We take a runner-by-runner look at Friday’s Group One feature race at Royal Ascot and give our Commonwealth Cup tips for the day’s highlight.
Royal Ascot continues into day four on Friday and another cracking Group One race dominates the seven-race card with the latest renewal of the Commomwealth Cup which gets underway from 3.35pm over the straight six furlongs.
This is a relatively new contest with only five previous runnings since it was introduced in 2015; but it has already produced an impressive list of winners including former Champion Sprinter Muhaarar and last year Advertise took top honours for Martyn Meade.
A field of 17 runners will like up for the Friday feature, each with an eye on the £148,000 first prize for the winner. Be sure to catch the action on ITV Racing where the race spearheads Friday’s TV racing coverage and Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner at the field and gives his Commonwealth Cup tips for the day’s main event.
COMMONWEALTH CUP TIPS – RUNNER-BY-RUNNER GUIDE
Three-time winner last term including in softer ground at York in Listed company. Possibly failed to stay seven furlongs next time in heavy ground at Newmarket behind Kenzai Warrior and shaped as if needing his recent return at Newmarket in the Pavillion Stakes having tried to make all before checking out quickly once headed.
The Heeraat colt should be sharper for that effort but hard to imagine he’ll be good enough to mix it at this top level and he’ll need plenty of improvement to feature here.
Lightly raced winner last term with success in the mud at Haydock prior to finishing third to A’Ali in last season’s Norfolk Stakes on this card. Also third to Earthlight at Deauville, he struggled in subsequent runs although made no mistake on his reappearance in the recent Pavillion Stakes where he got the better of Malotru by a neck.
Has to back that up now though and this is a considerably tougher test being asked of Karl Burke’s charge. He could run well but he looks up against it at this higher level.
Won twice last term and finished a good fifth to Arizona in the Coventry Stakes. Successes include a defeat of subsequent dual-Group Two winner Threat when taking the Richmond Stakes and he’s twice bumped into the top-class Earthlight in starts in France and at Newmarket where he has made the frame in both starts in Group One races.
Softer ground would be a worry for the Lethal Force colt who makes his reappearance and he might just lack the sharpness required to take this contest. However, given his exploits last term Clive Cox‘s charge has to be respected if finding another chunk of improvement and no surprise to see him go well.
LOPE Y FERNANDEZ
Found only Pinatubo too good in last season’s Chesham Stakes, but he did manage to register two wins of his own which included in a Group Three at the Curragh in August before finishing sixth to Earthlight in the Middle Park Stakes.
Aidan O’Brien’s charge ran very well to finish third behind Siskin in the recent Irish 2000 Guineas and will be fully effective dropping back to six furlongs. Both his wins have come with some cut in the ground so further rain would be welcome to his chances and if none the worse for recent Irish Classic exertions he could run a big race.
Destroyed a strong field at York on just his second start but has failed to fire in two subsequent outings where he has beat only one home in those starts which includes finishing last of the field in the 2000 Guineas.
Richard Hannon’s charge probably failed to see out the trip latterly, but it may be no coincidence both poor runs have come at Newmarket and he might be better suited by this track where he won on his debut.
The Footstepsinthesand colt isn’t short of speed and can do better if ridden more prominently as was the case at York and he’s perhaps not one to write off just yet from staging a revival although question remains whether he’s good enough at this level.
Undefeated in two starts last term, Roger Varian’s charge is related to the top-class Harry Angel and showed he holds plenty of ability when readily scoring in the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on his second outing and he could be even better this term.
The third horse from that race has won a French Group Two contest since, while the fifth has won at Listed level and the Cappella Sansevero colt could have more to offer this campaign. He still looked as if he could do with the experience when winning last time and he can get better still where he rates an exciting prospect for the season.
Assuming he’s fully wound up on his return and the ground doesn’t deteriorate too much then he’s not hard to make a case for and he should be in the shake-up.
Won his first two starts last campaign over the minimum trip before struggling at six furlongs in a handful of subsequent runs including behind Threat at York in the Gimcrack Stakes. He showed better form though when getting to within a neck of Good Vibes in the Cornwallis Stakes and shaped well back from a break in first-time blinkers at Naas recently.
Aidan O’Brien’s charge was denied by little over one length behind Punita Arora and can progress for that start although a return to six furlongs isn’t sure to suit and he looks up against it at this level. For him to get involved would be something of a shock.
Doncaster winner last term but has since come up short in Group company behind both Golden Horde and Pierre Lapin, and he was last seen beating only one home over seven furlongs behind Pinatubo in the Dewhurst.
He possibly failed to stay the extra furlong that day in the heavy ground and will be better suited dropping back to this lesser test on better ground. He’s probably exposed now however and hard to see him featuring at this level and he probably wouldn’t want any more rain.
Has raced only over seven furlongs in his three starts, winning at Newmarket on debut before finishing runner-up on both subsequent outings in Group company behind Threat and King’s Command respectively.
The latter run came in France where he was beaten around three lengths and the third has come out to win since. Charlie Appleby’s charge showed he could handle slower conditions in that run and he remains with potential if coping with the drop to six furlongs.
He looks a decent Commonwealth Cup tips each-way play and he could get involved in the finish with stamina assured if the race develops into a slog.
Won two of his first three starts last term which include in a Group Two at Newmarket and he had run better than the bare result in between those successes when denied a clear run in the Coventry Stakes behind stablemate Arizona.
Aidan O’Brien’s charge might be happier returning to sprinting having looked stretched by the one mile trip in the Irish 2000 Guineas behind Siskin and he’s given another chance in blinkers having sported them for the first time at the Curragh. He could go well at a big price although questions remain whether he’s good enough at this level.
Won the Windsor Castle Stakes at this meeting twelve months ago, shedding his maiden tag in the process and makes the step up to six furlongs now on his reappearance. He showed a good attitude that day to register a half-length win and several winners have come out of that race since.
Suspicion is he’ll need this reappearance, but the Gleneagles colt will be suited by the extra furlong and he’s not underestimated for his top yard although he’s been abandoned by Ryan Moore. He could be a lively outsider if fully tuned up and with potential for better this term he is respected.
Won his first two starts last term before finding only A’Ali too good here in the Norfolk Stakes and he ran with plenty of credit in the Weatherbys Super Sprint on his final start of the campaign.
Richard Fahey’s charge will be sharper for a recent return behind Dubai Station at Newcastle where he finished sixth but needs to find a bit more on the back of that return to feature here and perhaps might be better suited by a stiff five furlongs on quick ground judging on earlier runs.
French raider who struck over seven furlongs on soft ground last term and had placed twice since in Group Three company prior to a break.
Francois-Henri Graffard’s charge made no mistake when returning to action over this trip to readily win the Group Three Prix Texanita with a three lengths’ defeat of Alocasia and there is likely more to come from him.
Ground no concern and a big run is expected from the Gallic challenger who can post a big effort here.
Won three of her first four starts last term with her sole defeat coming in the Queen Mary Stakes where she was denied only a head behind Raffle Prize having shown blistering speed only be collared late on.
Wesley Ward’s charge will be fit from a Listed win back in April at Oaklawn in the United States and the Munnings filly is dangerous to discount for her yard which has a habit of winning a big prize at this meeting. She has to prove effective over this longer trip though and the possibility of softer ground probably isn’t ideal.
Showed some smart form in France for Jean Claude Rouget, winning twice including a Listed race and signed off her time with that yard with a close runner-up effort behind Dream And Do in a Group Three contest.
The Bated Breath filly was thrust into the 1000 Guineas on her first start for new handler George Baker where she beat only one home and this is no easier assignment. While useful she looks outclassed at this level and is likely to find the company too hot.
Three-time winner last campaign which includes success in the Cheveley Park Stakes where Jessica Harrington’s charge beat Raffle Prize a shade comfortably and the Starspangledbanner filly ran well for a long way on her recent reappearance in the 1000 Guineas before her stamina gave out and she faded to finish seventh.
She may have needed that run but she will be suited by the drop back to six furlongs and she has to be of interest turning out quickly on the back of those exertions. Presumably none the worse it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her bounce back from that Classic disappointment with a better effort now back sprinting and she could make her presence felt in receipt of 3lbs from the boys.
A three-time winner last term which included success in a French Group Two contest on her penultimate start, Andrew Balding’s charge ran better than the bare result in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf where she crossed the line in ninth but only around six lengths off the winner.
Down the field in last season’s Queen Mary Stakes she is another who might benefit from the return to sprinting but her form last season leaves her with a bit to find with a couple of these. However, the form of her yard can’t be called into question and she is 3-4 at the trip so could yet improve although she’ll have to to feature.
COMMONWEALTH CUP TIPS – BIG RACE VERDICT
Unbeaten Pierre Lapin could well extend his perfect sequence and Roger Varian’s exciting prospect isn’t easily passed over; while French raider Wooded and Group One-placed Golden Horde from the Clive Cox camp are both highly respected.
However a chance is taken on the Group One-winning filly MILLISLE to bounce back to winning ways having found her stamina stretched over the 1000 Guineas trip when last seen and Jessica Harrington’s charge ought to benefit from a quick return to sprinting.
Last season’s Cheveley Park Stakes winner struck three times in all last term, finishing runner-up in her two defeats and she ran well for a long way on her reappearance before her stamina gave out and she faded. Assuming that Classic run hasn’t left a mark on the daughter of Starspangledbanner then she commands respect back at a more suitable distance in receipt of 3lbs and with underfoot conditions no issue she could post a big run.