Langtry the classic act to upstage showman Ward
Friday 19 June 2009
The Albany Stakes is one of the youngest prizes at the meeting, and is scheduled today merely as an appetiser to the Coronation Stakes. All of a sudden, however, it has the potential to prove one of the more significant races run anywhere in the world this year.
At the start of the week, Lillie Langtry looked the banker of the meeting. Unlucky not to beat the highly regarded Kitty Kiernan at Naas last month, she duly reversed form when they met again in a Group race over the same course and distance. What is more, she did so with a real swagger, and only a slight reservation over her ability to last a mile qualifies her credentials as a Guineas filly already.
But then along came Wesley Ward. When he arrived from California with five two-year-olds, people were touched by his spirit of adventure, but essentially considered him naïve. Not for long. His first two juvenile runners won – the second, Jealous Again, taking the Queen Mary by five lengths. And Ward more or less shrugged and said: "You should see my other filly." And that is what you can do today, when Aegean meets Lillie Langtry.
Like Ward's other runners here, Aegean has a modest pedigree but she beat Jealous Again – admittedly on dirt – at Churchill Downs last time. She had previously won a maiden on polytrack, on which basis she is expected to prove at home on turf.
It is not as if Ward has come here with the elite juveniles of North America. If he can go on and beat a filly as obviously exceptional as Lillie Langtry – by local standards, at any rate – then he may cause not just a sensation, but a crisis. For now, however, anyone who wants to bet must do so on the premise that Aidan O'Brien juveniles cannot suddenly be dismissed as big fish in a small pond. You must remain loyal to Lillie Langtry (2.30), and just be grateful she will be a bigger price than had seemed remotely possible.
Last year's Albany winner, Cuis Ghaire, was ultimately foiled only by Ghanaati in the 1,000 Guineas and that filly leads the home defence in the Coronation Stakes. She did exceptionally well to win on her first start outside maidens, but few managed to get involved from off the pace that day.
One who did finish well was Heart Shaped, despite becoming unbalanced in the Dip, and she has now produced top-class form on both starts over a mile on quick ground. Richard Hughes could suit her well, in the absence of the suspended Johnny Murtagh, and at 18-1 with Coral Heart Shaped (3.45) looks an excellent each-way alternative to Elusive Wave. The French raider, a Classic winner herself, represents a formidable stable and is obviously going to run well, but the odds make that perfectly clear.
O'Brien could have another big day all round, as Black Bear Island (3.05) remains the one to beat in the King Edward VII Stakes despite that disappointing run in the Derby. There is clearly nothing amiss and he had previously shown himself a really talented, progressive colt when surging from last to first in the Dante.
In the Queen's Vase, Dhushan (4.55) looks the sort to improve considerably for such an extreme test, while Sir Michael Stoute has intriguing types for both handicaps in Perfect Stride (4.20) and Seasider (5.30).
Nap: Heart Shaped (3.45 Ascot)
NB: Lillie Langtry (2.30 Ascot)
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