The seven furlong Jersey Stakes for three-year-olds is an interesting opener for punters on the second day of Royal Ascot (2.30pm Wednesday, live on Channel 4). Read our big-race preview.
John Gosden and Frankie Dettori (pictured) are a formidable combination but the relatively unexposed Castle Harbour looks ungenerously priced at 6/1. Castle Harbour did not race as a juvenile but won his maiden at Newmarket first time out in April and followed up by winning a 20-runner handicap at York in May. His margin of victory was about a length in both and Dettori had to get active. Ease in the ground is likely to be less than ideal for a son of Kyllachy taking a step up in class.
A contender already proven at this Group 3 level is Hugo Palmer’s Gifted Master (9/1). He won the Autumn Stakes (run over a mile at Newmarket) as a juvenile and the six furlong Pavilion Stakes here in April comfortably, despite making a hash of leaving the stalls. The favourite, Washington DC, was a big disappointment for Ballydoyle making his task easier. As a son of Kodiac the good to soft ground should have played to his strengths.
Palmer was typically bullish about his charge’s chances in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock next time. Much was made of how he had benefitted from being gelded and was potentially progressive. Gifted Master was sent off as the favourite but was left for dead (along with the rest of the field) by Karl Burke’s impressive filly, Quiet Reflection. She conjured up a devastating burst of late speed on the good ground. Gifted Master was beaten four lengths into third. Quiet Reflection is now the clear favourite for the Commonwealth Cup.
Gifted Master may not be quite as gifted as his trainer once hoped but, back at this level over a furlong further with slower ground in prospect he should probably not be deserted by punters just yet.
Another interesting contender is Godolphin’s Ribchester (10/1). He will have to carry a 5lb penalty for winning the six furlong Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes as a juvenile on good to soft. It was his third start and his first win.
Ribchester reappeared this time in a seven furlong Group 3 at Maisons-Laffitte in April, finishing second, a length ahead of the useful Attendu. Ribchester veered left under James Doyle in the closing stages and was demoted to fifth. Hampering locally-trained horses is never a good idea in France.
Trained by Richard Fahey, Ribchester was a creditable third in the 2,000 Guineas next time, beaten three and a half lengths by Galileo Gold. This is a significant drop in class and trip. Ribchester should enjoy conditions and may well have the ability to overcome that penalty.
Herald The Dawn (16/1) also has a Group 2 penalty to shoulder. He won the seven furlong Futurity Stakes at the Curragh on ground described as yielding to soft on his third start as a juvenile and went on to finish runner-up to Air Force Blue in a Group 1 over the same course and distance.
We have only seen this son of New Approach once this season. He was beaten nearly nine lengths in the 2,000 Guineas. This looks to be more his level and he ought to cope with cut but he may compromise his chances by pulling hard early under Kevin Manning.
Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Ibn Malik (11/1) has scored twice over seven furlongs in his five starts. He won on his debut as a juvenile at Newmarket and was put into Group 2 company for his next two runs. Ibn Malik was runner-up, beaten less than a length, to Galileo Gold in the Vintage Stakes and filled the same position beaten three lengths by Emotionless in the Champagne Stakes next time. Charlie Hills tried stepping this son of Raven’s Pass up to a mile for his final effort as a juvenile only for him to be beaten a couple of lengths into third by Gifted Master.
Ibn Malik’s second victory came on his debut this term, in a hot handicap at Newmarket in April. He was joint favourite and won well from the front, going away at the finish. His jockey Paul Hanagan commented that Ibn Malik was not the sort of horse who wanted messing around among horses.
This will be his first encounter of a field larger than 12 so Hanagan will probably have him at the sharp end of affairs here.
Thikriyaat (10/1) is another Al Maktoum runner. Trained by Sir Michael Stoute this son of Azamour is unbeaten in his three starts. Not many Stoute horses are sent off at 16/1 first time out. Thikriyaat succeeded in his Chelmsford maiden over a mile in October despite the lack of confidence behind him.
He opened this season with a win on good to soft over seven furlongs at Newmarket in April and won again a month later in a listed race over the same course and distance. He won both races by a neck. Most recently Scrutineer was two lengths behind him in third off level weights. Scrutineer finished the same distance behind Ibn Malik when receiving 4lb from him.
The class acts prevailed in the soft ground on day one and it looks likely to be the case again. Castle Harbour is an unknown, potentially progressive horse but his pedigree casts doubts. Ribchester and Ibn Malik are live contenders, but this preview’s preference is for the in-form Hugo Palmer to get another Royal Ascot winner with GIFTED MASTER.