2024 Royal Ascot: Selections for Saturday

June 21st, 2024

Can Royal Ascot 2024 really make it through all five days without appreciable rain? Saturday’s finale features three Group races, anchored by another competitive sprint in the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee (G1), and a 17-strong field of juveniles in the Chesham S.

Race 1 (9:30 a.m. ET) – Chesham S.

As a seven-furlong race restricted to juveniles whose sires won over at least 1 3/16 miles, the Chesham S. attracts an eclectic bunch. Judging by how most of the two-year-old races have gone this week, literally anyone could pop up. I’m leading with my preferences, but adding clues that might be helpful for some of the outside-the-box possibilities. 

#1 Age of Gold (4-1), a Frankel colt who commanded approximately $662,062 as a Goffs Orby yearling, won readily in his debut for Charlie Appleby. The Godolphin colorbearer skipped clear in a Yarmouth novice, although the form doesn’t look anything special. 

But we can draw an inference from his stablemates who ran earlier in the week. Al Qudra and Symbol of Honour, both of whom needed a start or two to break their maidens, ran well in a blanket finish to Tuesday’s Coventry (G2). Fifth and sixth, respectively, they went down by a grand total of a length or so. Since Age of Gold was forward enough to win well first time out, maybe we can extrapolate that to success in the Chesham. His full brother, Fivethousandtoone, was Group 2-placed as a juvenile, and now a sprint handicapper competing later Saturday in the Wokingham S.

#14 Bedtime Story (2-1), the hot favorite trained by Aidan O’Brien, has the kind of pedigree you’d expect from Ballydoyle. By Frankel and out of sprint dynamo Mecca’s Angel, she’s a three-quarter sister to stablemate Content, a Group 3 winner over a mile who was fourth in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). Content finished eighth in the Coronation (G1) here on Friday.

Bedtime Story upstaged odds-on stablemate Giselle in their mutual debut at Leopardstown. Quickening best off a steady tempo, in a race around a turn, she had a more straightforward trip than Giselle. Bedtime Story faces a different test here down the straightaway. Note that O’Brien’s juveniles weren’t clicking at all this week until Friday, when Fairy Godmother was brilliant to win the Albany (G3), and stablemate Heavens Gate was third. Given the overall pattern though, Bedtime Story is too short a price.

#3 Chilly Breeze (30-1) is a three-quarter brother to Holloway Boy, who stunned the 2022 Chesham in his career debut. They’re by the same sire, Ulysses. Chilly Breeze inherited speed from his dam, Humid, Holloway Boy’s half-sister by 2016 Jubilee (G1) star Lethal Force. Thus Chilly Breeze was able to win over five furlongs at Nottingham, while hinting of more to come. With the benefit of a prior start, he comfortably beat debutante Teej A, who’s won twice since, beating future Coventry shocker Rashabar at Chester and capturing the Woodcote S. at Epsom. Trainer David Evans has had a few smart juveniles and sprinters, including two-time Royal Ascot winner Rohaan. 

#11 Pentle Bay (5-1) brought £400,000 at the Goffs London Sale Monday, the fourth-highest price of that boutique auction. Up in time to win a three-way photo at Leicester for George Boughey, he’ll eventually join Australian trainer Ciaron Maher. Pentle Bay is bred on the productive Dubawi/Galileo cross; by New Bay, he is a grandson of multiple Group 1-placed Mona Lisa, from the tribe of Reprocolor. 

Karl Burke’s juveniles have already won twice at the 2024 Royal meeting, and #10 Motawahij (15-1) could make it three. By American Pharoah and out of past Wesley Ward speedster Stillwater Cove, the $371,865 Tattersalls Craven Breeze Up buy was a solid second on debut at Hamilton. The damper is that the winner, Catalyse, flopped as my top pick in the Coventry. 

Charlie Johnston has two chances in #7 Lazy Griff (20-1), runner-up in his lone start at Doncaster, and the filly #15 Expensive Rose (12-1), who won smartly at Carlisle in her second try. Lazy Griff, a brother to German Group 3 hero Lambo, is a son of 2014 Melbourne Cup (G1) star Protectionist. Debuting last Sunday, Lazy Griff was green and all over the place early, but he responded to a challenge in the typically resilient manner of a Johnston horse. He was outkicked that day, but sure to improve. 

Sir Mark Prescott celebrated his first Royal Ascot winner in 28 years when Pledgeofallegiance upset Tuesday’s Ascot S., and #18 Miss El Fundi (20-1) will try to make it a double. By Sea the Stars and from the family of two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) champion Conduit, she finished deceptively fast for fourth at Kempton. Chesham rival #17 Jewel of London (20-1) was a rallying third in the same race.

#13 Shocker (50-1) is trained by Eoghan O’Neill, who upset the 2015 Chesham with Suits You. From the first crop of the Shamardal stallion Shaman, and from the family of Kyllachy, Shocker was just denied by Ballydoyle favorite Surpass on soft going at Tipperary. #4 Defence Missile (15-1), second on debut at Newbury to Coventry also-ran Mr Chaplin, is from the first crop of Sottsass. Eve Johnson-Houghton trains the half-brother to Speak of the Devil and Morando. #2 Brian (30-1) comes off a runner-up effort to Cool Hoof Luke, the next-out Coventry fourth, although I am not inclined to lean much on their Chelmsford maiden. 

First-time starter #6 Harvey (30-1) is a market mover for Peter Chapple-Hyam. The son of Le Havre gets an interesting jockey booking in fellow French-bred Maxime Guyon. 

Race 2 (10:05 a.m. ET) – Hardwicke (G2)

If Ballydoyle star #2 Continuous (3-2) comes off the bench with all guns blazing, he’d be tough to topple. But at fairly cramped odds, two factors give slight pause: the lack of a prep, and his loss over this course and distance a year ago.

But #4 Desert Hero (7-1) has both of those angles covered, making him the value play to give Charles and Camilla a Royal winner. By the great Sea the Stars and out of a full sister to 2016 Hardwicke (G2) winner Dartmouth, Desert Hero furnished one of the leading Royal Ascot storylines last summer when scoring in the King George V S. at this 1 1/2-mile trip. The William Haggas pupil progressed to win the Gordon (G3) in a similarly close skirmish before winding up third to Continuous in the St Leger (G1). 

Desert Hero’s 2024 campaign has been methodically laid out for this very target. His near-miss in the 1 1/4-mile Gordon Richards (G3) at Sandown was particularly encouraging, since that’s well short of his ideal distance. Although he flopped behind #8 Middle Earth (5-2) at Newbury last time, Desert Hero was also disappointing at the same track as a sophomore. But he rebounded at Royal Ascot, and past might very well be prologue here.

Continuous, likewise a progressive three-year-old of 2023, was a different horse by the second half of the season. After his runner-up effort (to King of Steel) in the King Edward VII (G2) here, the O’Brien trainee went on to romp in the Great Voltigeur (G2) and St Leger. But he hasn’t raced since his fifth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1). Coolmore’s Japanese homebred by Heart’s Cry could be on a similar trajectory this term, using the Hardwicke as his launching pad. 

Middle Earth’s only subpar effort was a seventh in the St Leger, where the soft ground undermined him. He’s since won two straight for John and Thady Gosden, last fall’s Noel Murless S. at Ascot and the Aston Park (G3) at Newbury, flying late to get up from an unpromising position. Like stablemate Running Lion, Wednesday’s Duke of Cambridge (G2) heroine, he is by the late Roaring Lion.

Perhaps the most intriguing longshot is #5 Elegant Man (30-1), who ran well below his ability when a distant fourth in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) at the Curragh. The son of Arrogate didn’t cope with the rain-softened course that day, but he’d been a serious improver on the all-weather. His second to Godolphin’s globetrotter Rebel’s Romance at Kempton last December suggests that he has the class to factor. Elegant Man will try to bounce back in better conditions, just like the beaten Tattersalls Gold Cup favorite, Auguste Rodin, did here in Wednesday’s Prince of Wales’s (G1). 

John Sadler’s Southern California invader #9 Missed the Cut (7-1) and Bahrain sweeper #7 Isle of Jura (10-1) have found life profitable further afield. Both have exotics potential if they can deliver similar performances in this higher grade. 

Race 3 (10:45 a.m. ET) – Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee (G1)

Once a high-class juvenile for the Aga Khan and Johnny Murtagh, #8 Shartash (6-1) is experiencing a renaissance for new connections this season. He was cast off for about $158,604 at the Arqana Arc Sale last year, following a forgettable three-year-old season. Gelding him made a substantial difference, and Shartash is now 2-for-2 for new trainer Archie Watson, already a five-time winner at Royal Ascot in his meteoric career. Watson was a nose away from making it six with Electrolyte in Tuesday’s Coventry. 

It’s not a surprise that Shartash had more to offer. As a son of the prolific Invincible Spirit and a Dubawi mare, you’d expect him to be more than just a two-year-old. During that 2022 campaign, he edged O’Brien hotpot Blackbeard in the Railway (G2), placed in the Phoenix (G1) and Vincent O’Brien National (G1), and finished fourth as the favorite in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1). I believe that class is still in there, and Watson is beginning to tease it out. The Wathnan Racing brain trust apparently thinks so too, since they snapped him up privately ahead of Royal Ascot. 

#6 Mitbaahy (6-1) is another finding new life after initially failing to build on his promise. Sold to Mrs. Fitri Hay and switched to Charlie Hills, who’s trained such brilliant sprinters as Battaash and Muhaarar, he broke through in the Greenlands (G2) at the Curragh last out. Greenlands runner-up Regional came back to place a terrific second in Tuesday’s King Charles III (G1). Mitbaahy’s sire, Profitable, won that sprint in 2016 when it was known as the King’s Stand. Note that stablemate #3 Khaadem (20-1) returns as the defending champion, but he was an 80-1 shot that day for a reason. 

#12 Believing (8-1) wheels back four days after her gallant fourth in the King Charles III. The George Boughey filly was beaten only 1 1/2 lengths by the Australian Asfoora, and she’s also proven at this six-furlong trip.

Fellow four-year-old filly #13 Swingalong (20-1), from the in-form Burke yard, has longshot appeal. Third in last year’s course-and-distance Commonwealth Cup (G1), she was also fourth to veteran #1 Art Power (12-1) here in the British Champions Sprint (G1). The daughter of Showcasing’s close fourth to Regional and Believing in the 2023 Haydock Sprint Cup (G1) underscores that she’s not far off the top rank. Burke said that Swingalong was badly in need of the race when eighth to #5 Mill Stream (9-2) in the 1895 Duke of York (G2), and she’ll come on a lot for the tightener. Mill Stream is yet another realistic chance, although perhaps a bit short in price. 

The grand old #4 Kinross (4-1) is getting plenty of support in the market, which a campaigner of his overall resume deserves. Yet the seven-year-old hasn’t fired in the past two editions of this race, and this looks like a pleasant day out to kick off his 2024 season for Ralph Beckett. 

Race 4 (11:25 a.m. ET) – Jersey (G3)

My favorite angle in the Jersey (G3) is looking for classic runners taking a drop in class and trip. But there are too many contenders who qualify in this year’s renewal – even more than the ones I’m mentioning.

Since I’d expected #14 River Tiber (9-5) to run very well in his reappearance in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1), I’m not going to desert him now. The O’Brien colt was a fine third at the Curragh, while tackling a mile for the first time. The Ballydoyle pattern is to improve second time out, and River Tiber only has a shade over a length to make up on Irish Guineas runner-up #1 Haatem (5-2). The cutback to seven furlongs figures to suit River Tiber more than Haatem, at this stage. 

Unbeaten through the Coventry here last year, River Tiber had a setback that affected his timetable. He still managed to place third in two other marquee juvenile races at six furlongs, the Prix Morny (G1) and Middle Park (G1), before being scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) on veterinary orders. The Coolmore partners had the option of Friday’s Commonwealth Cup, so the Jersey was presumably viewed as the best spot to get his head back in front again. 

Haatem has run mighty races in defeat in both Guineas, finishing third in the Newmarket classic before nearly pinching the Irish equivalent. It took a stellar effort from his Richard Hannon stablemate Rosallion to catch him. That form was covered in glory again when Rosallion won Tuesday’s St James’s Palace (G1). The one hesitation is that Haatem had looked pretty exposed as a juvenile, and it was only when he stretched out to a mile this season that he reached a new level. Indeed, Hannon had mentioned stepping him up in trip after the Curragh, not cutting back. My suspicion is that Haatem could just be outkicked by a sharper customer.

Another alumnus of Newmarket’s 2000 Guineas (G1), #17 Task Force (12-1), has an attractive profile at a price. Juddmonte’s homebred son of classic winners Frankel and Special Duty was a promising two-year-old who finished second in the Middle Park. Subsequently having a procedure to correct his breathing, Task Force resumed with a seventh in the Guineas. The Ralph Beckett trainee fits this race well. Juddmonte also has #8 Kikkuli (12-1), Frankel’s half-brother, who comes off a second in the one-mile Heron S. in his stakes debut. 

Burke’s #13 Night Raider (15-1) was garnering attention going into the Guineas, following two absolute routs of his foes on the Southwell Tapeta. But the Dark Angel colt couldn’t do himself justice once he pulled early and chased the pace. A half-brother to Group 3-winning sprinter Far Above, Night Raider can fare much better. #5 Eben Shaddad (10-1), best of the rest behind Haatem in the Craven (G3), was most recently seventh in the French 2000 Guineas (G1), but beaten only two lengths. The Calyx colt is usually thereabouts for the Gosdens. 

Another O’Brien entrant, #19 Pearls and Rubies (50-1), was just beaten as the favorite in the 2023 Chesham. Disappointing on slower ground last summer, the No Nay Never filly appreciated the good-to-firm surface at Newmarket and flashed home second in the Sept. 30 Cheveley Park (G1). The winner of the Cheveley Park, Porta Fortuna, just won the Coronation on Friday. Pearls and Rubies has raced only once since, trailing in the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1), but the second time out factor, better ground, and a return to the Ascot straight could help her find her form.

Of those without classic experience, #2 Boiling Point (15-1) is noteworthy as a seven-furlong specialist for Roger Varian.