YOU associate Henry de Bromhead more with Cheltenham and Aintree than you do with Ascot and, if you were told that he had a horse with a chance at Ascot, you’d probably be thinking Ascot in December or Ascot in February, not Ascot in June with its soaring temperatures and its top hats and tails.
Yet here we are, Royal Ascot Day 5, Star Girls Aalmal in the Jersey Stakes, and she goes there with a real chance.
The Elzaam filly beat this month’s Group 2 Prix du Gros-Chene winner Brostaigh by almost five lengths when she won her maiden at Dundalk last November, and she was impressive in winning on her debut this season at Gowran Park in April.
It was a brave move by connections to allow her take her chance in the Irish 1000 Guineas last time, but she proved that she absolutely belonged in that company in finishing fourth. She travelled through her race well and, while she had no answer to Homeless Songs’ finishing surge, she was unlucky not to finish in the first three.
She was a little tight for room when the winner went past and, after re-gathering her momentum, she kept on well enough to get past Agartha and into third place, but she was just caught for that position by Concert Hall, who came late down the outside.
Working out well
The form of the Irish Guineas is working out well already, with runner-up Tuesday – who was just three-parts of a length in front of Star Girls Aalmal at the Curragh – winning the Oaks next time, and sixth-placed Purplepay winning the Group 2 Prix de Sandringham at Chantilly next time.
Star Girls Aalmal did hold an entry in the Coronation Stakes yesterday, but connections obviously decided to wait for today instead, and that makes a lot of sense.
There is stamina in her pedigree and she is a half-sister to Sandringham winner Create Belief but, given the pace that she showed in the Irish 1000 Guineas, and the ease with which she travelled, the drop down to seven furlongs could be a positive for her. A stiff seven furlongs could be ideal, at least for now.
Noble Truth was impressive in winning the King Charles II Stakes at Newmarket, a race that is usually a really good pointer to the Jersey, but that race hasn’t worked out at all well since, and it is probable that the favourite is going to have to step forward on the bare form of that run if he is going to win today.
Alflaila was impressive in winning a handicap over today’s course and distance on his debut this season, while the other Shadwell colt Monaadah is unbeaten in three, and he was good in beating Audience on the Polytrack at Kempton last time, when he got first run on his rival.
It is a hugely competitive race, but Star Girls Aalmal receives the 3lb fillies’ allowance from 13 of her 14 rivals, and there is a chance that she is the classiest horse in the race.
Fresh could go well too in the Wokingham. James Fanshawe’s horse is high in the betting for the race, but he deserves to be high in the betting, and the 8/1 or 9/1 at which he can be backed is more than fair.
He did well to finish fourth in the Victoria Cup last time, racing from a low draw and towards the far side in a race that was dominated by the high-drawn horses who raced near side.
He and Ropey Guest were the only two horses who finished in the first seven from low draws, and Ropey Guest ran a big race at a big price to finish second in the Buckingham Palace on Thursday.
The handicapper left Fresh on his mark of 98 after that run, and that was more than fair. That means that he is just 2lb higher than he was when he finished second in the Wokingham last year, going down by just a neck to Rohaan.
We know that he goes well at Ascot, his record there now reads 21234, and only one of those races had fewer than 16 runners. He is well suited to big-field handicaps on Ascot’s straight track, and he is probably better over six furlongs than he is over seven. His low draw is probably a positive too, based on the evidence that we have from the first four days, and Danny Tudhope has been riding out of his skin all week.
Star Girls Aalmal, 1 point win, 3.05 Ascot, 13/2 (generally)
Fresh, 1 point each-way, 5.00 Ascot, 8/1 (generally)