Ben Linfoot ranks the key Saturday performances in order of significance from a Royal Ascot two-year-old bet to a late developer who is getting the hang of things.
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KING OF BAVARIA might well have put in the most significant performance of the day when winning the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden over five furlongs at Naas - and the 14/1 available about him for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot makes some appeal.
The son of No Nay Never defied market weakness and a reliable paddock observer reports that he looked like he’d need the run beforehand, too, so there is lots to like about this debut victory.
Taking on a handful of horses that had had a run including promising types like Celtic Times, Silver Surfer and Andreas Vesalius, King Of Bavaria recovered quickly from a slightly tardy start and sat just off the leaders on the outside under Wayne Lordan.
Two furlongs out he showed signs of greenness when hitting the front, leaning in towards Celtic Times to his left, but Lordan pulled his whip through and gave him a few taps which kept him straight and true, the rising ground in the final furlong allowing him to stretch out impressively.
He beat the twice-raced Silver Surfer by three parts of a length at the line, merely kept up to his work to maintain the advantage, and on this evidence another furlong will see him in an even better light – which very much brings the Coventry into play.
Aidan O’Brien has introduced some smart horses at Naas in recent years, horses like Brave Anna, Bracelet, Order Of Australia, Battleground and US Navy Flag – all of whom failed to win at the track on debut.
Those that have won at Naas on debut for him include Magna Grecia, Fancy Blue, Roly Poly and Fairyland, who all won at Group One level subsequently, so it’s a track he often uses to introduce a good one and King Of Bavaria might well slot into that category.
On top of that Royal Ascot winners Maybe and Battleground had their prep races at Naas for O’Brien, and while stallion No Nay Never might not have had the startling effect on the Royal meeting that his own sire Scat Daddy had, he has at least sired a Coventry winner in Arizona.
At 14/1 (bet365, he’s 12/1 at Paddy Power and Betfair), I’m happy to bet that he’s repeated the trick with King Of Bavaria.
For sheer authority you’ll be hard pressed to find a more convincing victory on Saturday than ALBAFLORA’s Buckhounds Stakes demolition job at Ascot.
The lightly-raced daughter of Muhaarar looks to have taken another significant step forward from three to four judging by this seven-length Listed cruise on what was just her sixth start.
Several horses didn’t run up to form, perhaps not handling the soft ground so early in their campaigns, but Albaflora glided through the conditions and ran away from them in the final two furlongs.
It could be that she needs this sort of soft ground to show her best, but there are no shortage of options for her, particularly as she has already proven she stays further having run the St Leger runner-up Berkshire Rocco to a head at this track over 1m6f last October.
An autumn campaign could be on the cards for her given her liking for this sort of ground and, while there are a good few options along the way, like the Lillie Langtry and the Park Hill, she could be one for the Group One Prix de Royallieu for fillies and mares over 1m6f at Longchamp on Arc weekend.
Whichever path she takes, she’s a filly to follow – especially when the mud is flying.
It’s fair to say you don’t see many Frankel progeny with proper six-furlong pace at three-years-old, but the Queen’s LIGHT REFRAIN looks an exception to the norm.
William Haggas’ filly signed off her two-year-old season with a career-best run in defeat at York, where she was a neck second to Nastase in the Listed Rockingham Stakes on soft ground, and she’s improved again for another winter judging by an impressive victory at Nottingham.
Held up in the rear by Shane Kelly, the royal filly cruised stylishly into contention on the stands’ side wing and she quickened into the lead in a flash to see off the Listed Kilvington Stakes field.
Haggas last won this race with Pretty Baby in 2018 and she went on to bag a couple of Group Three victories subsequently, a level that looks the natural next step for Light Refrain.
Given the pace she showed here staying at six furlongs looks the obvious move, although she’s already proven she gets seven well.
Perhaps soft ground is ideal for her like it was her dam, Light Music, but this was impressive however you slice it and it will be interesting to see the route that Haggas takes.
The Lingfield Oaks Trial was won by the outsider, Sherbet Lemon, in a bunched finish where the first two home were rated in the 80s, continuing the theme of unsatisfactory Classic trials which have hardly inspired a run to the bookies.
Half an hour later the Lingfield Derby Trial was won by the outsider of the field, the 14/1 chance THIRD REALM - who was fresh out of winning a Nottingham maiden last month for trainer Roger Varian.
Same again you might think, but this race had more substance, was run in a time five seconds quicker than the fillies managed and in Adayar, the second home, there is a pretty good yardstick to rate this winner against.
The front two pulled well clear, too, and in amongst a Classic trials season that has so far failed to set the pulse racing the bookies latched onto this son of Sea The Stars, cutting him to as short as 8/1 for the Cazoo Derby.
Such prices and even those a little bigger make limited appeal, but that is with the assumption that the Derrinstown (at Leopardstown on Sunday) and the Dante Stakes (at York on Thursday) throw up more viable Epsom contenders.
However the Derby picture pans out, Third Realm looks a talented son of Sea The Stars who stays a mile and a half well – the stamina likely passed down from his sire given he’s out of a mare that also produced Cape Byron (who also won at Haydock today).
This was also further evidence that owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum looks to have a strong batch of three-year-olds with Varian, with El Drama winning the Dee Stakes at Chester in the week, while Royal Champion is entered in the aforementioned Dante at the six-day stage.
WILLOW was only third in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Blue Wind Stakes at Naas but she had every chance with a quarter of a mile to go and put in a much-improved performance from her Navan reappearance.
Indeed, this was hugely encouraging with a view to her stepping up in trip as she seemed to be done for pace late on as the four-year-olds Insinuendo and Thunder Kiss got on top, but she plugged on well to be beaten just over three lengths in third.
It seems she’s learning on the job and, while the Cazoo Oaks looks likely to come too soon in her development, she’s certainly on the radar for mile and a half assignments later in the season and the Irish Oaks at the Curragh in mid-July could be perfect.
Her dam, Peeping Fawn, was a brilliant mare, but she didn’t get going until the second half of her three-year-old campaign, and while it looks a stretch for Willow to be reaching the heights her mother scaled at the moment, this was a step forward and the best of her is still to come.
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