When run in it’s previous incarnation, as The Cork and Orrery Stakes, the contest was a happy hunting ground for Irish yards, with the names, John Oxx, Noel Meade, Dermot Weld, and Vincent O’Brien figuring regularly on the board of honour. However since it’s elevation to Group1 status in 2002, and renamed The Golden Jubilee, and ten years later, The Diamond Jubilee, trainers from across the Irish Sea have only managed to hit the back of the net on two occasions, a stat that Tipperary Maestro, Aidan O’Brien, (won with Starspangledbanner in 2010) will be hoping to improve on with recent Australian import, the 4yo son of Fastnet Rock, Merchant Navy.
This talented and improving young animal won five of his first six starts including at Group1 level when taking the 6f Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington last November, when despite appearing to have plenty to do one and a half furlongs out, he came with a wet sail to beat the useful Invisible Star by a head. Beaten a Shd and a Nk in a Group2 over an inadequate 5 1/2F in February next time out, he put up a terrific performance a month later in his last race down under, when finishing a close third to Saturday’s opponent, Redkirk Warrior in the Group1 Newmarket Handicap at Flemington (6f Good March 18). Held up, he finished really strongly to go down by a rapidly diminishing Shd and a Hd. He moved to the Northern Hemisphere to the Ballydoyle academy a month later, and showed that he had rapidly acclimatised when winning the Group2 Greenlands Stakes by 1L from stablemate Spirit Of Valor, with the joint favourites, Tasleet and Brando a further 1 1/2L and a Nk behind. Merchant Navy meets the winner of that Flemington Newmarket Handicap, the 7yo Redkirk Warrior on 12lbs worse terms on Saturday, and on paper looks to have it all to do, but foaled in November 2014, he is still five months shy of his 4th birthday so has much the greater potential for improvement, and it won’t come as a great surprise if placings are reversed.
Heading the market at the time of writing is the Clive Cox trained Harry Angel, and a repeat of his defeat of Brando in last months Duke of York Stakes at the eponymous course, would see him go close. Taking it up 2f out he kept on well to beat Kevin Ryan’s excellent yardstick by 2L, giving him 5lbs. Twice a winner at the top level, (Newmarket’s July Cup Gd/fm and Haydock’s Sprint Cup Hvy) the son of Dark Angel clearly handles most ground, and the only slight reservation one might have is that none of his four visits to the track have yet yielded a victory. Indeed in view of his subsequent exploits at Newmarket and Haydock his 3rd in The Commonwealth Cup to the O’Brien trained Caravaggio at last year’s meeting was disappointing.
Third in that heat was Tuesday’s King’s Stand winner, (5fGd/Fm) Blue Point, and if turning out again over Saturday’s one furlong longer trip would have to be considered. He has two course and distance wins to his credit including a 1 1/2L victory over Harry Angel in the Group3, Pavilion Stakes in May last year when in receipt of 5lbs. Having won The King’s Stand so impressively he will be a potent force if fully recovered from his exertions only four days later.
The James Fanshawe trained, The Tin Man, won last year’s renewal by a Nk and 3/4L from Tasleet and Limato in what was a pretty rough contest where none of the first three home had a straightforward passage, but perhaps Limato was the most sinned against. The Tin Man was well beaten in all three of his subsequent starts last term but made a bright start to this year’s campaign four weeks ago, when readily beating D’bai in a Listed Windsor heat. The runner up’s win in the Group3, John of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock next time out does the form no harm at all, so with the likely fast ground in his favour, and a very solid record at the track the Fanshawe 6yo is another to consider.
In view of American trainer, Wesley Wards excellent record at the Royal Meeting his lightly raced, Bound For Nowhere is worth a second look. He was a respectable 4th in last year’s Commonwealth Cup over Saturday’s course and distance on only his third racecourse appearance, and well beaten in The Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville was retired for the season. He is two from two in both races this year and last time was impressive when winning a Grade2 at Keenland by 4L from Bucchero who finished 4 3/4L behind Blue Point in Tuesday’s King’ Stand. He looks an improved performer.
Selection: Merchant Navy
E.W. : Bound For Nowhere