Royal Ascot and what it means for us: Lady Aurelia, Highland Reel, and Big Orange

Tristan Rayner Editor

By , Tristan Rayner is a Roar Editor

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    Royal Asoct always has some potential impacts on Australian racing (Image: AAP)

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    Royal Ascot marks the time of year when Australian racing is pretty quiet and the European season really kicks off.

    Here’s the three notable performances that matter most to us in Australia:

    Ascot Gold Cup – Big Orange
    This wonderful Group 1 over 4023m rarely disappoints, and Big Orange gave a tough as teak performance in his first attempt beyond the Melbourne Cup distance of two miles (3200m).

    Just to make it even tougher, the Big O made the running for almost the entire trip, with jockey James Doyle letting him go at his own pace out front and he surged clear with 400m to go.

    Order Of St George, the favourite for the race, was some ten lengths off the lead at the turn home. Galloping home strongly with his head up, he looked like he was going to eat up Big Orange but wandered across the track to nudge his rival, the pair going stride for stride to the roar of the crowd. Big Orange held on gamely, doing just better than a bob of the head.

    Order Of St George, part owned by Lloyd Williams, certainly looked like he had his chance.

    Back in third was 2016 St Leger winner Harbour Law with Torcedor close to him in fourth – and that’s an important result for Cup followers.

    First to the winner – of particular interest is that trainer Michael Bell has said the six-year-old Big Orange won’t make another trip to Melbourne, after two unplaced finishes in his two attempts at Flemington.

    Order Of St George should be at least some chance of coming down, while Harbour Law looks like he’d have the right stuff but as a four-year-old stallion with only six starts to his name, is very unlikely to be risked.

    Torcedor, however, is the one to watch. I wrote about his story and chances a week or two ago and with Kiwi owners, he’s on track to be a Cup hope at some point. This year is more than a maybe, at a guess.

    Lady Aurelia
    How wonderful to see Lady Aurelia blitz the 1000m and give our Australians sprinters something to think about.

    On day one at Royal Ascot, she flew the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes over five furlongs in 57.45 seconds, just 0.01s outside of the course record held by our own speedster mare, Miss Andretti. Now, a few things to consider even if it was a frightfully good win: Aurelia carried a lighter weight than Andretti as a filly, and she didn’t appear to beat any true top level sprinting rivals.

    That didn’t stop Timeform giving her a monster rating of 135 for her win. Timeform really went for it – let’s not forget Black Caviar’s highest Timeform rating was 136, and Winx has only managed 134 at her peak.

    Of course ratings are a matter of opinion. Especially wrong opinion.

    Thankfully the ever-sensible Greg Carpenter confirmed the international ratings are less crazy.

    “Even with her three-length win over Profitable on Tuesday night in the Kings Stand, she’s (Lady Aurelia’s) going to come out of that race with a rating of around 121 or 122 which does put her up around the same mark as Chautauqua,” said Carpenter to Racing.com.

    “She’s pushing up there to be the highest-rated sprinter in the world but on official ratings she is still a long way off where Winx is.”

    All that aside, the talk of the town is Lady Aurelia heading to the $10m The Everest in the spring, and clashing with confirmed slot-holders Chautauqua and Fell Swoop, and possibly even Winx over 1200m, or six furlongs.

    The great news for the race is that it has people talking. The bad news is it’s pretty unlikely we’ll see the American-owned flying filly here.

    Part-owner George Bolton did the right thing for racing here, as he expressed his interest in The Everest, and the prizemoney:

    “Right now the end goal is to have her in my backyard for the Breeders Cup… but I think what we’re going to do is sit down and look at all the options,” Bolton said.

    “There is also a very big race [The Everest] in Australia – $10 million, six furlongs, three weeks before the Breeders Cup and $10 million is $10 million so that will get a look in as well.”

    There’s a few problems. She’s untested at 1200m and that extra 200m might leave her vulnerable.

    And $10 million is not $10 million. In current US dollar terms, it’s ‘only’ USD$7.5m.

    Also, first prize is $5.8 million in dollarydoos, and don’t forget the $600,000 entrance slot too, which brings it all to ‘just’ USD$3.92m.

    So $10 million is actually just under USD$4 million. Of course that’s still a ridiculously great purse for any horse and any race, anywhere.

    With the threat of Winx, a $600,000 gamble, Timeform ratings going into overdrive, and the need for Americans to impress Americans more than anyone else, I’m not yet convinced we’ll see her. It’ll be something if we do though!

    Highland Reel
    This horse is either the only decent middle-distance horse going around Britain or he’s an out-and-out freak who just loves to race.

    He won the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes (2000m), his sixth Group 1 and 300th for trainer Aidan O’Brien, beating out hot favourite Jack Hobbs who didn’t find enough on the day.

    It must be a strange feeling for the Eurosnobs when Highland Reel wins. Winx thrashed him in the Cox Plate when he finished third behind him and Criterion. Few forget that.

    Now each subsequent win by Highland Reel would appear to frank that form even further – even if the time between the clash is now stretching on.

    I can’t keep getting into Winx vs the world arguments but here’s a few facts. Since that 2015 Cox Plate third, Highland Reel has run 13 times in 12 Group 1s, and a Group 2, across six countries and eight different tracks, from 2,000m to 2,400m. He’s won five and placed in four. He’s pretty handy, you’d say.

    The mouth waters at what Winx could’ve done to them in that field, even with the disadvantages of travel and acclimatisation. 2018 please, Chris Waller!

    Tristan Rayner
    Tristan Rayner

    Tristan is a writer, consultant, racing enthusiast and former Editor of The Roar who has turned the Melbourne Cup into a year-round study via racingtalk.com.au.

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