builder. If the straight track is a question mark, she nevertheless could be the best value in the race.

#1 Saffron Beach (5-2) would have been the top pick, if not for the issue of her 133-pound (correction from initial post) impost. This isn’t an easy race to win while spotting five pounds to most of the field, and on paper she doesn’t have enough of an edge to pull it off. Still, the Breeders’ Cup candidate loves Newmarket’s straight Rowley Mile, where she easily beat Mother Earth in last fall’s Sun Chariot (G1). After a solid fourth to Lord North in the Dubai Turf, Saffron Beach was under consideration for the Queen Anne, before reverting to the distaff division here.

#5 Mother Earth (3-1) is a valiant competitor with many more minor awards than wins. But the addition of cheekpieces could sharpen her focus. Her last-out flop in the Lockinge (G1) actually fits a pattern of O’Brien runners who moved forward next time in the Queen Anne, where she might have gone with place claims as well. A similar rebound is likely in store in the Duke of Cambridge, over the same trip.

#2 Sibila Spain (6-1) was a revelation in the Prix du Muguet (G2) versus males, as the change to off-the-pace tactics going a mile produced a new career high. The Frankel filly had tried frontrunning over further, notably finishing a close fourth in the 2021 French Oaks (G1). She’s eligible to maintain her momentum here, although Sibila Spain must concede three pounds to the likes of Novemba, Mother Earth, and William Haggas' #3 Bashkirova (4-1), who goes up in class after taking the Princess Elizabeth (G3).