Notes on Royal Ascot hopefuls in Gulfstream Park’s Royal Palm Juvenile Stakes

May 10th, 2024

One year after launching Crimson Advocate to Royal Ascot stardom, Gulfstream Park hopes to unleash more successful prospects in Saturday’s Royal Palm Juvenile and its fillies’ counterpart. Each five-furlong turf dash is worth $120,000, plus a travel stipend and automatic entry in one of Royal Ascot’s stakes for two-year-olds. 

George Weaver, who won both in 2023, goes for the double again, while Wesley Ward looks to avenge his beaten favorites from a year ago. Mark Casse and Saffie Joseph Jr. also have multiple contenders.

The Royal Palm winners will have options for their Royal Ascot targets – the Coventry (G2) on opening day, June 18; the June 19 Queen Mary (G2) for fillies or the Windsor Castle S.; the June 20 Norfolk (G2), a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” for the Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1); the Albany (G3) for fillies on June 21; or the Chesham S. on the June 22 finale.

The Queen Mary and Norfolk, as five-furlong prestige events, were the chosen spots last summer. Crimson Advocate cashed in her ticket in the Queen Mary. Stablemate No Nay Mets was unplaced in the Norfolk, but roared back in a pair of stateside stakes and finished fourth as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.

Considering that No Nay Mets made his career debut in the Royal Palm Juvenile, and Royal Palm Juvenile Fillies heroine Crimson Advocate was coming off a third on the Keeneland dirt, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Saturday’s winners don’t look obvious in advance. 

Royal Palm Juvenile Fillies – Race 8 (4:59 p.m. ET)

Ward’s Perfect Shances has been installed as the 9-5 favorite for the Royal Palm Juvenile Fillies, thanks to her sharp Keeneland debut victory. But the first winner for freshman sire Shancelot splashed through the slop that day, adding another variable as she switches surfaces here with a returning Walter Rodriguez.

The Queens M G, who also won first out on Keeneland’s main track, got a form boost when runner-up West Memorial came back to upset the Kentucky Juvenile on Thurby. The first winner for freshman sire Thousand Words, The Queens M G was privately sold in the interim and transferred to Joseph. She too was entered in the Kentucky Juvenile, only to scratch. Joseph has another contender in debutante Ramsey Pond, by the Kitten’s Joy stallion Divisidero. Edgard Zayas rides The Queens M G, while Samy Camacho gets the call on Ramsey Pond.

Bois Blanc is the only contender with racing experience on turf, having finished second to Ward’s favored Saturday Flirt at Keeneland. By the Giant’s Causeway stallion First Samurai, the Justin Wojczynski trainee was produced by a Street Cry half-sister to 2005 Kentucky Derby (G1) stunner Giacomo, Tiago, and Stanwyck. 

Weaver counters with a pair of first-time starters. Bunratty Manor, an Irish-bred as her name implies, was purchased for approximately $196,000 as a Goffs Orby yearling. By No Nay Never (the sire of No Nay Mets), she is out of a full sister to Library (by Galileo), the third-placer in last year’s Irish Oaks (G1) for Aidan O’Brien. 

Significantly, Bunratty Manor races for Dew Sweepers, Crimson Advocate’s original owners, who source potential Royal Ascot types. Hector Diaz Jr. pilots Bunratty Manor. Edwin Gonzalez, the winning rider last year on Crimson Advocate, is on Florida-bred Good Long Cry. By the Unbridled’s Song-line stallion Long on Value, she’s out of a Street Cry mare.

Casse unveils two well-bred fillies, D. J. Stable’s Bullet and Gary Barber’s My Emmy. Bullet is by War Front, and My Emmy is by War Front’s son War of Will, a former Barber/Casse star now sending his first runners to the track.

Emisael Jaramillo is named aboard Bullet, a $425,000 Keeneland September yearling whose dam, Marlinspike, is a daughter of Tapit and champion Surfside. My Emmy, bought for $75,000 at the same venue, is out of multiple stakes scorer Kyllachy Queen. She picks up Miguel Vasquez.

Patrick Biancone’s Unchained Elaine was runner-up on the Gulfstream dirt to Mensa, who retreated in the Kentucky Juvenile pace meltdown. As an American Pharoah filly, Unchained Elaine has a right to take to turf. American Pharoah’s full brother St Patrick’s Day also has a representative in locally-based debutante You Need Me.

The respective second and fifth from a May 2 maiden on Gulfstream’s dirt, Kip the Distance and China Blue, renew rivalry in a tougher spot. Kip the Distance is by the Harlan’s Holiday stallion Neolithic, but more interestingly traces to the deep family of versatile Grade 1 winner Rosalind (a lesser branch than the famous one established by Margarethen). China Blue’s sire, Social Inclusion, is by the same sire as American Pharoah – Pioneerof the Nile. 

Royal Palm Juvenile – Race 10 (5:52 p.m. ET)

The same barns will be represented by likely sorts in the Royal Palm Juvenile, where Ward again has the 9-5 morning-line favorite in Raise the Bar. The Douglas Scharbauer homebred won handsomely in his Keeneland premiere, but like stablemate Perfect Shances, he skipped over the slop. By Maclean’s Music and out of a Bernardini mare, he claims turf millionairess Pure Clan as his second dam.

Note that trainer Jack Sisterson is the one with the Stonestreet Stables acquisition, Incanto, who in years past likely would have been the type for Ward. The approximately $280,000 Tattersalls October yearling is by the prolific Mehmas and out of a Kodiac mare, suggesting he’ll have speed. 

Weaver hopes that firster Governor Sam, with a profile reminiscent of No Nay Mets, can follow suit. The similarities are that Governor Sam is an OBS April graduate (selling for $275,000) co-owned by Bregman Family Racing. Governor Sam is different pedigree-wise from the Irish-bred No Nay Mets: he’s by late freshman sire Improbable, the champion older dirt male of 2020, and out of the multiple stakes-winning and Grade 3-placed Into Mischief mare I’m Betty G.

Bright Skittle sports the colors of the aforementioned Dew Sweepers. Trained by Rusty Arnold, the Twirling Candy colt was a closing third in his debut over the Keeneland turf. Luca Panici, who steered No Nay Mets a year ago, will ride. Exiting the same Keeneland turf maiden is fifth-placer Madroc, a Constitution colt for trainer Mary Lightner.

Casse’s debuting trio includes D. J. Stable’s Makeit to Cheyenne and two more War of Will juveniles for Barber, Garden of War with Vasquez and Classy War with Jose Morelos. Garden of War is out of Sky Garden, a daughter of Acclamation and highweight juvenile filly Superstar Leo, while Classy War was produced by a Blame mare. Sonny Leon rides Makeit to Cheyenne, a Liam’s Map colt out of a full sister to Munnings.

Joseph sends out Ken Ramsey homebred Reach for the Rose for the first time. By Audible and out of a Twirling Candy mare, the May 6 foal has come to hand early enough to try this spot. Biancone himself bred I Know I Know, by Jess’s Dream (the son of Hall of Famers Curlin and Rachel Alexandra).

Enterdadragon is the better-bred of the Jose D’Angelo duo, being by Outwork, out of a Speightstown mare, and descended from Personal Ensign’s millionaire daughter My Flag. Stablemate Gabaldon has a less enticing pedigree as a son of Gone Astray and a Value Plus mare.