Australian trained horses won the King's Stand Stakes on four occasions between 2003 and 2009 and Nature Strip provided the southern hemisphere with another victory in the Group 1 event on the opening afternoon of Royal Ascot on Tuesday. The seven year old, who went into the race with eight Group 1 victories to his name, produced a dazzling performance under James McDonald streaking clear inside the final furlong to win by four and a half lengths. It was a brilliant display of raw speed. The US trained Golden Pal fluffed his lines once again with a slow start and was playing catch up throughout but it would have taken an exceptional performance from Wesley Ward's runner to lower the winner's colours.
Advised in the Royal Ascot Update at 11/4, it was a good start to the meeting for subscribers and the other suggestion Twilight Calls (11/1) produced a career best in second position - the CSF paid £25.44. Henry Candy's four year old has improved with each start this year and, while he wouldn't have troubled the impressive winner, he may have finished slightly closer with a cleaner start. The Nunthorpe Stakes at York in August looks tailormade for him. The flat track will suit the Cheveley Park Stud owned gelding even more.
The St James's Palace Stakes produced a thrilling finish with Coroebus following up his win in the 2000 Guineas. Draw near the rail, it was never going to be straightforward for Charlie Appleby's colt, plus he raced keenly during the first half of the race but William Buick found a gap along the far rail on the homestraight and that proved crucial. It got tight late on but the winning post came in time with the son of Dubawi prevailing by a head. I suspect we didn't see him at his very best here but he is a dual Group 1 winner and will be more effective when coming off a stronger gallop.
The Top 40 Prospects had three runners in the Group 1 event, including the winner, and all three emerged with a lot of credit. Mightly Ulysses, who was beaten in a handicap off a mark of 101 last time, ran a cracker in fifth being beaten less than a length. However, the unlucky horse was undoubtedly Maljoom who has come a long way in a short space of time. The German 2000 Guineas winner was held up by Cieren Fallon and he elected to sit and suffer on the rail hoping the gap would emerge. Unfortunately, the gap didn't open up in time with the Caravaggio colt finishing strongly in fourth - beaten half a length it was a tremendous effort. I suspect Baaeed isn't the only top notch miler based at Somerville Lodge.
Looking ahead, one of the selections in the Norfolk Stakes on Thursday, namely Clearpoint, misses the race having been found to have scoped badly on Tuesday morning.
I shall be watching the second day of Royal Ascot from Hamilton Park on Wednesday, while working for Racing TV. I will therefore update the Diary on my return.
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