The 2011 Royal Ascot meet kicked off this morning with a thrilling match-up between Canford Cliffs and Goldikova in the Queen Anne Stakes. But it was the 2,000 Guineas winner, Frankel, that once again generated the majority of the "buzz" but for different reasons than his run at Newmarket, namely the ride of his jockey and a perceived "weakness" following his victory by "only" 3/4 of a length.
Below are the results for today's races at Royal Ascot. The ground today was rated "Good, Good to Soft in places".
Results Charts (via Racing Post)
G1-Queen Anne Stakes
1-Canford Cliffs (IRE)
G1-King's Stand Stakes
2-Star Witness (AUS)
3-Sweet Sanette (SAF)
G1-St James's Palace Stakes
2-Roman Soldier (IRE)
3-St Barths (GB)
2-Ermyn Lodge (GB)
3-Phoenix Flight (IRE)
Windsor Castle Stakes
1-Frederick Engels (GB)
2-Stonefield Flyer (GB)
3-Caspar Netscher (GB)
Thoughts on today's results at Royal Ascot:
- I'll just briefly discuss the Queen Anne, cause the St James's Palace is the race I really want to dive into, but Canford Cliffs deserves a ton of accolades for his extremely profession and efficient performance today. A perfect ride by Richard Hughes set Canford Cliffs up to run down Goldikova inside the final furlong.
I don't think the loss by Goldikova diminishes her stature; she simply wasn't good enough today to beat an excellent Canford Cliffs. The winner got an absolutely dream trip right off of Goldikova's hind quarters and had her measured even before the real running commenced inside the final quarter mile. Goldikova was going to have to be superb to hold off Canford Cliffs and she wasn't able to reach that level.
Time will tell if Goldikova will be as good at age 6 as she was at 3, 4 and 5, but I don't think she lost anything in defeat.
- Okay, let's talk about Frankel, who won the St James's Palace by 3/4 of a length over Zoffany (IRE). If you haven't seen the race, you can view the replay below.
- The ride by jockey Tom Queally has come under a great deal of scrutiny following this race. Did he move to soon? Were these the tactics that Henry Cecil wanted from his jockey? Can Frankel be rated?
I'll start with the middle move: I'm of the opinion that big move made by Frankel going into the turn was the result of Queally moving the horse and not due to Frankel running off. If you watch his win in the Guineas and compare it to the St James's Palace, you can see Queally sitting almost dead still on Frankel for a much longer period of time. But today, he moved him much, much earlier. So, in that sense, I don't think this race indicates that Frankel can't be rated or that his running style is a weakness. He was simply moved in an aggressive manner at an earlier portion of the race.
Additionally, while I think Queally should probably have waited another furlong or so before asking Frankel for his full run, the tactics weren't necessarily awful. In essence, Queally knows he's on the best horse and he's simply making the rest of the field come and get him. It's not really a bad strategy when you think about it, and it's more of a tactic that we see in the U.S. with races on dirt.
- I disagree with the notion that the St James's Palace illustrates a hole in Frankel's armor. On the contrary, he just won a Group 1 race after his jockey made a significant move with him during the middle of the race, something most horses would not be able to do. Furthermore, Frankel seems to be able to settle and rate just fine in the early stages, something he'll need to do when he begins to face the older behemoths, like Canford Cliffs and Goldikova. Will he be as good against the top older milers? That remains to be seen. But his win in the St James's Palace doesn't diminish his stature.
- The nonsense after the race from TVG regarding Frankel and the Breeders' Cup Classic has simply got to stop. Look, I realize TVG is trying to cater their commentary to an American audience and we hold the Classic in high regards. But it's a bit ridiculous to assume that any high class horse outside of our shores somehow aspires to run at a mile and a quarter on dirt in order to prove their superiority. I haven't read anything from Frankel's connections regarding the Breeders' Cup, and certainly nothing indicating they are even considering running him in the Classic. And, you know what, that's fine with me. A horse can be great without running in the Classic; that is not THE definitive mark of a champion.
As a fan of horse racing, I like to see the best horses in the world run in races where they can perform at their best. The best sprinters should sprint. The best turf horses should run on turf. The best classic horses should contest the classics. I'm not why there is this need to fit square pegs in round holes.
Several years ago there was a fantastic miler in Europe named George Washington (IRE). George Washington was as a fantastic juvenile and carried that form over to his sophomore season where he won the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and the G1-Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. He was a very strong miler but never won a race longer than 8 furlongs. But despite the fact that he was excellent on grass and at a mile, he was sent to the Breeders' Cup in 2006 to run in the Classic at Churchill Downs. He didn't run horribly, but he was a well-beaten 6th and he never challenged for the win.
A year later, after a failed stint at stud and an unsuccessful try at 10 furlongs in the G1-Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, Gorgeous George was once again sent to America to run on dirt in the Classic, this time at Monmouth Park (and in one of the worst mudpits of a track that we've ever seen). His day ended tragically in the final furlong but even before that, George Washington appeared to want nothing to do with running under those conditions. He was never a legitimate contender.
We've seen turf horses from Europe come to the U.S. and perform well in the Classic - Giant's Causeway in 2000, Sakhee in 2001, and pretty much everyone in 2008 and 2009. But those horses are the exception to the rule (and the 2008 and 2009 Breeders' Cup Classics were on synthetic, so the equation is not quite the same). Plus, Giant's Causeway had won at 10 furlongs three times prior to running in the Classic and Sakhee was an Arc winner and a multiple winner at a mile and a quarter. The surface was a change, but they were not being asked to stretch out to a distance that didn't fit them.
Every time I hear of an American commentator suggesting anything about the Breeders' Cup Classic for a horse like Frankel, I cringe. Frankel is a fantastic thoroughbred and a joy to watch race. If he shows a desire to run further at some point in his career (and the connections are considering a shot in the 10 furlong Juddmonte International), by all means, let him try. But right now he's a great miler, and I'd rather watch a great miler than an average classic horse.
- One final note, the American horses had a pretty awful day all around, staring with Bridgetown being slow into stride out of the gate in the King's Stand. Gentleman's Code ran a decent 4th in the Windsor Castle, but the American horses, for the most part, showed little.
Wesley Ward was interviewed by TVG prior to the Windsor Castle Stakes and he indicated that the going was probably a bit softer than his horses would prefer.
- The Queen wore a purple hat (8/1 odds).