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Juvenile Watch at Royal Ascot: Soft ground switch can pay off for Eve Lodge

By Ross Millar@rosscojmill
Fri 18 Jun 2021

Our Juvenile Watch (and reigning Tipstar champion) columnist Ross Millar returns to preview the remainder of the two-year-old races at the Royal meeting. Find out which horse he fancies to take advantage of a late change of target, particularly if forecast rain arrives.

The first day of Royal Ascot has been and gone it was great to see crowds back and it certainly seemed to have a real Royal Ascot atmosphere.

Berkshire Shadow was an impressive winner of the Coventry Stakes where he replicated the strong finish that saw him win on debut; he looks to have a bright future.

I will take a look at all of the juvenile races from the meeting in next week’s column.

As ever the Great British weather looks sure to play a joker this week.

At the time of writing the ground is good to firm and indications were that high numbers on the straight course had an advantage, but if the rain forecast for Wednesday night into Thursday and Friday arrives then the picture could shift.

SHOWCASING SHOWDOWN IN NORFOLK STAKES?

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Another two-year old race where the market is shaped around a Wesley Ward runner and market confidence will be a good indicator to the chance of Lucci.

Cadamosto arrives here off the back of winning Dundalk all-weather maiden over five furlongs back in April. The runner-up in that race, Silver Surfer, went on to finish runner up in his next two starts before winning when upped to six furlongs, so the form has a solid look to it. Cadamosto finished his race off very well, which suggests this stiff track should suit. The concern would be that a 16-runner group two contest is far removed from the gentle introduction he received at Dundalk.

Andreas Vesalius runs for Joseph O’Brien. He also has a couple of pieces of form with Silver Surfer, finishing just behind him on good to soft ground at Naas on his second start and then beating him by just under two lengths at the same track two weeks later on soft ground. If the forecast rain arrives and ground conditions change to soft he would be a live player.

Andreas Vesalius makes his case with a soft-ground success at Naas

Instinctive Move was highlighted in this column before running out an impressive winner at Bath on debut. The runner-up Poderoso let the form down on his next start but previous to the Bath run he had finished a close third at Newbury to Tuesday's Coventry Stakes winner, Berkshire Shadow. The fourth placed, Raging, did win next time out.

The ground at Bath was certainly on the quick side so if the ground goes soft it is an unknown, but Peach Melba, the dam of Instinctive Move, showed some of her best form on soft ground so I wouldn’t be unduly worried.

Bryan Smart is represented by Project Dante, who shares his sire, Showcasing, with Instinctive Move. Project Dante was a debut winner over five furlongs at York and the form of the race could not have worked out better with all four of the horses that finished directly behind him having won since. Natural progression can surely be expected from him making him worthy of serious consideration.

William Haggas had felt his two-year olds were a bit slow to come to hand this season, so the fact that Second Wind was able to win on his first start is notable. He then conceded a 7lb penalty, which is no mean feat, to a horse that has subsequently won.

Amo Racing have a large battalion of talented two-year olds and are not afraid to put two in a race - that they only run Go Bears Go in this could be viewed as a positive sign. He was a winner over course and distance on debut where he showed he handled soft ground; he’s another for who any rain is a plus.

If you ignored his last run at Sandown, Navello would have leading claims, I think the soft ground was the primary reason for that below-par performance. If the rain comes and gets into the ground his chance is surely compromised but on good ground he can go close.

Ross's verdict:

This largely hinges on how much rainfall hits Ascot and how it changes the going.

Showcasing has two live chances in Instinctive Move and Project Dante and I’ll be splitting my stake across them both. If the ground remains good or better Navello can go well at a big each-way price.

FLOTUS OPPOSABLE IN THE ALBANY

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I took a bit of heat on social media when in a previous piece I suggested that I would oppose Flotus, who was ultra impressive on debut, until I’d seen her perform to a similar level on good ground, her win at Goodwood having come on soft ground.

She may now well get ground that she has already shown an aptitude for and that’s a big positive for her supporters. However, the form of the Goodwood race has not been franked in anyway so even on soft ground I’d be prepared to take her on here.

Hello You runs for Ralph Beckett and is another who was a wide margin winner on debut over six furlongs at Wolverhampton. The second and third in the race have let the form down since but Sunstrike who was nine lengths back in fourth did win on her next start and reopposes in this. If Hello You can replicate that form on turf she will have a leading chance.

Prettiest was a winner over five furlongs at Navan and her pedigree, by Dubawi out of Alice Springs who was a Group One winner over a mile, suggests this step up in trip on a stiff track will bring about yet more improvement. The form is yet to receive any validation but the runner-up Lopes Gold took solid form into the race. Her powerful connections are always to be feared and she has a very smart pedigree.

I can’t think anyone would begrudge George Boughey a two-year old winner at Ascot this week, given the exceptional season he’s had with them so far.

Cachet was an eye-catching winner at Newmarket on debut running out a near six-length winner. That win came on good ground but her sire Aclaim was able to perform on a softer surface and her dam brings gives of stamina to the pedigree.

His best chance might though come in the form of Oscula who has showed steady progression on each of her three starts culminating in winning the Woodcote in early June. The form could well get a boost on Wednesday with Flaming Rib running in the Windsor Castle. On a side note how heartening to see apprentice Mark Crehan keep the ride even though he can’t utilise his claim. Her sire Galileo Gold coped with soft ground when winning at Royal Ascot himself so there’s hope that rain won’t thwart her bid.

Oscula wins the Woodcote in emphatic fashion

Lady Ayresome arrives with plenty of experience, in this large field that can only be seen as a positive. She has won her last two races both over five furlongs and has shown an ability to handle both quick and slow ground. The negative is that all of her siblings have proven themselves to be more effective at five furlongs than six. A combination of six furlongs and softer ground might just stretch her stamina.

Eve Lodge was a non-runner in the Queen Mary on Wednesday due to the ground. Connections clearly feel that soft ground is important to her and will hope the weather forecast is accurate. She was an exceptionally easy winner last time at Lingfield having caught the eye when a fast-finishing third on debut. The six-furlong trip looks sure to suit.

Sows showed great tenacity to win at Nottingham on her first start. That was over five furlongs and she was off the bridle for a long way before getting on top close home, a step up in trip will suit and her action suggested that she would cope with softer ground. She has to improve plenty but comes from an excellent stable.

Ross's verdict:

Flotus might well be as good as she looks but I’m loath to back a horse at short odds off just one run. Plenty of these will have to prove they can handle the step up in trip and the likely softer conditions. Eve Lodge has shown she can handle soft ground and looked to stay well over five furlongs so she’s the selection.

Sows lacks experience and her form is unproven, I was impressed by her attitude and I’m sure she’ll be better at six furlongs; she would be the long-priced back-up.

SCIENCE EXPERIMENT COULD PAY OFF IN CHESHAM

Point Lonsdale was a facile winner on his debut at the Curragh over the seven-furlong trip of this race. He looked very professional, with an abundance of stamina. The form of the race is completely untested and his connections are undoubtedly a factor in his skinny price.

New Science showed a lot of immaturity on debut at Yarmouth yet still won by a comfortable length. Nothing from that race has run since so the form is impossible to assess. He will undoubtedly improve for the experience of that first run and being by Lope De Vega the likely soft ground should not be a concern.

Finishing in fifth place behind New Science was Find, his pedigree contains plenty of stamina and he’s entitled to improve for his first run but its hard to find a reason why he would finish in front of New Science this time.

Sweeping was runner up on his first start to Dhabab, that form has a solid look to it given that Dhabab ran very well in the Coventry Stakes when getting a far from trouble free passage. The forecast rain is a concern as his dam showed all of her best form on good ground or better.

Mark Johnston has two entered. Sharp Combo won a seven-furlong all-weather maiden with a comfortable performance. A turnaround of just one week is possibly not ideal but he comes from a yard that does make tough horses. Out In Yorkshire is his other runner and he will be stepping up a full two furlongs but his pedigree suggests this shouldn’t be a problem.

Withering was very green in the early stages of his only run at Lingfield when having started slowly and raced awkwardly he flew home to narrowly fail by a nose.

His sire Mondialiste has made a promising start with relatively few runners from his first crop. This would be a big step up but he does certainly look to have ability and seven furlongs will suit better.

Ross's verdict:

Of those at the head of the market I would have a preference for New Science, while Out In Yorkshire did well to win over five furlongs and could improve plenty for this step up in trip.

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