Racing Roundtable: Takeaways from Monmouth Park and Royal Ascot

June 21st, 2022

In this week's Racing Roundtable, James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson tackle last week's action at Monmouth and Belmont as well as Royal Ascot.

What did we learn from Haskell Preview Day at Monmouth Park?

James Scully: Hot Rod Charlie lacked a winning attitude in the Salvator Mile (G3), coughing up a short lead in the final strides to Mind Control, and it's become a troubling habit for the four-year-old. He hung when coming up a nose short to Express Train in the San Antonio (G2) in late December, and Hot Rod Charlie raced in spots when finishing second to Country Grammer in the Dubai World Cup (G1). The Grade 1-winning colt is supposed to be at another level from those rivals.

Kellie Reilly: If Mind Control's upset of Hot Rod Charlie in the Salvator Mile was the biggest news, I'm not sure it taught us much. Hot Rod Charlie hasn't appeared to be the easiest partner at times, and he's dropped a tight finish before. Jockey Mike Smith was arguably more passive than regular rider Flavien Prat, who is set to reunite with the colt in the Whitney (G1), according to Daily Racing Form. The real tutorial came from improving sophomore Home Brew in the Pegasus S. Although the Brad Cox trainee was coming off his first stakes win in the Oaklawn S., few could have forecast his breakout performance at Monmouth. Home Brew's 6 1/4-length demolition job might propel him into the Haskell (G1). That would be a different order of magnitude, but the Gary and Mary West homebred has stated his case to aim high.

Vance Hanson: The most nationally significant result was that of Hot Rod Charlie's narrow loss in the Salvator Mile. While at a distance shorter than he seemingly prefers, the effort probably served as a good get-fit trip in advance of the Whitney following a layoff dating to late March. On a more pessimistic note, the loss once again showed Hot Rod Charlie to be less than reliable when expectations are highest. He also lost the San Antonio last December at odds of 1-5, and erratic behavior caused him to be disqualified in the Haskell last summer at odds of 4-5. Something to chew on going forward.

Do you think Masen is the leading American-based hope for the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1)?

JS: The gelding concluded his sophomore season on the upswing, convincingly recording his first stakes triumph in Ireland, and Masen has continued to show more at age four for Chad Brown, notching his second straight U.S. stakes win in the Poker (G3). Masen is discovering his best form presently, and he'll be difficult to beat before the Breeders' Cup.

KR: The leading domestic Mile contender is in Chad Brown's barn, but at the moment I'd say it's the mare Regal Glory. While Masen has a license to progress, his wins around a one-turn mile in short fields at Belmont Park don't equal Regal Glory's resume. If Masen wants to grab that mantle, he'll have to beat her in the Aug. 13 Fourstardave (G1) at Saratoga. I also wouldn't count out another Brown filly, Speak of the Devil, who had no chance against Regal Glory given how the Just a Game (G1) unfolded. But if the turf comes up a bit soft at Keeneland in early November, Speak of the Devil would be a different animal β€” as in her blistering display in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2).

VH: He definitely could be. While he didn't have serious competition in either the Seek Again S. or Poker, he won them well and validated the early promise showed in the Maker's Mark Mile (G1), which he lost by a mere nose as a well-backed favorite in his U.S. debut. That kind of course-and-distance form will make him dangerous in the Breeders' Cup, with the quality of the European contingent to be determined.

Was there a performance that stood out to you during the Royal Ascot meeting?

JS: State of Rest stealing the Prince of Wales's (G1) wire-to-wire. It was easy to dismiss State of Rest's 21-1 rallying upset in the Saratoga Derby (G1) last August β€” he had been such a marginal performer earlier in his career β€” but the developing colt followed with remarkable Group 1 wins in Australia (Cox's Plate) and France (Prix de Ganay). The six-horse Prince of Wales's lacked pace, and Shane Cross smartly took advantage aboard State of Rest, who isn't a frontrunner. Just a fantastic training job by Joseph O'Brien, who has gotten the best out of the four-year-old while orchestrating a globetrotting campaign.

KR: Nature Strip's sheer dominance in the King's Stand (G1) was something to see. A 4 1/2-length margin of victory in a five-furlong dash, especially at this level, is exceptional. That's why I had to rank the Australian sprinter as the first of my top 10 takeaways from Royal Ascot.

VH: I'll be the umpteenth person worldwide to echo the sentiments about Nature Strip's performance in the King's Stand, but the victory by Inspiral in the Coronation (G1) deserves recognition as well. Although the best horse in the race on paper, to win such a difficult assignment first up following an eight-month spell and in that manner was incredible. Inspiral had every right to "need" a race, but put the fillies that had been flattering her throughout her enforced absence to shame. She could prove one of the exceptional stars in the final four months of the European flat season.