A victory for Sceptical, the Godolphin throw-out who cost his current connections £2,800 as an unraced three-year-old less than a year ago, in Saturday's Diamond Jubilee Stakes would be an extraordinary end to an extraordinary Royal Ascot.
Rags to riches remains one of sport, indeed, life’s most enduring stories but the Irish trained gelding’s rise up the sprinting ranks from Dundalk maiden on the all-weather last autumn, through some wide-margin handicap wins, to winning a listed race by three lengths at Naas on Irish racing’s return last week has charmed the racing public on both sides of the Irish Sea.
With Frankie Dettori booked to ride, Denis Hogan’s four-year-old has been popular in the market but, by Exceed And Excel, he might like a little less juice in the ground and he remains relatively inexperienced.
On top of that the fact that he skipped the King’s Stand Stakes, his original target, to give him more time suggests his trainer thinks he might have had a harder race at Naas than the margins suggested.
However if there is any good in the ground this might, finally, be Shine So Bright’s time to justify his expensive price tag as a maiden winner at the London Sale shortly before he finished fifth to Calyx in the 2018 Coventry.
Last season he won the Free Handicap first time out, ran well in the Guineas and, after a break, returned at York to make all the running to beat Laurens over seven furlongs. His return to sprinting over Ascot’s stiff six should be ideal, he is good fresh and my only concern would be if Ascot’s straight course had not dried out a bit in which case he might suffer wheel spin.
If it is still soft One Master looks a serious player and James Fanshawe’s old boy, The Tin Man, now eight but runner-up in the Group One Haydock Sprint last September, come into it. Hello Youmzain, who beat him half a length that day, also becomes a potent threat.
Given that Sheikh Hamdan silks seem to have conferred a 5lb weight advantage to most of his runners this week such good form have they been in, last year’s Stewards Cup winner Khaadem should not be discounted either but his best efforts have been on fast ground.
Redemption is another good narrative in sport and Pinatubo, last year’s Champion two-year-old, gets a chance of that in the St James’s Palace after suffering his first defeat in the Guineas, when he finished third.
With the winner that day, Kameko, waiting for the Derby, he has a length to find with Wichita which makes this something of a rematch. Though Pinatubo is priced up to reverse the form with the Ballydoyle colt, I am not sure why he should.
However both may once again have to play second fiddle on Saturday, this time to the unbeaten Palace Pier, representing the Gosden-Dettori axis, who warmed up for this with an impressive three-and-a-half-length win at Newcastle on Guineas day.
He will need to come on a lot for the run but he was sleepy through the race and really only woke up to the job inside the last 100 yards so he is bound to be sharper both physically and mentally today.
Gosden can also win the Coronation Stakes with the improving Run Wild who ran away with the Pretty Polly last time but travelled so well through the race dropping back to a mile should not be a problem. She is well named, has run well on soft and, though she may not prefer it, she might be less inconvenienced than some others.
James Doyle has dropped in for a few nice spare rides this week, including Gosden’s Lord North, and comes in for Run Wild by virtue of the fact that Oisin Murphy (Sharing), who rode her last time, and stable jockey Dettori (Alpine Star) both committed to their mounts before Run Wild was diverted here from the Prix de Diane.
The Guineas form is represented by the second and third Cloak of Spirits and Quadrilateral who both have chances. On fast ground I would have had no hesitation going for Graham Motion’s US challenger Sharing, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner but they rarely get this sort of ground in America and she is untried on anything but quick.
With the best two juvenile contests saved until Saturday this really is a scintillating day’s racing. Both the Coventry and Queen Mary have attracted big fields and there is even less evidence to go on than usual. For what it is worth I like Richard Hannon’s filly Happy Romance in the Queen Mary and Mark Johnson’s Thunder of Niagara in the Coventry.