Continued from Thursday’s Royal Ascot forecast…
The six-furlong Albany for juvenile fillies could involve two from Ward’s barn, his preferred spot for Fairyland and Princess Peggy. But the early favorite is Harrington’s Alpha Centauri, a ready winner of both of her starts at Naas. O’Brien’s most promising duo of September (by Deep Impact out of Peeping Fawn) and Clemmie (Churchill’s full sister) would both loom large here, but either could opt for Saturday’s Chesham instead. Another Irish-based prospect, Black Sails, beat some useful colts at the Curragh in her debut for Ger Lyons. Hannon’s Natural, Mark Johnston’s Starlight Mystery, and Charlie Hills’ Elizabeth Bennett have also caught the eye so far.
The King Edward VII (G2) may attract Derby also-rans Permian, Salouen (who was badly hampered), Best Solution, Glencadam Glory, and Khalidi, but trends suggest to look for fresh faces here. Hence early favoritism has landed upon Stoute’s Crystal Ocean, third to Permian in the Dante (G2). Sir John Lavery appears to be O’Brien’s preferred standard-bearer, on a retrieval mission after flopping in the Lingfield Derby Trial. Godolphin’s Royal Lodge (G2) winner Best of Days makes a belated reappearance, but Palmer’s patience in not rushing him back into the Derby may help his cause in the 1 1/2-mile contest.
Caravaggio, so dominant in last summer’s Coventry, returns to the scene as the heavy favorite in the Commonwealth Cup (G1) over the same six-furlong distance. The O’Brien pupil retained his perfect record in his Lacken (G3) comeback, assuring supporters that he’s trained on. This promises to be an old-fashioned Coolmore versus Godolphin showdown, with the Dubai-based operation buying Harry Angel off his course record-setting Sandy Lane (G2). He’ll give Godolphin a one-two punch alongside Blue Point, himself a recent course record-breaker in the Pavilion (G3) at this track and trip. But there are a couple of others who can disrupt the head-to-head match, including Ward’s undefeated Bound for Nowhere and French speedball Fas.
O’Brien could turn a quick Group 1 double on the card, for Winter is odds-on in the Coronation (G1) for three-year-old filly milers. The 1000 Guineas (G1) and Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) star will meet Precieuse, the French 1000 Guineas (G1) winner, who was supplemented to this after her private purchase by Peter Brant’s White Birch Farm. American rooting interests center upon La Coronel, trained like Tepin by Mark Casse. French Guineas runner-up Sea of Grace, Fred Darling (G3) scorer Dabyah, and Roger Varian’s intriguing Tomyris are others in with a shout.
Emerging three-year-old stayers will line up in the Queen’s Vase (G2), newly reconfigured to 1 3/4 miles (rather than two) this year. Johnston, who has had great success in this race over the years, sends out Time to Study off a score in the Edinburgh Cup at Musselburgh at this distance. O’Brien, not far behind Johnston in the Queen’s Vase records, has his usual army to choose from, perhaps most notably Chester Vase (G3) hero Venice Beach and Tipperary maiden winner Wisconsin (a full brother to the aforementioned two-year-old filly September). The Aga Khan’s homebred Haripour, a Shamardal half-brother to 2016 dual Derby hero Harzand, is engaged for Dermot Weld.
Friday wraps up with the Duke of Edinburgh, a 1 1/2-mile handicap.
Series concludes with Saturday’s Royal Ascot forecast…