First run in 1868, the contest achieved its Group1 status in 2002 and is the last top level event in what I hope has proved to be a successful week for the punting fraternity. Since it’s elevation to Group1 status, two trainers, James Fanshawe and Aidan O’Brien have hit the target twice, and the former will be hoping his 2017 winner, The Tin Man, can go in again.
Now seven, the son of Equiano has been a marvellous servant to connections, winning 9 of his 22 starts, 3 of them at the top level, and netting nearly £1.2 million pounds in prize money. He showed that he was still capable of doing it at the top when winning Haydock’s Group1 Sprint Cup last September (6f Heavy) keeping on strongly to beat Brando by a length. He has an excellent record at Ascot, winning 3 of his 8 races over Saturday’s course and distance and despite a troubled passage in last year’s renewal (Good/Firm) ran an excellent race to finish 4th, 1 1/4L behind the winner, Merchant Navy. He had a nice pipe opener (3rd, 6f Good Windsor) 5 weeks ago and with his talented trainer in form is one to be interested in, particularly if he gets his preferred soft ground.
Another who will handle soft ground is the current market leader, Invincible Army. Trained by James Tate, the 4yo colt had a moderate strike rate of 3/11 in his first two seasons, but has a 100% record from his two runs this term, including an impressive win on the Knavesmire last time, winning The Group2, Duke Of York Stakes by a very comfortable 2 1/2L from the useful Major Jumbo. Testing conditions shouldn’t be a problem as he won over Saturday’s course and distance on soft ground when taking the Group3 Pavillion Stakes on his 3yo debut from the now 110 rated Eqtidaar, and was a good second in the 5f Molecombe Stakes as a 2yo in similar conditions. He is by the excellent stallion Invincible Spirit out of the Group1 winning mare, Rajeem, and like his sire, looks a real tough type, and deserves his place at the top of the market.
Having landed The Kings Stand Stakes over 5f with Blue Point, Godolphin will be hoping for further Group1 sprinting success with either Tuesday’s winner, or their French trained Inns Of Court. I’ve no doubt that Blue Point would be at least as well suited by Saturday’s extra furlong and if turning out again would have to be seriously considered, but the Andre Fabre trained Inns Of Court has also plenty to recommend him. Another son of Invincible Spirit, the 5yo has won 7 of his 17 starts and showed that he has speed to burn when cruising up in Group3 Chantilly heat over the minimum distance 20 days ago winning by 2 1/2L and 1/2L from Sestilio and Major Jumbo in a fast time. Considering that he has lost out by only a Short Head in two Group1s at a mile and seven furlongs, this was a pretty remarkable performance. His breeding also wouldn’t suggest that he should possess such speed as the distaff side of his pedigree is all about stamina. His dam, Learned Friend, failed to win any of her 3 starts but is a daughter of the middle distance mare, Lune D’Or, dam of the Japanese Group1 winning two miler Fierement, and Inns Of Court’s half brother, Age Of Wisdom, has won over 2miles on the flat and 2 1/2miles over hurdles. Wherever his speed comes from, he has it in abundance and he will be a potent threat to all on Saturday.
Wesley Ward won this for the US in 2015 and will be hoping that last year’s 3rd,
Bound For Nowhere can go two places better this time. The 5yo entire has continued to thrive and was just pipped by Imprimis, (6th in The Kings Stand on Tuesday) on his reappearance in a Keeneland Group2 11 weeks ago. He raced alone in last year’s renewal and was only beaten 3/4L so given some company may do better.
Last year’s runner up, the French trained City Light may have been a little unlucky as he lost ground at the start with an awkward stalls exit and was only beaten a Short Head. The son of Siyouni made a satisfactory seasonal debut when going down by 1/2L to Inns Of Court, (also making his seasonal debut) in a 6f Listed race at
Maisons-Laffitte 8 weeks ago which puts him firmly in the mix.
The Richard Fahey trained 4yo colt, Sands Of Mali ran the race of his career when landing the Group1 Champions Sprint Stakes over course and distance on soft ground last October. He also ran a great race to finish 2nd, 1/2L behind Eqtidaar in last year’s Group1 Commonwealth Cup On much faster ground, again over course and distance. He had an abortive trip to Meydan in March, but had a satisfactory pipe opener (3rd, 4 3/4L behind Brando) at Hamilton 16 days ago, and back at Ascot, where he has done so well, it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him play a very prominent part.
Selection. : Inns Of Court Danger : Invincible Army
EW. : Sands Of Mali