Ascot Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Preview

2.30 Ascot Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
(British Champions Mile) (Group 1)
(CLASS 1) (3yo+) (1 Mile)

Champions day at Ascot this Saturday and the fare on offer will be of the highest class throughout the day. The race we are going to have a look at is the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over a mile, and hopefully we will finally get to see crack miler Gleneagles return to action to take on French superstar Solow. There is a decent supporting cast too, and it should be a fantastic race.

Aidan O’Brien has landed this prize on three occasions since 2005, while Solow trainer Freddie Head was victorious with Charm Spirit last year, which shows they both know what is required to come out on top in this contest. Four favs have gone in since 2005, three of which were trained by O’Brien. No winner has been priced bigger than 11/2 in that period. The ground is currently described as good to soft with no rain forecast.

GABRIAL (FAHEY/HANAGAN)

Comes here after a couple of good efforts over today’s trip on easy ground behind Elm Park last time and the re-opposing Kodi Bear on his penultimate run. His only win at pattern level came in a listed heat at Doncaster back in 2013, and his last victory came in a handicap at the same track back in March off a mark of 100.

He has been placed at group level on a number of occasions, but he looks to be punching way above his weight in this contest. It is difficult to see how he can turn around the form with Kodi Bear, let alone trouble the likely market leaders. Deserves to be 100/1 and is best left alone on this occasion.

SOLOW (HEAD/GUYON)

French raider who is unbeaten since finishing sixth over 15.5f back in May 2014. Has won all eight of his subsequent starts, and this gelding will be hard to beat if getting his favoured soft underfoot conditions. He has won four Group 1s in a row, and according to the bookies has Gleneagles to beat if he is to complete the five-timer.

Although his trainer has stated he wants soft ground to be seen at his best Solow has won all of his Group 1s on good ground. It is frightening to think there could be even more to come when he returns to his preferred easy ground. His last win came in the Sussex at Goodwood, but he had to work pretty hard to get the better of Arod, though in reality the result was never in doubt. His form in beating the likes of The Grey Gatsby, Gailo Chop and Esoterique is rock solid, and if the ground doesn’t dry out too much he has a favourite‚Äôs chance in this race and is priced accordingly at 11/10.

TOP NOTCH TONTO (ELLISON/DE SOUSA)

Has been an admirable servant to connections over the past couple of seasons, and after a bit of a blip at the start of this season he has found his stride again in recent months. The highlight came at York, when he just failed to land a group 2 by less than a length behind Tullius.

He also ran a cracker at the same level at Leopardstown behind Custom Cut, and his sole win this term came in a listed heat at York when he accounted for today’s rival Gabrial. However, while he should confirm the form with Gabrial he is unlikely to trouble the best of these. Should run his usual honest race but likely to come up short at odds off 66/1.

BELARDO (VARIAN/DOYLE)

Made a welcome return to form last time out with a never nearer third behind Cable Bay in a group 2 at Newmarket last Friday. Dewhurst winner last year, beating today’s rival Kodi Bear by 2 lengths but hasn’t scaled the same heights since. His best run this year came in the Irish Guineas when he was less than 2 lengths behind Gleneagles.

That run came on easy ground though, and there is no doubt that Gleneagles’ turn of foot was blunted. It was still a good run, and a repeat of that would give him place prospects here. He needs more rain though, and if it doesn’t arrive it will impact on his chance massively. Best watched at 50/1 unless the heavens open before now and race time.

ELM PARK (BALDING/ATZENI)

Group 1 scorer last year in the Racing Post Trophy, and after a couple of below par efforts this year (highly tried) he returned to form with a 2 length defeat of Gabrial in a listed heat last time. Unlike a few of these he is not totally ground dependent, and he has won on surfaces ranging from soft to good to firm.

His last win would have been a good confidence booster for him and after his poor efforts when stepped up in trip earlier in the season it seems connections have accepted that a mile is his optimum trip, at least for now. It will be interesting to see how he gets on back in a Group 1 over his ideal distance, and he could well sneak a place at odds of 16/1.

GLENEAGLES (O’BRIEN/MOORE)

We have been waiting a while for Gleneagles to return to the track, as soft ground has scuppered previous plans to run. The way O’Brien has been so careful about placing this colt suggests he thinks an awful lot of him, and on the three occasions we have seen him this year he hasn’t disappointed.

Took the Guineas at Newmarket on his reappearance in scintillating fashion on good to firm ground, and showed a serious turn of foot in the process of winning by over 2 lengths. His next run at the Curragh in the Irish equivalent was more workmanlike, but that came on good to yielding ground, and probably explains why O’Brien was so reluctant to race him on a similar surface again.

Returned to quick ground he was back to his best at Royal Ascot, easily landing the St James’ Palace Stakes. That was his last run, 123 days ago, but if he does run O’Brien will have him fit. There is no way he will take part at anything less than 100% as it seems O’Brien is doing everything in his power to ensure he continues his winning run. Is priced up at 2/1 and if the rain stays away that represents serious value. Gets a handy 3lb from Solow and is the one to beat on good ground or better.

INTEGRAL (DETTORI/STOUTE)

Failed in her bid to defend her crown in the fillies group 1 contest she won at Newmarket last year, going down by half a length to Esoterique. Ran in this race last year but could only manage sixth, although in fairness to her the heavy ground wouldn’t have suited.

Has been beaten by Esoterique twice in her career, and given that filly couldn’t beat Solow when they met it is unlikely that Integral will either. The drying ground will at least be in her favour, and she has won over course and distance before. Place prospects at the very best and can be backed at odds of 20/1.

KODI BEAR (COX/MOSSE)

This talented son of Kodiac has been brilliant for Clive Cox, and he has won at listed, group 3 and group 2 level this season. He has come up short on the two occasions he has run at Group 1 level, beaten by Belardo and Territories when he made the step up. He could well have improved since those efforts though and is definitely worth another go at this level.

Any ground will do, and his last two wins came on good at Salisbury (group 3) followed by a group 2 win on soft at Goodwood (beat Gabrial 3 lengths). Those two efforts were way above anything else he has produced, and he doesn’t need to find a huge amount on the figures to get involved. However, the suspicion remains that he wants easy ground to be seen at his very best, and at odds of 8/1 he is probably best watched, though a big run wouldn’t surprise.

TERRITORIES (FABRE/BARZALONA)

Another French raider who chased Gleneagles home in the Guineas at Newmarket. Is a Group 1 winner already this season, beating Dutch Connection at Chantilly over a mile on good ground. His colours were lowered by Esoterique last time in another Group 1 at Deauville, but the ground was atrocious that day and this colt needs a decent surface to be seen at his best.

His trainer is one of the best in the business, and his jockey is a man that rises to the occasion on the biggest of days. Territories has been freshened up since that last effort, and will likely arrive at Ascot in tip top condition. Fabre will be delighted with the weather forecast, and he could well give the top two in the market something to think about. Has beaten Kodi Bear already this year (easily) yet is a bigger price. Definite claims at 10/1.

CONCLUSION

The bookies have essentially decided that this is a match between Solow and Gleneagles, though as can be seen from our preview that is far from the case. The drying ground could blunt Solow’s effectiveness, while it is likely to play to the strengths of Territories, and in particular GLENEAGLES.

He is a proper horse, and the way that O’Brien has handled him with kid gloves suggests he is keen to ensure he only races when he is guaranteed to show his very best. Hopefully the weather plays ball and we get to see this exciting miler in action again. If he runs he wins and the 2/1 won’t last too long either if the rain stays away.

From an each way perspective Elm Park and Kodi Bear appeal, though the 10/1 about Territories looks massive. Those three can fight it out for the places with Solow, who looks way too short to me at 11/10 (unless the ground turns soft)

STEVOS’ SELECTIONS:
1) GLENEAGLES 2/1
2) TERRITORIES 10/1
3) ELM PARK 16/1
4) SOLOW 11/10