Ten two-year-olds to look out for at Royal Ascot next week
Sunday 18 June 2017
Andy Stephens picks ten two-year-olds to look out for at next week's royal meeting and recommends a bet
The six races for two-year-olds at Royal Ascot next week account for a fifth of the whole meeting.
Last year’s roll of honour included Churchill, Lady Aurelia and Caravaggio, who return to the five-day festival this year as favourite for each of their respective Group One assignments.
Who will follow their example? Below are ten juveniles to look out for plus a suggested ante-post bet.
1. ALPHA CENTAURI
Alpha Centauri has won both her races in impressive fashion (Racingfotos.com)
Trainer: Jessica Harrington
Race: Albany Stakes
Best odds: 9-4 with Betfair and Paddy Power
The imposing Mastercraftsman filly, owned by the Niarchos family, looked an exciting prospect when winning on her debut over 6f at Naas on May 1 and confirmed that when following up back in a Listed contest back there 20 days later.
She beat the Aidan O’Brien-trained Actress by two and a half lengths on the first occasion, when the ground was good to firm, and doubled her superiority on a slower surface last time. The form has some substance and the times were good.
Jessica Harrington said after the latter success: “She takes everything in her stride and hardly breaks sweat in doing so. She has some stride on her and I don't think going further than six furlongs will be a problem as the further she goes the better she gets.”
Harrington has expressed some reservations about the possibility of fast ground at Ascot, so beware backing her ante-post.
2. BLACK SAILS
Trainer: Ger Lyons
Race: Albany Stakes
Best odds: General 14-1
Black Sails was a taking winner over 6f on her debut at the Curragh - recording a marginally quicker time than Beckford (another useful juvenile but not heading for the royal meeting) earlier on the card.
The daughter of Lope De Vega attracted support in the market in a race featuring three Aidan O’Brien-trained runners and won in fluent style from a pair who had previously shown ability. The third has since filled the same position again behind the useful Brother Bear while the well-held sixth, Murillo, has won since.
Ger Lyons spoke in glowing terms of Black Sails afterwards and any juveniles he runs at the royal meeting command respect, with Cappella Sansevero and Psychedelic Funk going close for him in the Coventry in recent years.
Looking beyond Ascot, Black Sails is bred to stay at least a mile.
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
Race: Chesham Stakes
Best odds: General 7-2
As a sister of Churchill, Clemmie has a lot to live up to but she shaped with abundant promise on her debut in a 15-runner maiden over 6f at the Curragh last month.
Slow away, green, and bustled along, she came home strongest of all to finish a close third behind the more clued-up/l and forcefully ridden Gasta.
In a few more strides Clemmie - given one crack of the whip late on by Ryan Moore - would have won and, all in all, it was a very similar debut performance to that of Churchill a year earlier. He went on to land the Chesham on his next start at 8-11 and has since continued to carry all before him.
Clemmie seems bound to improve significantly for the run and looks set to follow the same path.
Initially available at 7-1 for the Chesham, her price has since halved but might still look chunky on the day.
4. HAPPY LIKE A FOOL
Trainer: Wesley Ward
Race: Queen Mary Stakes
Best odds: 11-4 with William Hill
Wesley Ward has chalked up six winners in Royal Ascot’s races for two-year-olds since 2009 and all of them have come in the races over the minimum trip.
His youngsters are flying machines - trained to ping out the gates and equipped with blinkers to ensure all their attention is on getting from A to B as quickly as possible.
The sextet have combined to win by an aggregate of 18 lengths and put up some dazzling front-running displays, with Lady Aurelia raising the bar higher than ever with her dazzling demolition job in the Queen Mary last year.
That was the third time Ward had landed the Queen Mary since 2009, with Jealous Again and Acapulco putting up similar displays.
Ward bred and owns Happy Like A Fool, who won her debut over four and a half furlongs at Keeneland on April 9 by four lengths in a time of 51.85sec (1.4sec slower than the track record).
By way of comparison, Fairyland, her stablemate, who is heading for the Albany, won over same trip on the same card in a time of 52.68sec.
Happy Like A Fool also worked well in the company of Coventry-bound Arawak at Keeneland recently. As she floated along on the bridle, her workmate received three cracks of the whip to try to keep up.
It may be a similar story for Happy Like A Fool's rivals at Ascot.
5. IT DONT COME EASY
Trainer: Richard Fahey
Race: Windsor Castle Stakes
Best odds: not quoted
Bookmakers do not quote It Dont Come Easy for the Windsor Castle but it looks his best option.
He was well touted and backed before his debut at York and ran well to finish fourth behind Santry, but perhaps he was not seen to maximum advantage on the softish going.
That impression was endorsed when he subsequently edged out Rebel Assault at Musselburgh on quicker terrain in a course record time. The winner has since disappointed on softish ground at Beverley but had previously been a runaway winner on his debut.
Whatever, It Dont Come Easy is evidently a speedy customer well served by fast ground, which looks on the cards at the Berkshire venue. He is available at 14-1 for the Norfolk, but I'm not sure he is up to that level and the Windsor Castle looks more suitable.
Trainer: Mick Channon
Race: Queen Mary Stakes
Best odds: General 11-1
Happy Like A Fool is unlikely to have things all her own way in the Queen Mary because Neola has looked very sharp in her past two starts.
The daughter of Foxwedge impressed when blitzing her rivals in a fast time at Nottingham last month and upped her game further a week later when beating all bar the exciting Main Desire at York. She raced in isolation on the latter occasion and showed bundles of pace.
With Main Desire ruled out of Royal Ascot on Monday, Neola looks the pick of the home challengers and Channon knows a thing or two about Queen Mary winners, having won it with Bint Allayl, Queen's Logic and Flashy Wings. It will be fascinating to see if Neola can keep tabs on her American-trained rival.
Trainer: Wesley Ward
Race: Norfolk Stakes
Best odds: 5-1 with bet365
There are no shortage of Wesley Ward-trained two-year-olds to pick from this year - he looks like being represented in five of the six events for juveniles - and McErin might easily provide him with a second success in the Norfolk.
A 7½-length winner on his debut at Keeneland April 12, he then finished a close third (beaten a neck and a nose) in the $100,000 Kentucky Juvenile Stakes at Churchill Downs.
That form is almost certainly on a par with anything that British or Irish youngsters have achieved and it is worth noting that Jealous Again was beaten in the 2009 renewal before routing her rivals by five lengths in the Queen Mary at the royal meeting.
Jockey Julio Garcia has suggested McErin will be even more effective on turf and, in common with Happy Like A Fool, the colt impressed when working on grass at Keeneland recently.
Trainer: Richard Hannon
Race: Albany Stakes
Best odds: 10-1 with bet365
Richard Hannon’s youngsters have, by and large, needed their first starts this season and in several instances that has also been reflected by the lack of strength in them in the betting.
Natural was a notable exception before her debut over an extended 6f at Doncaster and those who supported the 11-10 favourite never had a moment's concern as she dictated from the outset and won without being fully extended after travelling powerfully.
In terms of form, it is difficult to know what she achieved and, with ground on the soft side, the winning time was slow.
However, the market support beforehand spoke volumes and there was plenty to like about the way she went about her business.
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Trainer: Ken Condon
Race: Coventry Stakes
Best odds: General 16-1
I’m pretty sure that if Romanised were housed in a more fashionable yard then he would be trading at much shorter odds for the Coventry.
He looked a really exciting prospect when beating 17 rivals on his debut over 6f at Navan in late April.
Forced to wait for a run, hemmed in on the rail, he showed a fine turn of foot when switched around rivals to get up in the closing stages.
Declarationofpeace (third) and Another Batt (fifth) have since gained wide-margin victories.
The former, trained by Aidan O’Brien, seemed to know his job at Navan but was beaten two lengths into third. He is quoted between 6-1 and 8-1 for the Coventry. Go figure.
Condon has revealed that Romanised has not run since because of a “small setback” but is excited about running him at the royal meeting.
Trainer: Declan Carroll
Race: Norfolk Stakes
Best odds: General 8-1
We did not have to wait long this season to see a smart two-year-old.
Santry was in action on the opening day of the new turf campaign, at Doncaster, and won a division of the Brocklesby under mostly hands and heels.
It was his latest display, though, when following up under a penalty at York, which stamps him as Royal Ascot material.
Heavily backed close to the off, he powered home after getting to the front inside the final furlong. Several of those behind him were well touted and Consequences (second) and It Dont Come Easy (fourth) have franked the form with subsequent wins.
The one question mark hanging over Santry is how he will handle quicker ground.
His trainer is confident good going will not inconvenience him.
How To Bet £20 Ante-Post on the juvenile races at Royal Ascot:
60p Win Lucky 31 plus 70p each-way accumulator
(general prices in brackets)
Coventry: Romanised (16-1)
Queen Mary: Happy Like A Fool (5-2)
Norfolk: McErin (5-1)
Albany: Black Sails (14-1)
Chesham: Clemmie (7-2)
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