September 25, 2009

The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at The Ascot Festival

An accomplished field of five is set to do battle in the QE II stakes in England on Saturday afternoon. This one mile affair run over the hallowed grounds of Ascot Racecourse looks to be easily the most important race of the weekend and possibly one of the more important miles of the year. This should be enough reason for me to preview the race, but no, I have a completely different reason in mind. Remember last years Breeders’ Cup Classic? Sure you do…Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator, English 3-year-olds, running past our tiring champion Curlin. What got them ready for that performance? None other than the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at The Ascot Festival, of course. Raven’s Pass finally got the better of his rival Henrythenavigator that day and that form carried over to our richest race. This year’s race should be another good one with, once again, major Breeders’ Cup implications.

Before the Sussex Stakes, Rip Van Winkle was favored largely due to the promise that people close to him have placed on the beautiful bay since a very early age. The son of Galileo has only one win this year, but seems to run more impressively with each race. His win in the Sussex, last out, was visually splendid as he ran away from older horses. Before that he ran a bang up second to Sea the Stars while easily defeating four-year-old Conduit, last years BC Turf hero. Often promise never materializes on the racetrack, but in Rip Van Winkle’s case, it appears to be on the verge of happening in a big way. Delegator, who was purchased by the powerhouse Godolphin Stable before his last start, ran the best race of his life four weeks ago while winning the Celebration Mile in impressive form. He was ridden by Frankie Dettori for the first time and displayed an explosive turn of foot. The son of Dansili looks to be better than ever and is a major threat to keep the Godolphin fortunes rolling.

Matercraftsman gets a reprieve from two straight losses to Sea the Stars and also a drop back in distance to one mile. He outgamed Delegator in the one mile St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot this June and before that he romped in the Irish 2000 Guineas. Without Sea the Stars to worry about, and a run at his most accomplished distance, Mastercraftsman, a possible late scratch in favor of his stablemate Rip Van Winkle, could have enough to surprise the favorites. The only older horse in the field is the four-year-old Aqlaam. Recent winner of the Prix de Moulin, Aqlaam is most likely taking a step up in class to face these top 3-year-olds and will have his work cut out for him tomorrow, much as he did when a distant second to the great Goldikova two starts back. Zacinto was a well beaten second to Delegator in his latest and would be easily the biggest surprise in the field of five.

Is there a Breeders’ Cup winner in this field? Odds are against it, but with the quality of these runners, history could well repeat itself.


LDP said...

RVW may hold some promise if he comes over, but other than him, I don't see any BC winners. Lets hope America shows the Euros whose boss this year.