Presenter Gina Bryce gives her verdict on all five runners for day two’s headline race at Royal Ascot, Stakes of the Prince of Wales live on Sky Sports Racing.
With the week’s biggest prize pot of £1million on offer in the Prince of Wales Stakes, it’s no surprise to see a competitive field with representatives from four different racing tribunals.
The potential ace in the field for the home team is a horse who has yet to race beyond Group 3 level in the form of the hugely exciting Bay Bridge, whose skills will be tested to the max by a small but quality field of rivals.
The Japanese flag has been flown regularly at top international meetings over the past 12 months, including by Sheema Classic winner Shahryar, who poses perhaps the greatest challenge to our homegrown talent.
Add in the 2020 race winner at Lord North, an improving Group 1 French Champion mare at Grand Glory and progressive Cox Plate winner State Of Rest and the stage looks set for a blasting renewal of Wednesday’s main race.
Jockey: RL Moore, Trainer: Sir Michael Stoute
Sir Michael Stoute’s fast-improving four-year-old announced himself as a force to be reckoned with at the highest level as he relegated a strong field in Group 3 to Brigadier Gerard at Sandown by five lengths.
In hindsight, it’s hard to believe he wasn’t at the forefront of the market that day considering how he brushed aside 6/5 favorites Mostahdaf with consummate ease, but a slow and steady campaign typical for his trainer, kept anyone from really knowing what was in store for them in this undefeated stud’s closet.
The nature of the win and the numbers posted on the day, coupled with the suspicion that as a big strong New Bay son he will inevitably tighten up and pack up immeasurably for the run means a Group 1 is certainly up now is at his mercy.
The scary thought is how high this four-year-old could climb this year and I would dare this particular pinnacle race that his champion trainer has won four times before will only be the first.
J: L Dettori, T: J & T Gosden
A stunning winner of this race in 2020, John and Thady Gosden’s six-year-old returned after a year on the sidelines with a sore throat to prove he’s still capable of dining at the top table and recorded one dead win in the Dubai Turf race before putting on a commendable performance at the Tattersalls Gold Cup last month.
Sitting just behind the leaders that day and following a similar path to eventual winner Alenquer, he was dragged into the heat of a searching canter set by runner-up High Definition, which may have prevented him from getting the full finishing To unleash kick that we have seen for its best.
The fact that he was able to return from Dubai, where he reportedly suffered a ruptured blood vessel after the race, and returned with a tough, brave performance in Ireland gives plenty of encouragement for a busier campaign this year.
A return to the number posted at that race two years ago would put him in the right mix to win again, although the challenge of younger, more progressive legs only dampens the enthusiasm.
J: C. Demuro, T: H. Fujiwara
Japan-trained runners have won 13 top-level races on the international racing scene in the past eight months, leaving race fans in no doubt that a first win for this new superpower at our Blue Riband event is sure to be next.
Japanese derby winner Shahryar represents his best chance this time, having already won some notable scalps on the global racing scene when he won the Sheema Classic in March.
In doing so, he reversed Japan Cup form with third-placed compatriot Authority, proving he had made a significant step forward as a four-year-old.
Trainer Hideaki Fujiwara has stated that the bow is her main target and one look at this horse’s form shows that his greatest achievements are every two furlongs further than what he faces on Wednesday.
However, the Deep Impact son broke the course record for nine stadiums at Hanshin in his trial run for the Japanese derby last spring and looks extremely versatile in terms of racing tactics.
If he is able to handle Ascot’s topography, which will present a new challenge, he will be a formidable rival for the favourite.
state of calm
J: SM Crosse, T: Joseph P. O’Brien
The improving four-year-old owned by Joseph O’Brien picked up where he left off this season with another international success in Group 1, adding the Prix Ganay to his recent victories at the Cox Plate and Saratoga Derby.
State Of Rest clearly enjoyed the move to that 10-foot trip at the end of their three-year campaign, advancing with each start before briefly faltering with a third-place finish behind Alenquer in the form numbers of the Tattersalls Gold Cup.
After sitting further back than ideal in the Curragh competition, he was a flamboyant finisher, suggesting that under other circumstances victory would not have been out of reach.
Expected to be fast on the ground will play to this well-travelled, tough filly’s strengths and he ticks many criteria for a race to be raced accordingly.
J: M. Barzalona, T: G. Bietolini
Bought by Connections Hara De Hus for a staggering €2.5m in December, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Grand Glory, winner of Group 1 Prix Jean Romanet, quietly retiring to the breeding stables this season to arrange to meet an equally successful partner.
But the decision to keep the six-year-old mare in training with Gianluca Bietolini has paid off, with impressive victories against her own sex so far this year in listed and Group 3 companies, forcing the connections to ditch her campaign in favor of bigger goals to reschedule.
With the races mostly having been run with cuts in the ground it would be thought that the faster conditions forecast might not suit this week but a commendable run at the Japan Cup on a similar surface gives confidence in that department.
There is no doubt that this already extremely consistent mare has improved over the winter and looked better than ever with an absolutely dominant performance last time out at ParisLongchamp and if she shows up here in similar form she cannot be dismissed immediately.
The Verdict by Gina Bryce
Although he will face his toughest task yet against a field of talented and experienced opponents, I think we are in for something really special BAY BRIDGE to give Sir Michael Stoute a fifth win in the race.
But I don’t want to play the prognosis! Any of his four rivals could follow him home but I suspect none has the ability to stand in the way of this exciting quest for a first Group 1 success.