Royal Ascot: Commonwealth Cup Preview

Karl BurkeThe six furlong Commonwealth Cup market has been headed by Quiet Reflection ever since she skipped clear of the field at Haydock (3.40pm Friday live on Channel 4). Is she the proverbial good thing at 2/1 or is it worth opposing her?

Quiet Reflection’s devastating burst of speed in the Sandy Lane Stakes was impressive. Trainer Karl Burke (pictured) was not surprised by the manner of her victory. He said immediately afterwards that this race would be her target. Her (former jump) jockey Dougie Costello was full of praise for this daughter of Showcasing describing her as a ‘push-button filly’. She used to be a bit keen in her races but was much more amenable last time.

This will be Quiet Reflection’s third start of the season. She narrowly won the Group 3 Prix Sigy on heavy ground in Chantilly on her debut in April. Burke admitted that his horses were not in great form at the time. She has the highest mark in the line-up and will benefit from the 3lb fillies’ allowance.

Mark Johnston’s Buratino (16/1) is rated just 1lb lower than Quiet Reflection by the handicapper but he was well beaten by her in the Sandy Lane. In his previous start he was nine lengths behind Galileo Gold in the 2,000 Guineas – admittedly on ground that was good to soft rather than his preferred good to firm.

This son of Exceed And Excel was a star performer as a juvenile, winning the Coventry here. He was also capable of finishing within half a length of Shalaa. Buratino was reportedly working extremely well before his first start but we have yet to see a performance reminiscent of his efforts last season on a racecourse. Quick ground is out of the question too. Whatever the handicapper’s view, he is best watched.

Donjuan Triumphant (11/2) lived up to his name three times as a juvenile, including winning the Group 2 Criterium De Maisons-Laffitte impressively by five lengths in October for Richard Fahey. That was over six furlongs on soft. He was a beaten favourite next time on very testing ground over a furlong further in Saint-Cloud Group 1 in November.

More recently Fahey was very downbeat before Donjuan Triumphant’s seasonal debut in the Sandy Lane Stakes. He wanted to warn the world that he had a difficult winter with this son of Dream Ahead. Despite his trainer’s doubts this colt was runner-up to Quiet Reflection, beaten just under four lengths. He obviously has some improvement to find but Fahey thinks that he is at his most effective on soft. If he has come on for that run there has to be hope that he can reverse the placings.

Richard Hannon’s Log Out Island (6/1) was beaten seven lengths by Donjuan Triumphant at Maisons-Laffitte but posted some very decent efforts last year. He won the valuable Totepool Two-Year-Old Trophy in October and was runner-up to Fahey’s Ribchester in the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes in September on good to soft.

We last saw this son of Dark Angel exiting the stalls like a bullet from a gun and gaining a 10 length lead on the field in a six furlong listed race at Newbury in May. Owned by Godolphin, he won unchallenged by over three lengths under James Doyle. He was wearing a hood for the first time but, while the conventional calming effect was clearly lacking, it worked. He wears it again here and we can expect him to blaze the trail if he breaks well. Winning in this company when the strongest contenders are hold-up horses would be quite an achievement but stranger things have happened.

His stablemate Illuminate (16/1) is rated 3lb higher at 113 but was unimpressive when trying a mile for the second time in her seasonal debut in the 1,000 Guineas. She was beaten over 20 lengths by Minding and had only two fillies behind her in a field of 16. Connections were probably encouraged to try a mile again after she had finished less than three lengths behind the winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in Keeneland in October. The surface was described as yielding and her form suggests that quick ground suits her.

As a juvenile she won her first three starts. Her second victory was in the Group 2 Albany Stakes here on good to firm. She proved herself again by winning another Group 2 at Newmarket in July, narrowly beating Besharah on a similar surface. Only Mark Johnston’s Lumiere was too good for her in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes in September.

This daughter of Zoffany has more hope than her odds suggest dropped back to her optimum trip. The problem is that we don’t know if she has trained on. Illuminate would probably benefit from quicker ground than she is likely to get here but, if the track dries out, could have each-way claims.

Henry Candy’s La Rioja (12/1) was beaten nearly seven lengths in the Sandy Lane Stakes on her seasonal debut, looking to need the run. She scored at Group 3 level last term on soft, having won her maiden at the second time of asking on quick ground.

This will be just her fifth start and she could be open to improvement off her rating of 110 but the stable form does not inspire confidence.

There are no such worries about Aidan O’Brien’s yard. Washington DC (9/1) will certainly not want for fitness as this is fifth start this term. He was a beaten favourite last time out in a Group 3 at Naas at the end of May where hold-up tactics possibly did for his chances. He won a listed race two weeks earlier at Navan on good to firm.

O’Brien and Ryan Moore are always worthy of respect but Washington DC’s disappointing effort in the Pavilion Stakes here in April is a concern. He was beaten seven lengths by Gifted Master with give in the ground. If not for his connections, Washington DC would probably be much more generously priced.

His stablemate Waterloo Bridge (40/1) scored here last year beating Log Out Island in the Norfolk, a Group 2 over five furlongs. This son of Zoffany ran with promise on his debut at Newmarket in April, finishing second, beaten three lengths by Gifted Master but it has been all downhill in his two starts since.

Waterloo Bridge finished five lengths behind Washington DC at Navan. Last time he was about three lengths behind the beaten Washington DC at Naas. Seamie Heffernan accompanies him on what has to be seen as a recovery mission.

The French raider Cheikeljack (12/1) comes into this in much better form and will not mind cut in the ground. Trained by Alex Pantall, this son of Myboycharlie won a Group 3 over seven furlongs on heavy ground at Maisons-Laffitte in early April, beating the subsequently demoted Ribchester and useful Attendu.  Ribchester’s victory in the Jersey Stakes has franked that form. We have not seen Cheikeljack since.

In his only other run this term Cheikeljack was beaten less than two lengths in a hot listed race over a mile on good to soft at Saint-Cloud. The winner, Dicton, finished third behind The Gurkha at Deauville.

Three of Pantall’s past ten runners have scored in France but Pantall has yet to achieve more than a placing in the UK. Cheikeljack is dropping back in trip here but could be interesting each-way if the ground is very testing.

Kachy (16/1) and Dream Dubai (16/1) both represent the sire Kyllachy. Tom Dascombe’s Kachy looks to need decent ground but there is some hope for Dream Dubai. He finished second to Gifted Master in the Pavilion but was a well beaten favourite last time, 11 lengths behind Log Out Island at Newbury.

Quiet Reflection looks a worthy favourite and the one they all have to beat. It is a tall order but the strongest chance looks to lie with Donjuan Triumphant who is entitled to come on for his only outing this term and is likely to enjoy underfoot conditions.

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