It might seem closer to recklessness than optimism to favour a mere maiden winner over a filly who last month surged nine lengths clear of her rivals in a Classic. But Cardigan (3.45) represents a trainer of such circumspect judgement that her very presence in the field qualifies her as a most intriguing candidate for the Coronation Stakes today.
William Haggas always places his horses with the utmost care. This is not the sort of trainer to wreck a horse's future in handicaps merely to give his patrons a picnic at Royal Ascot. By finishing "only" fourth in the Oaks last month, for instance, Vow took the trainer's record in Epsom Classics to two winners from three runners. If Haggas believes Cardigan to have elite calibre, he would only squander a rating of 88 if satisfied that she should cut to the chase.
On the face of it, regardless of her ability, Cardigan might seem doomed by inexperience today. She has run only once in her life, in a Haydock maiden last September, but Haggas won the Derby itself when Shaamit had a pretty similar profile. The bare form at Haydock, arresting as her performance was, is neither here nor there. Yes, she took a useful yardstick seven lengths clear of the rest; and yes, she is bred to come into her own over another two furlongs today. But the key factor is rather the sheer quality of her stable's three-year-old fillies this season. Three of them won races just on the day that Vow ran in the Oaks, while Sentaril was beaten only a length in the Jersey Stakes on Wednesday. Haggas, in other words, should know just where he stands.
Maybe would have set the standard, but has dropped out after bruising a foot. It is difficult to know what to make of her Ballydoyle stablemate, Homecoming Queen, after her failure to back up a freakish Newmarket performance in her home Guineas – where Samitar for once resembled the filly who won the Albany Stakes on this card last year.
All things being equal, an authoritative winner of that race, this time round, will surely be back for the Coronation next year. With eight unbeaten records on the line, however, it is impossible to know which filly will make most improvement and The Gold Cheongsam (2.30) is suggested merely as each-way value in a race where maidens tend to do well.
The Derby form is tested by Astrology and Thought Worthy in the King Edward VII Stakes, but both would be pardoned if running flat so soon after a tough race and there may be better value about the Warren Place pair – notably Thomas Chippendale (3.05), who can accelerate his progress at this trip.
Minimise Risk never threatened in the Derby and steps up to two miles for the Queen's Vase but the extreme test looks ideal for the royal runner, Estimate (5.0). In two slippery handicaps, meanwhile, Gatewood (4.25) and Lightning Cloud (5.35) provide a firmer foothold than most.
The Turf Account
Chris McGrath's nap
Tmaam (7.55 Goodwood)
Gatewood (4.25 Ascot)