by Ciarán De Barra
Royal Ascot gets underway tomorrow and the meeting starts as it means to go on with an absolutely mouth-watering clash of older milers in the Queen Anne Stakes. Goldikova is slightly favoured in the betting to build on her record-breaking Prix D’Ispahan win and take full honours here. It will be no cake walk however, as she finds herself up against Sussex Stakes and QE II victor; Rip Van Winkle and last year’s Queen Anne Stakes winner; Paco Boy.
Paco Boy has been ultra impressive so far this season with smooth successes in the Bet 365 Mile and the Lockinge Stakes. He was propelled to favouritism for this race following his easy score in the Group 1 Lockinge but as the market has taken some money and after Goldikova’s Prix D’Ispahan win, he now finds himself third favourite behind the superstar mare and the top three year old miler of 2009, Rip Van Winkle. The latter rival was last seen when failing to perform in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was however on the early pace that day and none of those on the early fractions figured at the business end in the Classic. He is a quality miler and if he shows up at full fitness he is not to be dismissed.
Goldikova and Sea the Stars were my two favourite racehorses of the 2009 season and I find it really difficult to see anything beating the star mare. She is a steely mare with so much speed and gameness. I expect another exemplary performance from her tomorrow and moreover fully expect her to record a third BC mile success this Fall. Rip Van Winkle was also a favourite of mine last year but I can not see him getting the better of the dual BC Mile winner. The straight mile at Ascot isn’t too dissimilar from the mile at Deauville where she has put in some of her best performances and I expect another thrilling performance from the mare that I think is the best miler in the world; Goldikova!
Moving on to the Classic crop of milers, the St James’ Palace Stakes later in the card is another thrilling race on Day 1 of the Royal meeting. Here, the first three home from the Newmarket 2000 Guineas re-oppose, as well as some interesting challengers in the shape of Siyouni, Steinbeck, Beethoven and the American invader Noble’s Promise. Canford Cliffs provided the most explosive mile performance by a three year old in Europe yet this season when he blew away his opposition in the Irish 2000 Guineas. Apparently, Steinbeck was a fast finishing fourth in that race but no matter how many times I watch it back I can’t take my eyes off Canford Cliffs for long enough in order to spot him.
I think this race will revolve around the market principles; Makfi, Canford Cliffs and possibly Siyouni. Olivier Peslier has picked up the ride on Makfi, as Christophe Lemaire has been retained by the Aga Khan to ride Siyouni; a horse who finished ahead of Lope De Vega on the pair’s seasonal reappearance and who didn’t run his race in the French Guineas. I think it could be a really good day for Peslier with Goldikova and Makfi to look forward to. As impressive as Canford Cliffs was at the Curragh, I find it very difficult to oppose an undefeated Guineas winner. Driving down to the Curragh for the Irish Guineas, I was looking forward to a good race from Canford Cliffs and co. but was a little disappointed that the best three year old miler wouldn’t be present and I won’t alter my stance on that until the results say I have to! We haven’t seen Makfi asked yet and I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do if Peslier has to pull out all the stops with him!