Royal Ascot 2010 Ante-Post Portfolio

Such is the whirlwind opening of the British flat season: as the prestige of Epsom’s Derby meeting draws to a close, it is a mere ten days until the opening day of Royal Ascot.

Mid-June in Berkshire is the place to be for racing enthusiasts, with arguably the best five days of the flat fare anywhere in the world.

Finding winners can look tricky at first glance; but within the winning profiles of the big race alumni emerge some very strong trends to guide us towards the pay window. Below are four of the big races, and the trends that might solve these fiendish equine puzzles.

QUEEN ANNE STAKES – JUNE 15TH 2010

The first race at the Royal Ascot meeting is the Queen Anne Stakes which has seen some clear trends emerge both before and since it was raised to Group 1 status in 2003.

There are currently 26 horses declared for this year’s race but we can immediately discard two of the old timers as all of the last 25 winners were aged four or five.

Next to go are any British trained runners who are officially rated below 112 as every one of the last eleven winners had achieved at least this figure. Whilst on the subject of countries, it is interesting to note that Valixir in 2005 is the only winner to have been trained outside of Great Britain or Ireland since the mid 1970’s. On the face of it then, Goldikova and Dalghar have it to do.

Goldikova, the favourite, is a fantastic race mare, but the Queen Anne has been a pretty tough race for the ladies, as there hasn’t been a winning filly or mare for over 50 years.

Indeed, if we look at the last eight fillies to go to post they finished 07246723. Both Darjina and Finsceal Beo were well fancied (1st and 2nd favourites), and well beaten, fillies in 2008.

Since the Queen Anne achieved its Group 1 status, all of the last five winners had already won at least one race at this level, which if we weed out those who haven’t, means we are now looking at just five of the original 26 declarations.

The race is run over the straight mile and takes a lot of stamina to get home so it’s no surprise to see that twelve of the last fourteen winners had already won at the trip. This doesn’t bode well for two of our remaining quintet of horses, leaving a shortlist of Lord Shanakill, Paco Boy and Rip Van Winkle.

Although the record of Sandown Mile and Lockinge winners over the last 20 years is poor, it was also true that the record of Sandown Mile winners in the Lockinge was poor prior to this season.

That didn’t stop Pace Boy from tangoing home in the latter event having waltzed home in the former.

All of the last dozen winners had at least one seasonal run prior to the Queen Anne, which leaves Rip Van Winkle with it all to do, especially in light of his trainer’s penchant for bringing his horses on for their seasonal debut.

This leaves Paco Boy as the likeliest winner, and Lord Shanakill as an interesting outsider.

ST JAMES’S PALACE STAKES – JUNE 15TH 2010

This is a race that traditionally brings together the winners of the major European Guineas and often decides the top 3yo miler. Incredibly, Aiden O’Brien has won six of the last ten renewals of this Group 1 race.

One thing that all of the last 11 winners have in common though is they had all made the frame in a Group 1 race at some point in their career, and they had all finished in the first four of a Guineas. You have to go back to Shavian in 1990 to find the last winner not to have run in a Group 1 race that same season.

It definitely pays to follow the Guineas form in this race and if we look at where winners of the St James’s Palace had finished in the respective Guineas we see the following: Newmarket: 2123415, Curragh: 21102111 and Longchamp: 1614.

The record of winners from the 2000 Guineas is Newmarket: 1451, Irish 2000 Guineas: 611071511, French 2000 Guineas: 16225135, German 2000 Guineas: 435 but it’s worth bearing in mind that since 1999 four of the last five beaten favourites were Guineas winners.

Also, seven winners in that period had run in both the Newmarket and Irish Guineas (where four had made the frame in both).

Pretty convincing data which when applied to the declared runners for this year’s St James’s Palace leaves us with eight different horses who all made the frame of a European Guineas.

What is interesting is that no winner in the last 13 years has come direct from Newmarket to win at Ascot so this seems to count against Makfi.

No horse in the last 11 years has won this race having run more than nine times in their career, leaving Free Judgement looking a little exposed, and all of the British winners have been rated 116+ which leaves the Godolphin pair of Buzzword and Frozen Power looking a bit short of the requisite class.

Of the octet, Steinbeck is the only one not to have made the podium in a Group 1 race, all of which reduces our shortlist to three: Canford Cliffs, Viscount Nelson, and Dick Turpin.

Picking between them is certainly tricky, but should Aiden O’Brien’s Viscount Nelson run after his close up 5th in the French Derby, then he looks excellent each way value, given his trainer’s incredible record in the race.

That’s the mile, three year old colts reviewed, but what about the fillies?

CORONATION STAKES – ROYAL ASCOT 18TH JUNE 2010

While the European 2000 Guineas winners fight it out in the St James’s Palace Stakes on the opening day of the meeting, the fillies have their scrap later in the week – on the Friday – to determine the best female miler in Europe.

The Coronation Stakes is also a Group 1 race that is run on the round course and, like the colts’ version, usually attracts runners that have been contesting the Guineas in England, France, Ireland and occasionally Germany.

With all of the last ten winners having contested at least one Guineas race it looks the obvious place to start.

Seven of those winners had run at Newmarket where they had finished: 1120561, two had run in France: 23 and three in Ireland: 115. Interestingly only one winner had run at both Newmarket and the Curragh.

Winners of the Newmarket 1000 Guineas finished: 5116981, Irish: 8101087, French: 4302834 and German: 102

The French version is by far the weakest of the four European Guineas as it has seen all eight winners to have tried in the last fifteen years, fail. That said, Banks Hill did win the Coronation Stakes in 2001 having been beaten into second place in the French 1000 Guineas. She ran in, and won, a race between her Longchamp and Ascot efforts and beat her French 1000 Guineas conqueror out of sight in the Coronation Stakes rematch.

We can’t really discard the French winner this year as she also won at Newmarket (albeit both races were won in the Stewards room) but we will concentrate solely on those fillies to have run in one of the four European Guineas races.

We are also looking for a horse that has won over 7f or 1m in their career.

This leaves us with fourteen of the 31 runners currently declared for the race.

From this group, we ought to look to those who had won at Group 3 level or above (the last ten winners all had) and, like ten of the last 11 winners, could boast a win in one of their last three runs.

We’ll consider Jacqueline Quest the ‘winner’ of the 1000 Guineas to give us nine remaining at this stage.

We’re left with nine for our shortlist and, with a few of them having alternative engagements, this looks tricky to play. However, the two I like most are: Music Show and Sent From Heaven

THE ROYAL HUNT CUP – ROYAL ASCOT 16TH JUNE 2010

They don’t come any tougher than the Hunt Cup where a final field of around 25 battle-hardened handicappers run over a straight mile. By using a few robust trends, however, we can soon reduce the contest to a more manageable size.

This is one of only three races at Royal Ascot where the Queen actually presents the trophy (the other two being the Gold Cup and the Queens Vase) which, while an interesting fact, doesn’t help us to narrow down the field any.

So let’s move on to more material matters: by looking back at the past winners of this race we can see that in the last 24 renewals of this race, all bar two of the winners were aged either four or five years old, which helps us quite a lot.

This is a very strong age trend that covered five of the first six horses home last year (despite nearly a third of the field being made up of horses aged 6 and over) and in the last 11 years, covered 36 of the 44 win and placed horses.

If we apply this to the 73 declared runners we can eliminate 26 straight away, which means over one third of the field has been removed with just one key trend.

Now let’s review how weight has affected the outcome of this race by looking at the fact that every winner since 1999 has been officially rated 91 or higher. From our remaining list, we can eliminate a further group of horses, leaving us with 31. At the other end of the weight and ratings spectrum, all of the past fourteen winners carried 9 stone 5lb or less.

Assuming Forgotten Voice stands his ground and carries the top-weight of 9-10, we can lose all of those rated within 5lb of him meaning another five runners can be dismissed.

We are now left with 27 runners to concentrate on.

Being one of the most prestigious handicaps in the racing calendar, we would expect to see winners of the Class 2 Royal Hunt Cup to have shown good form at, or around, this sort of grade. In fact, eleven of the last twelve winners of the Hunt Cup had already won a race at Class 3 or higher which excludes a further six runners.

Current form is a useful asset in any race and, with all of the last 11 winners having run first or second in at least one of their previous three runs, the Hunt Cup is no exception.

Applying this to the remainder reduces our options to a round dozen, and there are still eminently sensible angles to apply.

For instance, given the number of runners that take part in the Hunt Cup (usually 25 or more), it is hardly surprising that previous form in a big field is hugely advantageous. Indeed, every winner in the decade from 1999-2008 had been placed or better in a handicap with 16 runners or more.

This run came to an end last year when the winner Forgotten Voice defied this trend (incidentally it was the only trend that he fell down on).

As he was a very lightly raced horse (just 3 runs) and was obviously handicapped very nicely I’m willing to overlook his failure to meet this particular trend and carry on looking for a horse with placed form in a big field of handicappers.

Of the dozen left, only seven of them have proved themselves in these conditions.

As an Irish trained horse hasn’t won the Hunt Cup for over 25 years I will be reluctantly overlooking David Marnane’s pair – Dandy Boy and Bangalore Gold – and plump instead for a domestic runner leaving, a shortlist at this stage of Tartan Gigha, Suruor, Manassas, Mull Of Killough and Swift Gift.

And finally, as the race gets nearer and the final race declarations are made there are a couple of other factors to look out for. Firstly, it’s always worth noting any horse carrying a penalty in the Hunt Cup as they have had a terrible time of it over the years.

In fact in the last 14 years there have been thirty horses to have run with a penalty, and all thirty have been beaten including the red hot favourite Bankable in 2008. In last year’s race, Dunno was the sole runner to carry a penalty and he finished 14th of the 25 runners.

The second factor to note in a big field of runners like the Hunt Cup is the draw. In the last 11 years those drawn in middle to high stalls have had a terrible time with just 4 of the 44 win and placed horses coming out of stalls 16-25. The full breakdown looks like…

Stalls 1-5 have provided 18 win and placed horses

6-10 9

11-15 4

16-20 2

21-25 2

26+ 9

Looking at those figures and seeing that last year’s first three home were drawn 1, 5 and 4 you could even say that those drawn 1-10 have a massive advantage.

So look to the low-drawn members of that quintet for your Hunt Cup wagers.

Comments

One Response to “Royal Ascot 2010 Ante-Post Portfolio”
  1. john murray says:

    dear matt,
    what a massive piece of information.
    i am simply breathless on reading your blog.
    coming so early in 2011 is fantastic. all details
    well and truely noted.
    as per usual matt, i am so proud to be with a
    person, issueing so much details. my scincere
    thanks.
    john murray

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