The fourth day of Royal Ascot was the subject of an inspection at 12.45 on Friday - following plenty of deliberation the meeting got the go ahead but it was run in attritional conditions (43.5mm of rain between the end of racing on Thursday and 6pm on Friday). Inevitably, there was no shortage of non runners (29 in total) and it was Andrew Balding who captured the headlines with a double.
Alcohol Free was a top-class juvenile winning the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes and she started this season with victory in the Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury in the spring. Beaten two lengths in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket last time, she was drawn on the wrong side and her connections were keen to have another crack at a top prize over a mile. Patiently ridden by Oisin Murphy, the daughter of No Nay Never handled the testing ground before staying on too strongly for Snow Lantern by a length and a half. It will be interesting to see if she returns to HQ for the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes on the July course next month or is saved for the Sussex Stakes, where a clash with Palace Pier and Poetic Flare could be on the cards. She is a very smart filly who handles most surfaces - she was Andrew's horse to follow in Ahead On The Flat.
The other Group 1 contest on Friday was the Commonwealth Cup which ended in controversy. Archie Watson's Dragon Symbol crossed the line a head in front of Campanelle but Oisin Murphy's mount shifted to her right inside the final furlong and carried Wesley Ward's filly across the track. The pair pulled five lengths clear of the third. It was no surprise to see the places reversed because Frankie Dettori's filly would almost certainly have won had she raced in a straight line. I was disappointed by the performance of Suesa who lost her unbeaten record in eighth. The Night of Thunder filly spoilt her chance by racing too keenly early on - I feared the worst after two furlongs and it was no surprise to see her fade during the latter stages. She is better than she showed here and it will be interesting to see if she is dropped back to five furlongs. Despite this reversal, she could still emerge as a Prix de L'Abbaye candidate in the Autumn.
Alenquer made it three wins from four career starts when taking the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes. William Haggas' son of Adlerflug had taken the notable scalp of subsequent Derby winner Adayar in the Group 3 Classic Trial at Sandown but was ruled out of the Epsom showpiece following a minor setback. He proved too good for his five opponents here and was full value for his one and a half lengths win. Perhaps his connections will consider supplementing him for the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp (14th July).
Day four was a somewhat frustrating one for followers of the Update with two seconds (from 3 races). Hello You (5/1) ran well in the opening Albany Stakes. Ralph Beckett's filly had looked well above average when winning on her debut at Wolverhampton. While she found another unbeaten once raced filly, namely Sandrine, a length and a half too good, I suspect she would have been closer to Andrew Balding's winner if James Doyle had ridden her with a bit more restraint in the conditions. Unfortunately, she jumped so well, she found herself prominent from the outset. My other selection in the six furlongs event, Flotus, pulled too hard and probably didn't handle the ground in any case.
Raymond Tusk (25/1) ran a cracker in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes chasing home the progressive Quickthorn. The six year old was beaten a length and a half in second and was unfortunate to bump into such a talented rival. I was working for Racing TV at Haydock last month when Hughie Morrison's four year old bolted up in a twelve furlongs handicap off a mark of 84. Raised thirteen pounds since, he defied that rise here and looks tailormade for the Skybet Ebor at York (21st August). I am kicking myself for not tipping Quickthorn but wasn't certain he would get his favoured slow ground when I wrote the Update.
I will be back to Update the Diary on Sunday - I am working at Haydock Park on Saturday evening. Finally, some good news for National Hunt fans. I will be turning my attentions to One Jump Ahead later this month and I received a text from Anthony Bromley on Friday evening. The leading bloodstock agent will be penning a piece in this season's OJA having bought a number of Irish pointers earlier this year. That's great news because I know how popular Anthony's article has been over the years.
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