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Royal Ascot rolls on without the queen; Hot Rod Charlie returns to action

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
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Royal Ascot rolls on without the queen; Hot Rod Charlie returns to action
Baaeed Wins the Queen Anne Stakes to kick off Royal Ascot 2022. Photo by Megan Ridgwell, courtesy of Ascot Racecourse

June 17 (UPI) -- Royal Ascot, minus the queen, dominates this week's horse racing with Baaeed and Coroebus both winning on Day One, Australian sprinter Nature Strip proudly representing his home base and Kyprios defeating the venerable champ Stradivarius in the Gold Cup.

American runners did not get off to a good start. Neither did jockey Frankie Dettori, who has been know to make the Royal meeting his personal playground. All have time to set things right as the five-day event continues. We have the results and a brief look ahead.

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Back in North America, Hot Rod Charlie is back from his extended trip to Dubai and looms boldly as favorite in the weekend's feature at Monmouth Park. There's plenty more stakes action from coast to coast.

Let's don our finest gowns and top hats and start straight away at Ascot.

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Royal Ascot

Tuesday

Things got off to a rousing start, sadly without Her Majesty in attendance, as Baaeed, likely the banker for the entire meeting, ran strongly to the finish to take the opening race, the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes.

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Baaeed never looked in trouble as he won the straight mile by a comfortable 1 1/4 lengths with Jim Crowley riding for trainer William Haggis. Real World was second for Godolphin with Coolmore's Order of Australia checking in third.

Baaeed, a 4-year-old Shadwell homebred by Sea the Stars out of the Kingmambo mare Aghareed, remains undefeated after eight starts and has been tested only once when winning by a neck over Palace Pier in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day over the same course.

Haggis said Baaeed looks able to handle more distance and likely will get a chance at that.

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"I think we are all quite keen to give it a go," Haggis said, "and that will be at York. It's whether we slot Goodwood in, in the meantime. It's potentially Goodwood next."

The references are to the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, also at a mile, and the Group 1 Juddmonte International at 1 1/4 miles at York on Aug. 17.

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The second of three Group 1 events on the day provided a triumph for Australia and a stinging blow to the United States raiders.

Nature Strip, a massive force Down Under for trainer Chris Waller, was all alone for the final run of the 6-furlongs Kings Stand Stakes and cruised home first by 4 1/2 lengths over Twilight Calls.

The American hope, Golden Pal, was away slowly, fizzled out late and was eased home last by Frankie Dettori in a bitter disappointment for trainer Wesley Ward, who has lauded the 4-year-old Uncle Mo colt as one of his best ever.

"Australia has a huge racing and breeding industry," Waller said. "To showcase our breeds and what we do is important. Ratings stack up and he is one of the highest-rated horses in the world, but until you do it on the main stage it's another story. It will just remind everybody about how strong we are in Australia."

Nature Strip immediately was touted to run back in the second Group 1 sprint of the Royal meeting, the Group 1 Platinum Jubilee. Waller, however, quickly nixed that suggestion for the 7-year-old gelding.

The Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes for 3-year-olds went to Qipco 2000 Guineas winner Coroebus -- but just. The Godolphin homebred Dubawi colt barely held off long shot Lusail by a head with several others in close attendance at the end of the mile on the Round Course.

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The familiar duo of William Buick and Charlie Appleby see to the winner, who now has four wins and a second from five starts, the loss by a neck to Royal Patronage in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes last September.

Appleby said the victory could propel Coroebus into a showdown with Baaeed and other older rivals in the Sussex.

"I'm sure it's a discussion we would like to have in the coming weeks," Appleby said. "His Highness Sheik Mohammed and team Godolphin have never shied away from a challenge and it will be a good healthy conversation and something that is strongly looked upon."

Also on opening day, Hollie Doyle got on the jockey winners' list with a score in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes on relative long shot Bradsell and Daniel Tudhope booted home to last two winners of the day -- Dubai Future at 20-1 odds and Get Shirty at 16-1.

Wednesday

State of Rest, winner of the Group 1 Prix Ganay earlier this season, rebounded from a third-place finish in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh to win the sole Group 1 event on Day 2 of the Royal meeting, the Prince of Wales's Stakes.

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The 4-year-old Starspangledbanner colt, trained by Joseph Patrick O'Brien, made all and held off the favorite, Bay Bridge, by 1 length after 1 1/4 miles. France-based Grand Glory, fifth in last year's Japan Cup, was third, ironically edging the Japanese entry in the Prince of Wales's, Shahryar.

It was a fourth top-level success for globetrotter State Of Rest, following 2021 wins in the Grade I Saratoga Derby Invitational in New York and Australia's Cox Plate in addition to this year's Ganay.

Joseph O'Brien, who rode six Royal Ascot winners as a jockey, got his first Royal Ascot winner as a trainer and credited jockey Shane Crosse.

"State Of Rest is a very tough horse," O'Brien said. "We had a good chat with Shane and decided to make the running. It could not have worked out better."

Dettori, whose Royal meeting did not get off smoothly, reported last in the Prince of Wales's after losing many lengths at the start when he took several tries to get the blindfold off his mount, Lord North.

Also Wednesday, Ward got a bit of consolation as Love Reigns managed a fourth-place finish among 21 2-year-old fillies in the Group 2 Queen Anne Stakes, won by Dramatized with Tudhope scoring, but this time on the favorite.

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Eldar Eldarov was up in the final stride to take the Group 2 Queen's Vase as the favorite, and Safron Beach, the joint-favorite, took down the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes for fillies and mares.

Thursday

Day 3 could only be categorized as a day of disappointments. Her Majesty was unable to make an appearance to watch her best hope of the meeting, Reach for the Moon.

Reach for the Moon could only finish second as the favorite in the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes, turned back by pacesetting Claymore in the final yards. And sentimental favorite Stradivarius came up short in his effort to win the Group 1 Gold Cup for the fourth time.

The Gold Cup went to Kyprios, a 4-year-old Galileo colt who could become the heir to Stradivarius at the top of the stayers' ranks.

Sent off as the favorite, Kyprios took the lead in the final furlong of the marathon and rolled home an energetic winner by 1/2 length over Mojo Star. Stradivarius and the luckless Dettori were caught behind a wall of rivals through the early stretch run and had to circle the field to mount a late rally and get third.

Ryan Moore, who rode Kyprios to give trainer Aidan O'Brien his eighth Gold Cup, said the race was complicated while run at a slow early pace, adding, "It wasn't a true test today. I don't think we saw the best of him."

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Also Thursday, The Riddler scored a controversial upset win in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes for 2-year-olds. The Brazen Beau colt, stepping up massively in class, veered sharply in front of rivals inside the final furlong, then rallied to win by 1 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Walbank and survived a stewards' inquiry.

Magical Lagoon edged the favorite, Sea Silk Road, by 1/2 length in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

Friday

The penultimate day of the gala meeting features the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup, a 6-furlongs affair that looks very competitive with 20 entries, and the Group 1 Coronation Stakes with 3-year-old fillies going 1 mile.

In the latter, Bobby Flay's Pizza Bianca is general 14-1 long shot in a field of 12. Ward is in with another shot in Ruthin, an 11-1 chance in a big field for the 5-furlongs Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes for 3-year-olds.

Saturday

Twenty-seven sprinters are set for the sole Group 1 event on the final day, the aforementioned Platinum Jubilee. And while Waller won't have Nature Strip in that herd, he does have the antepost favorite, Home Affairs.

That's not much of a discount as Home Affairs narrowly defeated Nature Strip two starts back in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning -- a race named for the famous mare whose victory in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee at the 2012 Royal meeting touched off wild celebrations half a world away.

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The field for this year's running is not only huge but also talented, including the likes of Ward's final hope of the meeting, Campanelle; Godolphin's Group 1 British Champion Sprint Stakes winner Creative Force; Japan's Grenadier Guards; and Godolphin's Naval Crown.

The Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes features Godolphin runner Hurricane Lane, making his first appearance since finishing third in last year's Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

France

Action shifts across the Channel on Sunday for the Group 1 Prix de Diane Longines for 3-year-old fillies. With final declarations pending, the race looks to have a big field with no shortage of talent.

There's a lot of sorting out involved but it's worth noting trainers John and Thady Gosden and jockey Hollie Doyle have Cazoo Oaks third Nashwa here as opposed to any of the Ascot races.

Meanwhile, back in the states:

Classic / Dirt Mile

Everything revolves around Hot Rod Charlie in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park. He's run with the best of them, winning more than $5 million.

Still, here are the questions: Is he recovered from his extended trip to Dubai, where he won the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 and finished second to Country Grammer in the Dubai World Cup?

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And what about his only previous start at Monmouth, where he finished first in last year's Grade I Haskell, only to be set down to seventh for gross interference in the stretch?

There are alternatives. Phat Man, Helium, Shirl's Speight and Mind Control all are graded stakes winners. Still, if Charlie is ready to surf, he should be happy "down the shore."

Saturday's $150,000 TVG.com Pegasus Stakes for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park is one to watch, especially given the wide-open nature of this year's sophomore division.

The nine-horse field includes some progressive, late-blooming types including Oaklawn Stakes winner Home Brew, Long Branch Stakes winner Dash Attack, Electability and Mr Jefferson.

Distaff

Private Mission tops a field of six set for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita. The 4-year-old Into Mischief filly won four of her first five starts, and then finished 11th in the Breeders' Cup Distaff when trained by Bob Baffert.

Now in Sean McCarthy's barn, she finished second in her 2022 debut, the Grade 3 Las Flores. Blue Stripe and Lady Mystify also figure.

Society is installed as a narrow morning-line favorite in a field of five for Saturday's $160,000 Monomoy Girl Stakes at Churchill Downs. The Steve Asmussen-trained Gun Runner filly is undefeated after two races and steps into stakes company for the first time.

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Sprint

Morning-line favorite Ny Traffic certainly didn't get any sweet draw for Friday's $100,000 Chocolate Town Stakes at Penn National.

The 5-year-old son of Cross Traffic, winner of two of his last three starts, is parked in the outside gate in a field of 11 set to go 6 furlongs. Beren has been a reliable competitor on the circuit and won his only previous start over the track.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Seven names were found in the entry box for Friday's $100,000 Susquehanna Valley Stakes at Penn National and the 6-furlongs affair is a real program-stabber. Kaylasauras is the morning-line pick after winning her last at Laurel Park.

Turf Sprint

Nine are in for Sunday's $100,000 Stormy Blues Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Laurel Park at 5 1/2 furlongs on the green.

Buy the Best, a Tapiture miss, has a four-race win streak going with the last two stakes races at Laurel. Derrynane has run against the best, including in the Breeders's Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, and finds a much softer spot. Fly Me Home could make the frame.

Turf Mile

Masen gets the oddsmaker's nod in a field of five entered for Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Poker Stakes at Belmont Park. The 4-year-old Juddmonte homebred colt by Kingman was a three-time winner in Ireland before being shipped to the Chad Brown operation.

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He was second in the Grade I Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland in his U.S. debut and won the Seek Again Stakes at Belmont in his most recent try. Brown also fields Public Sector and that one, along with Sanctuary City, look like solid competitors.

Sunday's $100,000 Grade III American Stakes at Santa Anita has a well-matched and talented field of 10. Hong Kong Harry is 2-for-2 since arriving from England.

Vanzzy just missed in the Grade III San Francisco Mile in his last start. Tripoli won the Grade I Pacific Classic but hasn't been seen since a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Majestic Eagle exits a second in the Grade III Daytona.

Filly & Mare Turf

Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth Park has a competitive field of eight including two Chad Brown trainees -- Fluffy Socks and Lemista.

The former is the 3-1 morning-line favorite but this 1 1/16-miles event is truly wide open, especially with Fluffy Socks starting on the outside coming down the infield chute.

Turf

Chad Brown also saddles two for Saturday's $150,000 Monmouth Stakes, and they again include the favorite, 7-year-old, French-bred Sacred Life. But, again, there are plenty of potential winners in the mix in what should be a worthwhile wagering opportunity.

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Sunday's $100,000 Possibly Perfect Stakes at Santa Anita has a field of seven, but six of them seem to have Neige Blanch to beat.

The 5-year-old French-bred mare wasn't quite up to the Grade I competition she faced early in her U.S. career, but has hit the board in seven of her last eight starts with three Grade III wins in that equation.

Sunday's $150,000 Grade III San Juan Capistrano Stakes at Santa Anita is a proper marathon at 1 3/4 miles, starting at the top of the hillside turf course and requiring a full lap of the main turf oval after that.

Only one of the eight entries has ever tried that long a race and that one, Red King, is making his fourth start in the Santa Anita fixture with a win and two thirds to show for previous efforts. The others have to show they can do it.

Juvenile

While Doug O'Neill is preoccupied with Hot Rod Charlie's return to action on the East Coast, his barn also sends out the two favorites in a field of nine for Saturday's $150,000 Fasig-Tipton Futurity at Santa Anita. Absolutely Zero, a Nyquist colt, and Tahoma, by Justify, both won at first asking last month.

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Juvenile Fillies

Tom's Regret and Rousing Jewel are the morning-line favorites among seven in Saturday's $150,000 Fasig-Tipton Debutante at Santa Anita.

Tom's Regret is 2-for-2, with a victory in the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes at Churchill Downs in her most recent outing. Rousing Jewel won her only previous start at Golden Gate Fields.

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