ROYAL ASCOT EYECATCHERS
Royal Ascot started with a strongly-run Buckingham Palace that proved to be a very stiff test for the seven furlongs. This exposed some stamina limitations in a few horses, most notably Glen Shiel who raced in the group down the centre of the track.
He tracked Gifted Master in that group until taking over with just over two furlongs to run but was headed about one and a half furlongs out by Mutamaasik. He continued to battle on under pressure before fading in the last half furlong and came home in tenth. His performance can be upgraded as he raced handier than ideal in a strongly run race and was on an unfavoured part of the track.
Although he spent much of his time in France running over distances between 1m and 1m2f, Glen Shiel has shown himself to be effective over shorter trips since moving to Archie Watson and ran well on his previous start at Newcastle when second to Mubakker on his first try over 6f. I think a return to that distance will see him in a better light and he can be competitive in big handicaps over that distance.
In contrast to the Buckingham Palace, the Queen Anne was slowly-run and five of the first six finishers were never any further back than sixth during the race. The slowly run race wasn’t suitable for the held up Mohaather and he found his path blocked at every turn until very late on. In second last with a furlong to go, he briefly found room for a few strides before having to ease again as his path was blocked and a gap only opened inside the last half furlong which was far too late for him to have any meaningful impact on the race.
Mohaather is clearly far better than his finishing position in this race suggests and a Group 1 over a mile could be within his grasp this season.
Presidential snuck into the Silver Hunt Cup having picked up a penalty for winning at Doncaster and ran well over a trip that I think stretches his stamina.
Held up at the back of the near side group, he started to creep closer from three furlongs out and was the only horse still on the bridle two furlongs out. Pushed along shortly after, he made some headway to be just behind the leading line a furlong out but made no further progress from that point and finished sixth. As well as the last furlong stretching his stamina, it may also have been against him to be running away from the favoured stands side rail in the closing stages.
Presidential has had some issues at the start in the past which is a slight concern but I think he’s capable of winning off 89 in the near future when returning to 7f.
Racing on the stands side proved to be a big advantage on Wednesday. While Yazaman and Victory Heights ran well in the Windsor Castle from low draws, they were switched to the stands side group early on. On the other hand, Adam Kirby on Get It had little choice but to stay in the group down the middle of the track having come out of stall 1.
Racing furthest from the stands side rail for much of the race, he made his effort two furlongs out and gradually drifted closer to the rail during the next furlong. He had closed into fourth a furlong out but had little left in the last half furlong and finished in that position.
Selected showed some promise when green on debut at Newcastle and did likewise in the Windsor Castle despite finishing in a dead heat for 11th. Held up in the stands side group, he was still travelling well towards the back of the field just over two furlongs out. Pushed along, he started to make headway while drifting towards the middle of the course.
Given a couple of gentle reminders a furlong out, he continued to run on but then got sandwiched between Chief Little Hawk and Fast Start and had his momentum completed stopped. Switched further towards the middle, he was nudged out in the last few strides to finish in a dead heat for 11th.
Selected wouldn’t have challenged the leading trio with a clear run but he certainly would have finished closer. It was encouraging how strongly he galloped out after the line and I expect a step up to 6f will see him in a better light.
Highland Chief highlighted himself as a Group class three-year-old when winning the opening race on Thursday in superb fashion. In a race run at a fast-slow-fast tempo, Rossa Ryan dropped him out towards the back of the field and managed to get a position on the inside turning out of Swinley Bottom.
Nudged along turning the final bend, he was in fourth last turning into the straight and was switched to the outside to get a clear run. He made sustained headway and got to the lead just over half a furlong out before veering left. He continued to edge to the left under pressure but managed to hold on to win by half a length.
Given the tempo of the race, to win from the position he was in turning into the straight was highly impressive from Highland Chief and that was despite veering left once hitting the front. He clearly isn’t straightforward and maybe he will only be at his best on soft ground, but he ran well enough in the Chesham last year on good ground to suggest he may not be dependent on it.
Dancin Inthestreet was unlucky on her first run of the year at Haydock when not getting a clear run and she befell the same fate at Ascot. Awkwardly away from the stalls, she was nudged along in the early stages at the back of the field and was still at the back of a tightly packed group two furlongs out. She started to make some headway but soon found her path blocked and had to be sharply switched left a furlong out. She weaved through rivals in the last furlong and finished strongly to finish third, beaten only a neck for second.
She was effectively racing off 83 having been 5lb out of the handicap and has now been raised to 85. A step up to 6f will allow her to travel smoother through the early stages and she has the potential to improve for that longer distance.
An impressive winner of the Stewards’ Cup last year, Khaadem struggled in testing conditions in his following two starts in the Sprint Cup and Champions Sprint. Back on more suitable ground in the Diamond Jubilee, he travelled strongly on the near side while tracking the leaders and looked to be going best when cruising into a share of the lead two furlongs out. Pushed along soon after, he continued to challenge until dropping away in the last half furlong and finished fourth beaten 1¾ lengths.
The stiff 6f looked to stretch Khaadem a little so a return to an easier test at the distance will suit and Crowley may have made his challenge a bit sooner than ideal to ensure he got to the near rail as Breathtaking Look started to drop back, so that challenge may be delayed in future races when the circumstances allow. He should continue to be competitive in 6f Group 1s on decent ground this season.