Donn McClean Royal Ascot reflections on the two year old races including Battleground and Tactical

Adam Kirby on Nando Parrado after his surprise Royal Ascot success

Donn McClean looks back on the two-year-old races at Royal Ascot 2020 including a 150/1 shock for Nando Parrado in the Coventry.

Shock of the week? Easy, Nando Parrado in the Coventry Stakes on Saturday. Actually, if you take starting prices as a guide, it was the shock of the century. Although you believed Clive Cox and Adam Kirby when they said afterwards that they didn’t think that he should have been a 150/1 shot. You’re not going to run in a Coventry Stakes if you think that you should be a 150/1 shot.

There didn’t appear to be any fluke about Nando Parrado’s victory either. Kirby bounced his horse out of the gate, and rode him up with the pace like a good horse. He had him in the front rank from flagfall on a day on which, a little unusually for Ascot, the pace held up well on the straight track. Hello Youmzain raced prominently from early in the Diamond Jubilee. Hey Jonesy made just about all the running in the Wokingham.

Nando Parrado wins for Clive Cox and Adam Kirby

That said, six horses stretched across the track in a share of the lead on the run to the two-furlong pole in the Coventry Stakes, and the other five faded to finish, respectively, sixth, seventh, 10th, 12th and 14th. It was to Nando Parrado’s credit that he kept going as strongly as he did.

The challengers came from the second rank, Qaader to his left, Saeiqa to his right, Dark Lion from further back but, in truth, it never really looked like any one of them was going to get to the leader. He did move a little to his left deep inside the final furlong, but that was allowed. In the end, he had a length to spare over Qaader.

Nando Parrado was disappointing on his racecourse debut at Newmarket two weeks earlier, but there was mitigation, his rider said that he didn’t really handle the track that day. It was a flimsy cornerstone anyway – easy in hindsight – on which to build an SP of 150/1, the biggest winning starting price in the history of Royal Ascot.

Bought for 165,000 guineas as a foal, the Kodiac colt is a half-brother to Muntadab, whose best form is over seven furlongs, and to Dubai Horizon, whose best form is over 10, and he raced here like he could step up in trip.

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Battleground stepped up in trip and won the Chesham Stakes on Thursday. A son of War Front out of the brilliant racemare Found, Aidan O’Brien’s colt had shaped encouragingly on his racecourse debut at Naas on the day that racing resumed in Ireland over six furlongs, a trip that was probably shorter than ideal for him.

He showed the benefit of that run on Thursday, and he seemed to appreciate the extra furlong. Settled nicely by Ryan Moore just behind Golden Flame on the far side, he picked up well at the two-furlong marker, hit the front on the run to the furlong pole and stayed on powerfully all the way to the line.

Battleground lands the Chesham Stakes

It was a taking performance by a wholly likeable individual who is bred to be a champion, Found’s first foal, and who shows a really willing attitude. Found excelled over middle distances, Arc de Triomphe winner, Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, but she also won the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac over a mile as a juvenile, and Battleground’s sire, War Front, is all speed.

The Chesham Stakes is a Listed race, but it was won last year by Pinatubo and it was won in 2016 by Churchill, both of whom went on to win the Group 1 National Stakes and the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes. Those two races should be on Battleground’s radar now, possibly via the Tyros Stakes at Leopardstown or the Futurity Stakes at The Curragh.

There was a Royal winner of the other Listed juveniles’ race, Wednesday’s Windsor Castle Stakes, with Tactical running out a game winner. Always prominent on the stands rail from his high draw, 18 of 18, The Queen’s horse travelled nicelyto the two-furlong marker and he picked up well for James Doyle to run down Muker deep inside the final furlong.

Third in the novice stakes that Eye Of Heaven won at Newmarket on his racecourse debut two weeks earlier, when he was hampered a little inside the final furlong, the Andrew Balding-trained colt stepped forward nicely from that, and justified the market confidence that was behind him for the Windsor Castle.

Tactical returns to the winners' enclosure

Runner-up Yazaman came under pressure early but stayed on strongly to snatch the runner-up spot, and William Haggas’ colt could improve for a step up to six furlongs. By contrast, Muker showed a lot of pace out in the centre, he travelled best of all to the two-furlong marker and he led until deep inside the final furlong. He might do better over an easier five furlongs, perhaps at Newmarket’s July meeting.

Eye Of Heaven was disappointing in the Norfolk Stakes on Friday. He was a little keen early on and, when Frankie Dettori got after him and asked him to quicken, he just couldn’t get to the leader. He had been impressive in winning that novice stakes at Newmarket on his racecourse debut, and he is deserving of another chance.

That leader was Golden Pal, another Wesley Ward bullet who burst from the traps and looked like he was going last all the way home. The Lir Jet and Oisin Murphy got out after him inside the final furlong, his only pursuer and, slowly and inexorably, he wore him down, getting up to win by a neck.

The Lir Jet (left) stays on strongly to win

An £8,000 yearling at the Goffs UK premier yearling sale last August, it was probably for a multiple of that that The Lir Jet swapped Nick Bell’s silks for those of Qatar Racing after he won his maiden at Yarmouth in a fast time at the start of this month, and, whatever it was, it looks like value now for sure, a Norfolk Stakes in the bag.

A son of Norfolk Stakes winner Prince Of Lir, Michael Bell’s colt’s pedigree is all speed too, but he had to be strong in the finish too to overhaul a fast rival, and his trainer said afterwards that he would definitely get six furlongs.

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Frankie Dettori and Wesley Ward got back together on Saturday, and produced Campanelle to win the Queen Mary Stakes.

The Kodiac filly was fast away from stall one, but her rider restrained her a little, took her back, kept her out of the early battle for the lead. Well back in the field at half-way and racing on the far side, she improved to hit the front at the furlong marker, and she kept on well to get the better of Sacred, the pair of them coming a little way clear of their rivals.

Campanelle (near-side) gets on top of Sacred

Wesley Ward’s filly made all when she won her maiden at Gulfstream Park in May, but she proved here that she isn’t a one-dimensional jump-and-run performer. The same connections – Wesley Ward, Stonestreet Stables, Frankie Dettori – won the Queen Mary in 2016 with Lady Aurelia, who went to Deauville and won the Prix Morny on her next start, and that race is reportedly the target now for Campanelle.

The other juvenile fillies’ race, the Albany Stakes, was won in emphatic fashion by Dandalla. Karl Burke’s filly travelled well through her race on the near side for Ben Curtis. She got a nice split between Undertake and Follow Suit at the two-furlong marker, and she came through and came clear. She was one of the most impressive winners of the week on the straight track.

Dandalla returns in triumph

Ben Curtis’ first Royal Ascot winner and Karl Burke’s second, four years after Quiet Reflection won the Commonwealth Cup, Dandalla handled the easy ground well and was strong in the finish. Like Wesley Ward with Campanelle, Burke also mentioned the Prix Morny as a possible next step, a race that the trainer won in 2017 with Unfortunately, and that would be a legitimate target too now for Dandalla.


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