Alex Hammond: Treve bien!
Sky Sports racing guru Alex Hammond previews the action for the second day of Royal Ascot and can't see past Treve.
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The Prince of Wales’s Stakes is the feature on day two of Royal Ascot and Treve looks like one of the equine highlights of the week.
She was narrowly beaten by Cirrus des Aigles on her reappearance in the Prix Ganay and initially it looked a disappointing start to the new campaign for the Arc winner. The winner’s exploits since then have put the defeat into perspective and with that run under her belt she seems perfectly poised to get back to winning ways.
This is her first run on British soil and it will be likely the fastest ground she has encountered too. That aside, she is the one to beat and it's no surprise to see her trading at restrictive odds. Trainer Criquette Head-Maarek has been very pleased with her filly since that defeat and also said that the ground was more like firm than the official 'good' when she won the Prix Diane last year. That aside, she’s a superstar and should win.
Aidan O’Brien has taken up the option of running here with Magician. He was beaten by an upwardly-mobile Noble Mission in the Tattersalls Gold Cup last time out which looks disappointing, but he seems at his very best on faster ground than he got there and it should be decent if the forecast is correct for Wednesday’s card.
Mukhadram was second to Al Kazeem in this last year with The Fugue in third. The former is a consistent, hardy and classy performer who was second in the Dubai World Cup on his last run back in March. We’ve already mentioned that his trainer William Haggas is in great form and this horse has apparently been working well.
It’s good to see The Fugue back in action. John Gosden’s mare had a great season last term, the highlight being her win in the Irish Champion Stakes. She then went on to finish second to Magician in the Breeders’ Cup Turf before another great run when second in the Hong Kong Vase. She then ran an uncharacteristic bad race in the Dubai Duty Free, but came back with a cut to her heel. I think this could be a race for the girls and whilst I’m with Treve to win, The Fugue could offer some each way value.
The Duke of Cambridge Stakes is a Group Two for older fillies and mares over the straight mile. Just a reminder, this is the race you may know better as the Windsor Forest.
Sky Lantern’s win in last autumn’s Sun Chariot means she carries a 5lb penalty here on her first run since her last placed run in the Hong Kong Mile in December. She can be forgiven that end-of-season effort and is a classy filly who won three Group One races last season including the Guineas, Coronation Stakes and that win at Newmarket in September in the Sun Chariot.
She beat the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Integral in the latter race and that filly gets a 5lb weight pull on Wednesday - she was only beaten a length there. Speaking of Integral, she has the benefit of a run under her belt this season when finishing second to Esoterique in the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket early last month.
Esoterique has been supplemented by her connections for this race. Andre Fabre’s filly was well backed for that nine-furlong Group Three, but had the benefit of a couple of runs before the contest which gave her a significant advantage over Integral that day. The Stoute filly could reverse those placings and as this will be only her seventh career start there could be more to come from her as a four year-old.
Will they all have to play second fiddle to Purr Along though? She can’t be discounted for new trainer Johnny Murtagh. David Redvers paid 1,000,000 guineas for her at the December Sales out of William Muir’s stable to buy her outright on behalf of Qatar Racing and this is her second start since. She won a Group Three at the Curragh last month on her first start having been held up with a few little problems in the spring. Murtagh was apparently keen to get a run into her before this race. At the prices, she could offer the value in this race.
And now to the race that can be the punters' (and commentators'/broadcasters') nightmare - the Royal Hunt Cup. It’s nervous times for supporters of Abseil, who isn’t certain to make the cut. He is 33rd in the list and with a maximum field of 30 needs three to come out to get a run. He is way clear in the betting for this one-mile cavalry charge having won the Investec Mile at Epsom last time out. He got hot and bothered that day and you can’t blame him, but he will have to deal with a similar atmosphere here which could set him alight again. He looks like the typical future Group horse in a handicap, but in a race with so many imponderables I can’t be backing him here.
Take him out of the equation and its looks as wide open as ever. Chil The Kite is near the top of the weights for Hughie Morrison. He had three down-the-field runs in Dubai over the winter before being well beaten in the Winter Derby over 10 furlongs.
He was raised 5lb for an impressive win dropped in trip over seven furlongs at Newbury last time out and he also looks capable of progressing beyond handicap company this term. It’s worth bearing in mind that he was running in Group One company at the Royal meeting last year and he is a strong contender.
Farraaj is rated a couple of pounds below Chil The Kite and Roger Varian’s is dropping in trip having won a mile and a quarter handicap at the Derby meeting last time out and interesting he is taking the mile route with him. It’s said he goes best fresh so it’s a worry this is only a couple of weeks after his last run.
Queensbury Rules can run well for William Haggas and Ryan Moore despite this being his first run since September. He has been fairly frustrating to follow having won his first two races and not since. Having said that he has only run in five races without winning and they have all come in Heritage Handicaps, including finishing third in the Britannia last year off a 5lb lower mark.
Richard Fahey looks to have claims with Gabrial’s Kaka. The horse has been running well this season and can be forgiven a well-beaten fourth behind Noble Mission in the Huxley Stakes at Chester last time out as it was over 10 furlongs and his owner likes having runners at the meeting.
Belgian Bill is back for more having won this last year off a mark of 97. He’s on 102 this time round. He ran well in the Victoria Cup last time which could have helped put him right for this. Andrew Balding has a couple of interesting runners, Stirring Ballad and Here Comes When. Both have claims with Stirring Ballad (David Probert) having her first run since finishing well beaten when co-fav in this last year. She runs off the same mark this year. She’s a lightly-raced five-year-old and can run well.
It looks like Here Comes When will be ridden by apprentice-of-the-moment Oisin Murphy, who is able to relieve him of 3lb. He seems to be a better horse with some cut in the ground though so keep a close eye on the weather. He’s unexposed.
This is such a tough race and when the declarations are made we may have more knowledge about any draw bias, but at the moment I like Queensbury Rules and Stirring Ballad. Let’s hope the pair of them are drawn on opposite sides of the track!
I’ll be back on Wednesday with a look ahead to the action for the rest of the week. Best of luck!