The parade ring at Royal Ascot
The parade ring at Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot: Timeform Paddock Notes and Horses to Follow


The Timeform guru rounds up his paddock observations - juvenile section to follow on Wednesday - from Royal Ascot, including a couple of handicappers to note.


Nature takes the star role

I rarely turn down work, but the enquiry on Saturday as to whether I would be interested in writing something about a fascinator modelled on the Scales of Justice that the lady asking was wearing had to be politely declined. Such a request would never happen at Cheltenham, though in most other ways Royal Ascot is the Flat's version of the Festival.

There are differences of course: Pimm's rather than Guinness, Morning Dress instead of tweed, the Royal Procession in lieu of the cross country* and five days instead of four, but the racing is a showcase for the very best the sport has to offer. There are championship races covering every angle, excellent tests for the up-and-coming brigade and a host of fiercely competitive handicaps.

There's also the chance to be wowed by some quality horseflesh that you haven't seen before, which last week was chiefly Nature Strip. He's a big, powerhouse sprinter, against whom the domestic opposition looked pretty weedy. And he made them look pretty ordinary in the race as well. It helped Nature Strip that his main form rival Golden Pal had a race to forget, but a totally dominant four-and-a-half length success in the King's Stand Stakes was to my mind the best performance of the week.

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There was some talk that Nature Strip would try and emulate his compatriot Choisir and bid for a double at the fixture in the Platinum Jubilee (it was only Golden in Choisir's day), but in the end his stable was represented solely by Home Affairs, a Southern Hemisphere four-year-old colt who ran in Coolmore colours. Home Affairs is well made, though didn't stand apart from his field in the way Nature Strip did, and he didn't run his race either, too free and dropping right out. An opportunity missed.

The carrot of a million-pound pot otherwise proved a big draw in the Platinum Jubilee, the actual draw as so often at Ascot a conundrum. The race was effectively two, with the winner Naval Crown chasing Home Affairs in the smaller group close to the stand rail; the runner-up Creative Force more patiently ridden on the far wing of the centre group. The next three home, one up with the pace, two from well back, made their more more towards the centre in the centre group. The second home on the near side came fourteenth.

DELETE

Ryan shines on double-winning Rohaan

The fence is probably the best place to sit in the circumstances, risking a scratched behind, rather than scratching one's head. That said, the jockeys voted with their mounts' feet in the Wokingham, which followed, the field all trying to get as near the stand side as possible. I am not sure they were right that the lesson of the Platinum Jubilee was that the stand rail was the place to be and I am sure that such a manoeuvre was counterproductive for those drawn low to middle. That was unless they did what Ryan Moore did on Rohaan, who was dropped in right on the rail from a stall in the centre. He had the right horse to employ the tactics on, but it was a very smart piece of riding.

In theory, Rohaan's performance is on a par with that put up by Naval Crown in the Platinum Jubilee, though the form is probably not so strong as would be expected so such a competitive handicap, almost wholly due to the misguided tactics. Rohaan failed to cut it when tried in Pattern company after winning this race as a three-year-old, so perhaps it is only theory. After some so-so runs earlier in the year, he hasn't been entered in the July Cup.

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Naval Crown and Creative Force are entered for that, which, if they both turn up, will give William Buick a third chance to be on the right one. He was on Creative Force here and on Naval Crown when the pair were first and second the other way round in last year's Jersey Stakes. Naval Crown, who looked as well as any horse all week, was having just his second try at sprint trips, so there may be more to come, to raise him above a congested pack of top sprinters.

Connections of Campanelle, who showed bags of speed, and Sacred, who looked in good order but who may well have been a bit rusty, particularly dropped in trip, might well fancy their charges' chances of turning the tables at Newmarket. Beyond that, Campanelle might be worth trying in the Nunthorpe, a race that could suit Highfield Princess, another filly in the Platinum Jubilee, even better.

DELETE

Cadamosto can't be forgotten

The Commonwealth Cup winner Perfect Power is another who could well make an impact in the July Cup. He isn't the most imposing by any means, but he's pretty smart and a well-run race down in trip looked right up his street.

Cadamosto has a fair bit more about him than the winner, but could manage only fourth to Perfect Power at the meeting for the second year running. He'd started favourite for the Norfolk in 2021, but went off at 40/1 this time, a sign of the way his form had gone in the meantime. With blinkers fitted, Cadamosto briefly looked a threat in the final furlong, his effort just fading very late on. It would be no surprise to see him land a good sprint, if not one at quite this level, later in the campaign.

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In terms of overall quality for physique and well-being, the St James's Palace Stakes was the stand-out race of the week. Coroebus, My Prospero, Maljoom and Wexford Native are all horses whose profile would get a second look on a dating sight, and the first three at least lived up to their looks with their performance. Wexford Native, not so much, as he pulled his chance away; hopefully his master trainer will be able to get him back on track, even with pedigree and demeanour pulling in different directions with regard to stamina (entered in the Irish Derby and King George).

That would be King George VI. His father, George V, has to make do with a handicap, though rather a good one. As might be expected for some choicely-bred middle-distance three-year-olds, there were a lot who took the eye, in terms of potential to develop through this season and beyond. I liked Franz Strauss as much as any, but a combination of an extra quarter-mile and cheekpieces, plus making the running, was just too rich a recipe to allow him to last home.

Flying Dolphin could be ahead of the curve

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The winner Secret State is a good-looking colt as well, and the big jump up in trip on handicap debut proved perfect the way the race unfolded. He had the speed to hold a good position – this another race on the Round course where a prominent ride was advantageous – and the stamina to see the race out as the tempo lifted into the straight. He may well step up to Pattern company next, with the Great Voltigeur an option. However, he wouldn't be sure to stay the St Leger trip, if that became a target.

Flying Dolphin, who's a scopey sort who might well make a hurdler if he doesn't prove too good on the Flat, was the eye-catcher in the race. He travelled smoothly to the straight but was just too far off the tempo to land a blow, perhaps some question re stamina and some re by Zoffany/out of a Montjeu mare quirkiness alert, explaining the ride. For those that have shortlists for the Melrose, Flying Dolphin ought to be on it.

*I believe, there primarily to allow serious racegoers a better chance at the bar.


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