And so, we are here – after a week of drama, thrills and royalty, the final day of the 2013 Royal Ascot carnival is upon us. Join us for a live blog and update as the action unfolds from 10.30pm this evening.
Yesterday was my least favourite day of the carnival, and it showed as we got every race wrong. It was a tough day!
But today, the Wokingham aside, there’s more confidence across the board and I’m convinced we’ll have a couple of winners at the end of the day.
The big question from an Australian perspective is, can Sea Siren join Choisir, Starspangledbanner and Black Caviar as a winner of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes?
I think there’ll be a horse with Australian form in the finish, but it may not be who you’d expect.
There’ll also be Melbourne Cup guides galore, with three of these races producing Melbourne Cup runners in the past five years.
So here it is: our preview of all the action from Day 5 at Royal Ascot.
Chesham Stakes – Listed, 7f (a1400m), 2yo
The two year old races have been a blackout for us this week, and this looks one of the tougher races to judge so far so I think it is a better race to watch.
goodlphin won this race last year with Tha’ir (having also won it 16 years ago with a subsequent Melbourne Cup runner up in Central Park), and I think they can win it again with either of their fillies in Ihtimal or Autumn Lily.
Autumn Lily was a debut winner, while Ihtimal has run second at both his starts to date. Yet, I think Ihtimal may be the one to salute here.
She finished second on debut at Goodwood to last night’s very impressive Albany Stakes winner Kiyoshi, while she then finished second to stablemate Wedding Ring (fifth in the Albany) at Newmarket.
The step up to seven furlongs should suit, so I have to have her on top.
Best of the colts looks to be Bunker for Richard Hannon, who looked very good on debut at Haydock when prominent throughout and should relish the seven furlongs.
Autumn Lily, goodlphin’s other runner, also won at Haydock on debut, and she may have more scope than Ihtimal.
Next best Bureau – I rate the fillies quite highly this year – and Somewhat, both for Mark Johnston.
3. Autumn Lily
Hardwicke Stakes – Group 2, 1m 4f (a2400m), 4yo+
Every year, there is one race that proves to be the best form reference to European form for the Melbourne spring. As such, everyone follows that race closely the next year.
After Americain and Dunaden came through the Prix Kergorlay in 2010 and 2011, everyone watched that race for pointers last year.
Unfortunately, it amounted to nothing when Brigantin failed to make the final field for the Melbourne Cup, although the form may be franked later this year.
This year, everyone is watching the Hardwicke Stakes after last year’s race produced the Melbourne Cup placegetters Fiorente and Jakkalberry, the Caulfield Cup winner Dunaden, and other spring raiders including My Quest For Peace and Red Cadeaux. Winner Sea Moon has joined Lloyd Williams at Mount Macedon, adding to his strong spring arsenal.
There are a number of horses likely to make the trip to Melbourne this year, none more than Mount Athos.
Australian punters are very familiar with this galloper, who finished fifth to Green Moon in the Melbourne Cup last November.
Cumani and owner Dr Marwin Koukash feel there is unfinished business after last year’s disastrous ride by Ryan Moore, and so he will be returning to our shores just over three months from now.
While I’m mindful that a victory here would only serve to increase his handicap for the Melbourne Cup, I still think he’ll be tough to beat if he continues his upwards spiral.
The Australian-owned Dandino has been consistent in these races for a number of years, and I thought he was unlucky not to win upon his return.
I want to see him take a step forward from his last run – on past form, he should – and if he does that, he’ll be capable of giving a sight here as he prepares for a Melbourne campaign.
I also think some chance must be given to Aiken, who hasn’t been seen since finishing second to Rite of Passage on Champions Day. He was fourth here last year, and he looks to still have enough scope to suggest that he could be winning here.
Next best Ektihaam.
1. Mount Athos
Diamond Jubilee Stakes – Group 1, 6f (a1200m), 3yo+
Who can believe it has been 12 months since one of the most dramatic races I’ve had the honour to witness?
It was a privilege to be trackside as Black Caviar won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, but no one could have predicted the drama that would ensue. She only managed to fall in, just denying French star Moonlight Cloud.
She may have won, but Australians who were there experienced the five stages of grief after her victory.
There was denial (“that didn’t just happen”), anger (“what was Nolen doing dropping her hands? Why did Peter Moody run her?”), bargaining (“I’d give anything to give her another go here”), depression (“is she really not as good as we thought she was?) and acceptance (“oh well, she still won, she did what champions do”).
To be honest, it has taken almost a year for acceptance to truly dawn. Now, given she returned in a blaze of glory before retiring undefeated, acceptance is easier.
Fourth that day was the former Darley galloper Soul, who – like Black Caviar – also won the Danehill Stakes early in his three year old year. He lines up again tonight and looks well over the odds.
He is a straight course specialist. In fact, since he joined the goodlphin team in Europe, his best two runs have come over the Ascot six furlongs.
I don’t think there is any horse in this field as good as Black Caviar or Moonlight Cloud, and he acquitted himself well last year.
The track is probably firmer than what I’d want with him, but I still think he is way over the odds at $26 and I’d be encouraging punters to have something small each way on him.
Society Rock and Gordon Lord Byron are by far the best of the locals and after Sole Power’s victory in Tuesday’s King’s Stand, they will be hoping to reinforce local pride.
I am convinced Sea Siren is better around a turn, and although her last start behind Epaulette was good, she had been quite disappointing before that.
It is a difficult task travelling mares and many of them take a run or two to settle in to their new environment.
While Sea Siren has looked phenomenal in every picture and snippet of footage I’ve managed to see, I still have to oppose her here.
That said, I think she’s a better chance than Shamexpress was the other night. Time will tell.
2. Society Rock
3. Gordon Lord Byron
Wokingham Stakes – Heritage Handicap, 6f (a1200m), 3yo+
Our final dartboard race of the carnival, and to be honest, I have no idea.
I have to give tips, given I’ve offered up tips for the other 29 races across the carnival, but I’d encourage punters to forget this race and just watch.
I’ve come up with York Glory, a sprinter who mixes his form but runs well on his day.
Rex Imperator is better over further but I get the feeling a fast run 1200m could suit him and he has good form in some tougher races.
For third, the favourite Duke of Firenze comes off a win in the Epsom Dash, this is a very different race but he must be given consideration.
No confidence whatsoever.
1. York Glory
2. Rex Imperator
3. Duke of Firenze
Duke of Edinburgh Handicap – Class 2 Handicap, 1m 4f (a2400m), 3yo+
Two years ago, this race produced Fox Hunt, who later that year would run an unlucky seventh in the Melbourne Cup.
In fact, I thought last year’s winner Camborne was even better and could have been a force in the Melbourne Cup, but he had his problems and they flared up after a disappointing performance in the Ebor Handicap.
Camborne had a remarkable turn of foot, quite unlike most British gallopers. It is that quality which has me selecting Caravan Rolls On.
I know a few pundits have labelled Caravan Rolls On a potential Melbourne Cup aspirant the last couple of years, but if he is to be any hope of even contesting our big race at any stage of his career, he’d want to be winning here.
Highclere’s Opinion and goodlphin’s Ustura look emerging stayers who both get in well into this race, and so neither would surprise, but I’m quite keen on Caravan Rolls On.
1. Caravan Rolls On
Queen Alexandra Stakes – Class 2 Conditions Race, 2m 5f 159y (a4350m), 4yo+
The final race of the festival is the longest flat race in Britain, the Queen Alexandra Stakes over nearly 4350m.
Simenon, Thursday’s Gold Cup runner-up and a likely visitor to Melbourne, won this race in a canter last year over subsequent Herbert Power Stakes winner Shahwardi.
The French galloper, who missed a run in the Melbourne Cup, starts a hot favourite this year having had one start since the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Flemington where he finished behind Puissance de Lune.
The stamina is some query, although he was able to run a bold race behind a top stayer last year, and under the conditions of the race he looks by far and away the horse to beat.
Chiberta King has been thereabouts in some of Britain’s best staying races over the last few years, but it has been a while since he has shown his best form.
This is probably the right race for him now, and if Shahwardi is off his game, expect Chiberta King to pounce.
And the enigmatic Mad Moose, who finished second – albeit by nine lengths – to Mount Athos in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester, must be given some hope.
At his most recent start, he failed to leave the gates, so hopefully he can get a clean jump today.
2. Chiberta King
3. Mad Moose
Best of the day: Caravan Rolls On
Most interesting runner: Sea Siren
Horse to watch for the Melbourne spring: Mount Athos