Hanson: My longshot play for the Duke of Cambridge Stakes on Day 2 at Royal Ascot

June 15th, 2021

The Duke of Cambridge S. (G2), a secondary feature on Day 2 of the Royal Ascot meet on Wednesday, features a competitive group of fillies and mares that will go a straight mile. The field is a mixture of those whose form is pretty well established and those that presumably haven't hit their peak yet. It's from the latter group that we'll pull our longshot play from.

Duke of Cambridge S. (G2) -- Royal Ascot Race 3 (10:40 a.m. ET)

The early favorite, Lady Bowthorpe, is much improved this year, having pulled off a minor upset of the Dahlia S. (G2) over returning rivals Queen Power and Lavender's Blue two back. She followed up with a surprise runner-up finish to superstar Palace Pier in the Lockinge S. (G1).

If Lady Bowthorpe runs back to her latest effort at Newbury, she'll be hard to outrun. However, there's no guarantee she does so, and she could definitely bounce off that career high at miserly odds.

Queen Power improved off her head loss in the nine-furlong Dahlia to crush her foes in the Middleton S. (G2) at York over 1 5/16 miles, a distance that's seemingly more in her wheelhouse than a mile. She was third in the 2020 Duke of Cambridge, even finishing behind longshot Agincourt, who's also back in for a second go-around in this race.

With the "name" horses a fairly well-exposed bunch, we'll look for value elsewhere.

#13 VALERIA MESSALINA (15-1) is an intriguing alternative at the likely price. The Group 3 winner has an excellent piece of form from last summer on good ground when she missed by only a neck in the seven-furlong Oak Tree (G3) at Goodwood to One Master, a true distance specialist who made history last fall winning the Prix de la Foret (G1) over males for a third consecutive year. Finishing a length behind Valeria Messalina in third was Althiqa, whom American fans will recognize as the recent winner of the Just a Game S. (G1) on Belmont Stakes Day.

Valeria Messalina has disappointed in her three starts so far at a mile, but I wouldn't chalk up any of them necessarily to distance limitations. Two of those attempts followed long layoffs, including the May 22 Ridgewood Pearl (G2) at The Curragh in her season debut. Unfortunately, heavy rain that fell during the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) in the race prior to the Ridgewood Pearl softened the ground too much for Valeria Messalina's apparent liking, and trainer Jessica Harrington was adamant the filly would not like it too soft prior to the race. 

That race appears a toss, the ground should be much firmer at Ascot, and she can improve in the second start of her form cycle. She's our each-way play to pull the Duke of Cambridge upset.