2020 Royal Ascot Windsor Castle Stakes – First chance for the youngsters to shine
Going to post on day two of Royal Ascot, the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes is the first of the two-year old only contests and the five furlong sprint is always a furiously-run and competitive affair.
This race is usually run on the final day, but has been rescheduled for 2020 Royal Ascot following the coronavirus pandemic and takes place on Wednesday. Brian Healy picks out a few interesting potential runners in the Windsor Castle Stakes race whom it might pay to take an interest in.
WARD SET FOR ANOTHER STRONG CHALLENGE
United States’ Wesley Ward always sends a number of runners to Royal Ascot and this year is no exception with the trainer likely to be represented in a number of the big sprint contests.
Ward has taken top honours in the Windsor Castle Stakes twice in recent years, most recently with Hootenanny in 2014 and he could be doubly represented in the contest by both Sunshine City and Sheriff Bianco.
The former won her only start to date at Gulfstream, coming from off the pace with a real rattle to score easily and Ward thinks she’ll be even better on turf where Frankie Dettori will take the reins. Dettori and Ward have teamed up to good effect in the past so a big run is expected.
That said, Sheriff Bianco can’t be easily dismissed despite only finishing second on his debut at Churchill Downs although he bumped into a potentially classy rival in Cowan that day. Like Sunshine City, Ward expects his second runner to also thrive for the switch to turf and the booking of champion jockey Oisin Murphy catches the eye.
THREE UP FOR AIDAN O’BRIEN
Southern Hills gave the Ballydoyle maestro only his second win to date in the race and O’Brien could saddle as many as three in the contest with Chief Little Hawk, Hyde Park Barracks, Merchants Quay and Lipizzaner all likely to feature.
It may well be the latter who has the strongest claims having looked useful in both runs although still appearing rough around the edges when turned over at odds-on recently. There’s a suspicion though that the winner is useful and the Uncle Mo colt could progress further especially with a drop to five furlongs unlikely to present a problem given he’s shown plenty of dash in his races to date.
EXPERIENCE COUNTS FOR PLENTY
The Windsor Castle Stakes is usually a big field contest and those with experience can often come through; all but one of the last 18 winners of the race had had at least two runs and only a handful of the intended runners in the 2020 Royal Ascot renewal meet that criteria including the aforementioned Lipizzaner and Archie Watson’s Jojo Rabbit who won last time up on the all-weather.
Watson took this prize two years ago with Soldier’s Call who went on to win a Group Two and place at the highest level; but Mighty Gurkha could prove the pick of his contingent in the race having run out an impressive winner of his debut at Lingfield where the Sepoy colt struck by an easy seven lengths.
He could improve significantly for that debut effort and the red-hot Hollie Doyle will ride. He looked a precocious talent in that first run, full of energy and speed and a drop to five furlongs would be no issue given how he travelled in the race. There’s little doubt he would rate a major player if turning out.
FATE OF THE FAVOURITES
Favourites don’t have the best record in the race with little over 50% failing to make the frame and only three of the last 18 have landed the win. Meanwhile ten of the last 18 winners returned at double-figure odds which includes a 100/1 chance so swerving the market leaders may not be too bad a ploy when it comes to finding the winner. However there’s no stand-out candidate in this latest renewal and the race has a very open feel to it.
WINDSOR CASTLE STAKES VERDICT
Although he’s been beaten on both starts, Lipizzaner ticks most of the boxes needed for a race of this nature and there’s a suspicion Aidan O’Brien’s charge will get better with experience given he still looked inexperienced when beaten at Navan last time.
He has form at the minimum trip, has the most experience in the race with two runs under his belt and unless there’s solid support for him in the betting markets he’s unlikely to go off favourite for the race against the Wesley Ward pair in opposition.
Debut-winner Chief Little Hawk will have the Ryan Moore treatment and is respected alongside fellow first-time winner Victory Heights (James Tate) and Yazaman (William Haggas) However Mighty Gurkha also makes some appeal also for in-form trainer Archie Watson and a replication of his Lingfield debut demolition would put him in the frame.
For each-way backers he could be worth a dabble with a Royal Ascot free bet to post a big run.