Class of 2016
by David Lawrence
Just one juvenile this term has earned a three-figure mark on my scale, the Ed Dunlop-trained Global Applause (rated 100), a fact suggesting all is still to play for in Royal Ascot’s two-year-old races.
Dunlop’s colt, a son of Mayson, is being aimed at the five-furlong Group 2 Norfolk Stakes, due to be run on Thursday, 16 June, and will almost certainly need to better that figure in order to collect.
This is because the majority of Norfolk Stakes scorers warrant a rating in the 103-108 range, based on my reckoning, with last season’s hero, Aidan O’Brien’s Waterloo Bridge, being awarded 103.
Global Applause has raced just three times so far - winning twice - and is a powerful individual with abundant pace, so seems to possess both the scope to progress and an encouraging profile for Ascot.
He is far from past the post, however, and, while he was visually impressive when taking Sandown’s Listed National Stakes last time out, there is little doubt he was favoured then by a far-rail draw.
Obvious rivals for Dunlop’s charge in the Norfolk Stakes include possible Irish raiders Peace Envoy (91), winner of a six-furlong Listed event at Naas at the end of May, and Mister Trader (89).
Peace Envoy, earlier successful over five furlongs at Dundalk, is in the care of Aidan O’Brien, while Mister Trader, second in a Curragh Listed contest on his most recent run, represents Darren Bunyan.
Andrew Balding’s Bohemian Flame (87), a Zoffany colt who finished third in the National Stakes despite being slowly away, is another with form good enough to deserve his place in the line-up.
And it would be folly to dismiss the chance of the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Kananee (86), if he goes for the Norfolk, as he has looked smart in landing a Lingfield maiden and a York novice stakes.
Any colt from Wesley Ward’s US yard demands consideration, too, because the colourful American trainer loves to visit Royal Ascot and took this prize with the ultra-speedy No Nay Never in 2013.
Several top-level British and Irish stables habitually target the six-furlong Group 2 Coventry Stakes and it will be no surprise if one of the really big battalions collects again on Tuesday, 14 June.
Aidan O’Brien is sure to saddle at least one talented contender and, having taken this event no fewer than seven times, most recently with War Command in 2013, he boasts a record second to none.
O’Brien’s likeliest challenger is probably the American-bred Caravaggio (99), unbeaten in two starts and a convincing winner last time out of the Curragh’s Listed Marble Hill Stakes on 21 May.
By US-based stallion Scat Daddy, sire of the aforementioned No Nay Never, Caravaggio beat what looked a decent field over five furlongs that day, but should handle the Coventry’s longer trip.
Richard Hannon senior invariably sent a smart colt in this direction - he was successful with Canford Cliffs (2009) and Strong Suit (2010) - and his son, Richard junior, will want to be involved.
His possible challengers include Mehmas (96), second to Global Applause in Sandown’s National Stakes, and Legendary Lunch (92), successful in Epsom’s Listed Woodcote Stakes on Oaks day.
Mark Johnston, whose Buratino came home in front in last season’s Coventry Stakes, would almost certainly have been represented this time by Sutter County (94), if that colt had not suffered an injury.
Now, though, his hopes could well rest with Yalta (94), winner of a Goodwood novice stakes and a conditions event at Pontefract, the latter of those two victories notched by four and a half lengths.
Johnston’s charge is a son of Exceed And Excel, a stallion whose progeny seem to enjoy the Ascot turf, and it is no secret that his trainer relishes the annual prospect of donning top hat and tails.
Kevin Ryan is another Yorkshire-based trainer with a penchant for profitable days out at the Royal meeting and he also appears to have a realistic Coventry Stakes contender - in Broken Stones (89).
His sire is the rookie stallion Requinto, winner at two (his only racing season) of Doncaster’s Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes, and Broken Stones was impressive in a York novices stakes on his debut.
Psychedelic Funk (94), from Ger Lyons’s stable, could boost Ireland’s challenge, while among the ‘home team’ the once-raced duo Mokarris (85) and Silver Line (84) are definitely worth noting.
Mokarris, a son of More Than Ready trained by Simon Crisford, has a six-furlong Haydock novice win to his credit. Saeed bin Suroor’s Silver Lane, by Dark Angel, scored over five at Nottingham.
To land this term’s Coventry Stakes, though, one of the above will need to improve on his efforts so far, as a typical winner rates close to 110 on my scale (2015 hero Buratino earning a mark of 109).
Speculating about the result of the Windsor Castle Stakes, a five-furlong Listed contest scheduled for the same Tuesday 14 June card as the Coventry Stakes, would be extremely unwise at this stage.
It is fair to surmise, however, that the field will contain a blend of colts, geldings and fillies, some of whom will be lightly-raced maidens, alongside, maybe, a raider or two from Wesley Ward’s stable.
The seven-furlong Chesham Stakes, due to take place on Saturday, 18 June, is also likely to feature a number of relative unknowns, but the race’s strict conditions do at least reduce some variables.
Those conditions require runners - both sexes, plus geldings are eligible to take part in this Listed event - to have been sired by horses who were successful over at least nine and a half furlongs.
This year that means the first crop of 2012 Qipco Champion Stakes hero Frankel is qualified to line up and John Gosden’s Cunco looks poised for an attempt to bring his career score to two from two.
Frankel’s earliest foal, Cunco warranted a mark of 80 on my scale when collecting on his six-furlong debut at Newbury in mid-May and, judged on pedigree, ought to appreciate the step up to seven.
Like Gosden, Aidan O’Brien frequently fields a decent performer in the Chesham Stakes and twice in the past five years his representative has been a filly subsequently successful at Group 1 level.
That pair were Maybe (the Chesham’s 2009 winner) and Ballydoyle (a short-head runner-up in 2015).
Perhaps the most obvious Chesham Stakes stumbling-block for Cunco at this stage, however, is the Karl Burke-trained Medici Banchiere (87).
He is by another Champion Stakes hero, Medicean, and, after a narrow defeat on his debut, Burke’s charge took a Carlisle novice stakes by ten lengths.
LEADING TWO-YEAR-OLD COLTS TRAINED IN BRITAIN AND IRELAND IN 2016 (ratings achieved by 6 June)
|Position||Name (Trainer) (Country)||Rating|
|1)||Global Applause (Ed Dunlop) (GB)||100|
|2)||Caravaggio (Aidan O’Brien) (IRE)||99|
|3)||Mehmas (Richard Hannon) (GB)||96|
|4=)||Psychedelic Funk (Ger Lyons) (IRE)||94|
|4=)||Sutter County (Mark Johnston) (GB)||94|
|4=)||Yalta (Mark Johnston) (GB)||94|
|7=)||Danielsflyer (David Barron) (GB)||92|
|7=)||Legendary Lunch (Richard Hannon) (GB)||92|
|9)||Peace Envoy (Aidan O’Brien) (IRE)||91|
|10=)||Broken Stones (Kevin Ryan) (GB)||89|
|10=)||Mister Trader (Darren Bunyan) (IRE)||89|
Winners of Royal Ascot’s Pattern races confined to two-year-old fillies - the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes and the Group 3 Albany Stakes - almost always earn ratings in excess of 100 on my scale.
As ought to be clear from the rankings listed below, then, no stand-out performer - at least not one trained in Britain or Ireland - can currently be confidently nominated for either of those events.
Punters assessing them in advance - the Queen Mary Stakes is run on Wednesday, 15 June, the Albany Stakes on Friday, 17 June - might therefore be wise to consider Wesley Ward’s US raiders.
Ward has an excellent Royal Ascot record, especially with juvenile fillies, and this time around is contagiously optimistic about his chances of adding to Acapulco’s 2015 Queen Mary Stakes victory.
Ward’s main hopes rest this season with Lady Aurelia, who notched an easy debut success over four and a half furlongs at Keeneland in April, and Silvertoni, winner of a $100,000 stakes race in May.
Lady Aurelia, about whom the trainer seems particularly bullish, is, like Acapulco, a daughter of Scat Daddy, while Silvertoni is by Tapit, twice America’s champion sire and a proven source of speed.
Both these Ward-prepared Royal Ascot-bound youngsters have exhibited blinding pace on the track and Lady Aurelia looked mighty impressive when leading throughout on her initial assignment.
I do not prepare figures for contests outside Europe, so can offer no numerical indication of how good they might be, but it is fair to reiterate that their British and Irish rivals need to improve to collect.
Top spot in my rankings at this stage is shared - on a mark of 88 - by the Aidan O’Brien-trained Cuff, successful in a six-furlong Naas Listed event on 29 May, Mark Johnston’s Chupalla, whose rating was earned on the all-weather at Kempton in March, and Richard Hannon’s Grizzel.
Cuff’s Naas victory suggests her Royal Ascot target is likely to be the Albany Stakes, also staged, of course, over six furlongs, while Grizzel, a daughter of Kodiac who took Beverley’s five-furlong Hilary Needler Trophy last time out, looks more a Queen Mary Stakes - minimum trip - candidate.
Chupalla’s Queen Mary bid must be in the balance following her disappointing fifth in the National Stakes at Sandown on 26 May, and two other Johnston-trained possibles presently figuring among the leaders in my rankings - Boater (84) and Sea Of Snow (81) - simply do not look quite speedy enough.
That is perhaps not strictly true of Richard Fahey’s Vona (88), who stepped up considerably on two previous runs to beat Boater by a length in a five-furlong Listed contest at York in mid-May.
Nevertheless, Fahey’s filly, by Dark Angel, has to demonstrate that 33-1 success was not a fluke and, even if she can, registering a three-figure rating - or something close - is likely to prove beyond her.
Northern-based Queen Mary Stakes hopes with arguably more scope to progress include Johnston’s Camargue (82) and Keith Dalgleish’s Clem Fandango (86), second to Grizzel in the Hilary Needler.
I suspect, however, that, if Wesley Ward is to be thwarted, it will be by a filly representing a stable either from one of the big south-of-England training centres or a raider from across the Irish Sea.
Ward is hopeful, too, of claiming his first Albany Stakes and, given that he seems set to saddle the appropriately-named Create A Dream (80), an Ascot scorer in April, it is not out of the question.
This daughter of Oasis Dream does, after all, have experience of the course and, although her form is not yet at anything like the usual Royal meeting level, she may well have improved since her debut.
Progress can also be expected from the aforementioned Cuff, most bookmakers’ ante-post favourite for the Albany Stakes, and from Romantic View (81), a Shamardal filly trained by Charlie Appleby.
The last-named finished runner-up behind Camargue on her first appearance and then readily took a novice stakes over six furlongs at Goodwood on 21 May, scoring by two and three-quarter lengths.
Plenty more lightly-raced juveniles based in Britain and Ireland could take a leap forward if given the opportunity and among those Ascot punters might like to evaluate carefully are the following clutch.
Kilmah, from Mark Johnston’s stable, beat Seafront - subsequently Listed-placed in Ireland - by two lengths when making her first appearance in a six-furlong novice stakes at Newmarket on 13 May.
Johnston’s filly, a daughter of four-time Australian Group 1-winning sprinter Sepoy, was slowly away that day, a fact suggesting she might deserve to be rated higher than her current mark of 81.
Clive Cox’s Barroche (81) landed a novices’ event over an extended five furlongs at Bath on 27 May and, when drawing clear to win by three and a three-quarter lengths, this daughter of Kodiac indicated she would, if asked to do so, handle further.
Tom Dascombe introduced a Kachess (81), a Kyllachy filly related to several smart six-furlong types, at Goodwood on 3 June and immediately after her five-furlong victory indicated Ascot was her aim.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Brave Anna (80) stepped up markedly on a moderate Naas debut to take a six-furlong Curragh maiden on 21 May and is by ultra-high-class US-based stallion War Front.
And Richard Fahey, whose the 83-rated Kocollada is also prominent in my current rankings, could send the well-related Queen Kindly to Ascot on the back of her five-length first-time-out success.
Queen Kindly made her debut over five-furlongs at Catterick on 3 June, probably not many people’s idea of the perfect jumping-off point for a crack at the Albany Stakes a mere two weeks later.
Fahey’s filly is, however, from the initial crop of Frankel and, as she is out of Lady Of The Desert, heroine of the 2009 Lowther Stakes, it would be foolish to argue that she is not ideally-bred for the task.
LEADING TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLIES TRAINED IN BRITAIN AND IRELAND IN 2016 (ratings achieved by 6 June)
|Position||Name (Trainer) (Country)||Rating|
|1=)||Cuff (Aidan O’Brien) (IRE)||88|
|1=)||Chupalla (Mark Johnston) (GB)||88|
|1=)||Grizzel (Richard Hannon) (IRE)||88|
|1=)||Vona (Richard Fahey) (GB)||88|
|5)||Clem Fandango (Keith Dalgleish) (GB)||87|
|6)||Boater (Mark Johnston) (GB)||84|
|7=)||Kocollada (Richard Fahey) (GB)||83|
|7=)||Perfect Madge (Kevin Ryan) (GB)||83|
|9)||Camargue (Mark Johnston) (GB)||82|
|10=)||Barroche (Clive Cox) (GB)||81|
|10=)||Kachess (Tom Dascombe) (GB)||81|
|10=)||Kilmah (Mark Johnston) (GB)||81|
|10=)||Romantic View (Charlie Appleby) (GB)||81|
|10=)||Sea Of Snow (Mark Johnston) (GB)||81|
|10=)||Wayside Flower (Ger Lyons) (GB)||81|