Betting Intelligence: June 24 stakes from Royal Ascot to Thistledown

June 23rd, 2023

After quick notes on Saturday’s Royal Ascot finale, I’ll highlight contenders to watch in several stateside stakes. Useful intelligence or flights of fancy?

Royal Ascot in the morning

My previous posts have already covered the international contenders in the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee (G1) (10:40 a.m. ET), so I’m grateful that J. Keeler Johnson is furnishing the Saturday selections! Hong Kong shipper #13 Wellington (5-1) is my top selection, with #15 Sacred (8-1) my price hope. Healthy respect goes to Australian-based favorite #2 Artorius (3-1) and #14 Highfield Princess (6-1), who thrives so much on her racing that she can cope with the quick turnaround from Tuesday.

Given the propensity for longshots to jump up throughout the meeting, I can’t resist naming a couple of big-price possibilities in the earlier races Saturday.

In the opener on the card, the Chesham S. (9:30 a.m. ET) for juveniles, trainer Brian Meehan runs #1 Count Palatine (20-1), who stayed on for fifth in a Windsor maiden that has worked out well so far. He was outpaced in that six-furlong sprint, but the stiffer seven, plus the benefit of experience, might bring him on a bit.

My favorite angle in the Jersey (G3) (10:05 a.m. ET) has been horses dropping down from any of the Guineas, but the last winner to fit that profile came in 2018! Maybe the old stat can revive this year, or at least flag exotics players. Two of the qualifiers are #10 Holloway Boy (10-1) and #3 Age of Kings (50-1), who is Aidan O’Brien’s second-stringer after his more sensible stablemate, #2 The Antarctic (6-1).

Holloway Boy, who surprised the course-and-distance Chesham in what appeared an ambitious debut last summer, hasn’t won since. But he was a rock-solid placer through a series of high-profile juvenile events, until his comeback ninth in the 2000 Guineas (G1).

Age of Kings, my busted Coventry pick of 2022, was thereabouts in his next two Group attempts before being sidelined. Although he was never involved when resurfacing in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1), it’s telling that he was there at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if Age of Kings takes a considerable step forward here; we’ll see if that’s enough to get him into the mix, but feel obliged to mention him at the exorbitant price.

Belmont Park – Wild Applause S. (Race 6, 3:41 p.m. ET)

#6 Soviet Excess (6-1) is stepping up in class to face several stakes-tested fillies, but there’s a noteworthy name in her formline – unbeaten Queen Picasso. Edging Soviet Excess in a Gulfstream Park turf maiden, Queen Picasso came right back to land the Soaring Softly (G3). Soviet Excess has won both of her ensuing starts for Todd Pletcher, and the well-bred sophomore can keep progressing. The Wertheimer et Frere homebred is by Uncle Mo and out of a multiple stakes-placed Tapit mare.

Thistledown – Cleveland Gold Cup (Race 9, 3:57 p.m. ET)

Most of the entrants prepped in the same Ohio-bred turf stakes at Belterra Park. While #3 Paint the Town (5-1) was only fourth across the wire and elevated to third via disqualification, he is eligible to be happier back on dirt. Paint the Town has finished in the top two in all prior starts on the main track, and in case the rain materializes, has won in the mud. Likely to handle 1 1/8 miles as a son of Paynter, he is also a half-brother to multiple Ohio-bred stakes winner Drillit.

Thistledown – George Lewis Memorial (Race 10, 4:48 p.m. ET)

#6 Relish the Ride (5-1) missed by a neck in this race a year ago as a mere three-year-old, and a late foal (May 19 birthday) to boot. The Jeffrey Radosevich trainee continued his solid state-bred stakes efforts through his five-length breakthrough in last September’s Catlaunch S., then went off form. But he’s back on the upward curve, posting an allowance score in his second start off the layoff, and poised for possibly more in this third start of the season.

Ellis Park – Chicago (G3) (Race 9, 4:55 p.m. ET)

Who’s going to offer value in the wake of the likeliest winner, #2 Matareya (4-5)? #6 Drifaros (15-1) looks overpriced as a lightly-raced filly with some tactical versatility, especially being drawn on the outside of the sextet. With the superabundance of early speed here, there’s the temptation to go further out on a limb and try to get the closer #3 Be Like Water (20-1) into the exotics. The five-year-old needs a pace collapse to clunk up for a share, but she fired a 92 Brisnet Late Pace rating when a close fourth in a Keeneland allowance last out. She was beaten all of a length, with Cheetara (the next-out Skipat S. winner) in second and Chi Town Lady third.

Thistledown – Lady Jacqueline S. (Race 11, 5:35 p.m. ET)

Chilean import #4 Le Da Vida (9-2) has been knocking on the door in stateside stakes for Ignacio Correas, and this could be her best set-up yet. The locally-based speed is likely to harry #8 Interstatedaydream (7-2) or force a pace faster than in her front-running coup in the Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3). Considering that Le Da Vida was a rallying third in that Pimlico feature, only a length off Interstatedaydream at the wire, it wouldn’t take that much to reverse the form. There’s also a weight shift in her favor: they carried the same impost in the DuPont, but Interstatedaydream now has to give Le Da Vida six pounds.