ROYAL ASCOT TWO-YEAR-OLDS
None of the juvenile prizes of Royal Ascot 2018 went the way of the blue of Godolphin nor the variations of blue of Ballydoyle. It’s unusual, but it’s reflective of the specific division of two-year-olds by the timing of Royal Ascot, where it’s a very different race – a pace race – to the seasonal one which refines and defines the true talents of a generation.
Not that it can’t be a gateway to top-class performers, as the ‘C’ team of Calyx, Caravaggio and Churchill have proved in recent years, but juvenile winners at the meeting come in all shapes and forms, and from all different directions, making profiling them a difficult and dangerous game, with presumptions making way for precocity.
All the same, in the build-up, there are certain types and tropes that magnetise us, and we’re well positioned to identify some of them now, because, by and large, all the evidence is in for the youngsters, and by ‘all the evidence’ I mean ‘very little’, such is its nature, but that’s also the beauty of it.
THE HYPE HORSE
The blitzkrieg approach to Ascot made by Calyx last year was unusual to say the least, and prior to his dynamic debut, just 10 days before the Coventry, the hype horse among the juveniles was Sergei Prokofiev, who was Aidan O’Brien’s very first two-year-old runner of 2018.
Aidan O’Brien’s very first two-year-old runner of 2019 was Monarch Of Egypt.
Monarch Of Egypt was also the very first offspring of Triple Crown hero American Pharoah to race, on April 13th, amid high expectations given his price on the day (9/10) and his price at the Keeneland Sales the previous September ($750,000).
His debut was significantly smooth and smoothly significant, and the fourth – if nothing else - has done something for the form since, while Monarch Of Egypt has sat on his hands, itself the exception rather than the rule, as O’Brien tends to give his Coventry headliners extra experience, at least those who start out as early as Monarch Of Egypt did.
Hype is a hollow vessel, and Monarch Of Egypt hasn’t filled it up much, simply as he hasn’t had the opportunity to, but the closer the Coventry gets the more curious and compelling he becomes, making him one of the stories of Royal Ascot, considering the power of privilege that comes from how he’s bred and who he’s with.
THE FORMLINE FILLY
There was a ridiculously good fillies’ formline for last year’s juveniles, the epicentre of which was the Albany at Royal Ascot, won by Main Edition, from a host of subsequent Group 1 winners, Fairyland and Pretty Pollyanna amongst them.
The seeds of that flourishing formline were sowed some time before June, and anyone looking for a similar shoot this year will be looking at Chasing Dreams, not that she’s camouflaged, already favourite for the Queen Mary.
The story is simple: she looked good at Newmarket, and she looks exceptionally good now in light of what those in her jet-wash have done since. Third-home Kemble scooted in by 5l at Windsor next time, and runner-up Good Vibes has won twice, including the Listed Marygate at York.
And Chasing Dreams didn’t just beat them but laughed at them at Newmarket.
Her half-sister, Miss Gallagher, was first home in the Queen Mary…in her group, undone by the draw that day and only eleventh overall, but Chasing Dream seems to have the firepower, and the form, to put right that family wrong.
THE TIME LORD
Come Royal Ascot, the classiest two-year-olds are often still finding their way and the backward ones finding their hay. That’s a roundabout way of saying that the early-summer meeting sometimes rewards the fastest horse as opposed to the best (in the fulness of time).
To that end, pace is power, and the clock says there was no more impressive debut this year than Bomb Proof at York.
It’s only the exceptional juveniles that can generate a Timeform timefigure of 100+ first time out, and, at 99, Bomb Proof was just 1lb shy of doing exactly that, despite Dettori gearing down by the line, after a fast-forward move on the flank that had ‘Windsor Castle’ written all over it.
Besides the big timefigure, that was a big statement by Bomb Proof, and if you like your Royal Ascot two-year-olds fast and fully-formed then he’s one for you.
On the Royal Ascot track, or the Royal Ascot catwalk, Divine Spirit is a model filly, very much in vogue right now, because her father, Kingman, is the height of fashion, and her chic mother, Shyrl, graced this very stage in her heyday.
All of the above helps explain why she was all the rage at the Breeze-Up Sale in April, Godolphin going to 850,000 guineas to get her on the team. She was due to debut at Ascot, on May 10th, significant as a dry run perhaps, before the wet weather put paid to that, but when the wraps were taken off, at Windsor, she made a striking start, more so than the length-and-three-quarter winning margin suggests.
A Breeze-Up graduate, therefore conditioned to run fast, she ran too fast going to post at Windsor, refusing to settle, which puts a very different spin on what she was still able to do in the race, even then just getting going by the end from the look of things.
It’s pretty clear already that she has a huge engine, and it’s all about fine-tuning it ahead of the first big date in her sophisticated social diary.
THE DRAG RACER
These days, Royal Ascot wouldn’t be Royal Ascot without the Wes Ward monster trucks rolling into town. Having run off with seven juvenile prizes over the years, Ward knows what it takes and takes what he knows, and, despite Lady Pauline fluffing her lines in her Royal rehearsal, she may not have even been at the front of the queue, anyway.
Chief figuremaker of Timeform US, Craig Milkowski, said that Nayibeth’s speedfigure (of 105) was “one of the highest speedfigures he’s given to a newcomer,” certainly topping what Lady Pauline had done on her debut, likewise at Keeneland.
That was on the dirt, but Nayibeth’s half-brother, Soldat, was a multiple Group winner (up to 9f) on the turf in America.
Wes Ward is pointing her towards the 6f Albany, a race he’s yet to win, and he’s intimated that she may be his best chance at the meeting, and that says a lot about Nayibeth.