Ante-Post Value – The Queen Anne Stakes
With the two top-level sprints out of the way nice and early, it’s now time to take a quick look at the Queen Anne Stakes. It’s a Group 1 for milers on the straight track, recently won by the likes of Canford Cliffs, Declaration Of War and the great Frankel. I can’t say it’s the best betting race I’ve ever seen but we’ll take a punt on something and hope for the best.
Richard Hannon’s now 4-year-old Toronado dominates the book at a general 5/4 and is pretty much nailed-on to go off as the favourite for what will be his first racecourse outing since flopping in the Group 1 Juddmonte International won by Declaration Of War over 1m 2f at York last August.
The colt was said to have a breathing problem afterwards, for which he has subsequently had an operation, and all is well according to reports coming out of the Hannon camp. If the same horse that battled it out with Dawn Approach in last year’s St James’ Palace & Sussex Stakes manages to turn up, he’ll take a lot of beating but taking such a short price about him isn’t appealing at all.
Another high-class Hannon horse in the shape of Olympic Glory could line up and whilst probably not as classy as his stablemate, he’d be in with a shout if there was some rain about. The son of Choisir won this year’s Lockinge Stakes at Newbury with relative ease despite the going being livelier than ideal and would be shorter for this had he stayed away from the track since. However, connections went over to France eight days after Newbury to line up in the Prix D’Ispahan (another Group 1) and their charge was below-par in fourth place behind Cirrus Des Aigles, with the trip (1m 1f) being put forward as the excuse. I’m not sure what to make of it, or the horse, and maybe that Lockinge effort has left a mark.
Others with some sort of squeak include Mike De Kock’s Soft Falling Rain. I’m not too mad on the 5-year-old to be honest, he’s just one of those animals that I’ve taken a dislike to, but on his Group 2 walloping of Montiridge at Newmarket last September, he could be there or thereabouts if turning up. However, he wasn’t at his best on the tapeta in Meydan when last seen, for all that he was better the second time over a mile, and this won’t be an easy race to bounce back to form in, that’s for sure.
This really doesn’t look like an event to be betting in, to be entirely honest, but for the sake of picking something I’ll plump for Verrazano at 7/2. Like my Diamond Jubilee selection, he’s an American import who has joined up with Aidan O’Brien and I think that we’ll get to see the real version of the 4-year-old colt on this occasion, his second start for the yard. It’s clear that he wasn’t wound up when third behind Olympic Glory in the Lockinge and, for now anyway, I’m assuming that there’s a hell of a lot more to emerge from the locker.
Market vibes can say plenty about the O’Brien horses and when this fellow was debuting for the trainer, he was utterly friendless before the off. Indeed, connections suggested that it was a fact-finding mission as much as anything and that they were running because of the fast ground, something he was unlikely to get in a suitable race in Ireland. Anyway, he ran well, finishing third without having an overly hard time and the general impression is that he will indeed improve for the spin (hold up tactics may not be his thing either).
Whether he can improve enough to trouble the favourite Toronado is another matter altogether but the likely quick ground is going to be in his favour, as the track itself may well be (plenty of All-Weather winners show their best turf form at Ascot), and the horse will be tuned to the minute by his masterful trainer. All of that will have to lead to the colt improving a few lbs but it’s far from impossible and in a race where I’m struggling to get excited by any of the prices, I’ll plump for him and the hype at 7/2.
Selection for the Queen Anne Stakes (2:30 Ascot; Tuesday, 17th June):
Verrazano – 7/2, available with a few firms.
Post by James Boyle. Picture by: Garry Jones/AP/Press Association Images
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