Friday will mark the fourth day of the Royal Ascot meet, which in my humble opinion offers the best racing in the world. The meet runs just 5 days, from Tuesday through Saturday, with six races each day. Where else can one go and see men dressed in morning coats and top hats (mandatory), women in their best dresses and hats (also mandatory), and The Queen and members of the royal family arriving at the race course in horse drawn carriages? Also, wagering (or punting, I should say) is offered daily on what color outfit (or maybe it’s narrowed down to just her hat) The Queen will be wearing each day. (for those of you keeping track, Tuesday was canary yellow, Wednesday-pink, Thursday-light blue) Isn’t that great?! (I think on Friday light green will be the choice. Wonder where I can find a bookmaker, since TVG doesn’t offer that wager…)***Author’s note: Queen Elizabeth wore lavender on Friday. Good thing I didn’t wager…..
Truly this is ‘racing as it was meant to be’.
The Royal Ascot meeting offers a total of 7 group I races, with 3 of them on opening day. The annual highlight of Royal Ascot is always the Gold Cup (Eng-I) on Thursday, a 2 1/2-mile event for 4-year-olds and up. No, that is not a misprint….that really is 2 1/2–miles. Thursday is also Ladies’ Day, and the usual attendance swells from 50,000 to 70,000.
This year, for the fourth year in a row, Yeats won the Gold Cup in commanding fashion. The 8-year-old son of Sadler’s Wells carved his place in history, becoming the only horse ever to accomplish that feat. Simply incredible. Even more amazing is the fact that Yeats is a horse, not a gelding. He has been a group I winner every year since 2005, when he captured the Coronation Cup (Eng-I) at Epsom. On top of all this, he has always been sound!
There is no doubt in my mind, if Arthur ‘Bull’ Hancock of Claiborne Farm were alive today, Yeats would be retired to stand here in Kentucky. Unfortunately, it is not 1940, and that won’t be the case. Back then, many of the best European performers were brought here to the Commonwealth to stand at stud. We were so fortunate to have the likes of Nasrullah, Princequillo, Blenheim, Ribot, etc., standing here.
Now we ‘breed for speed’….for several decades the American Thoroughbred has been bred to excel at 6 furlongs to 1 mile. The idea is to get a precocious 2-year-old, win a few stakes (and maybe the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile), and get a stud deal lined up before the end of the juvenile season. Nine times out of ten, the colt becomes an early Kentucky Derby favorite, only to suffer some sort of injury early in the sophomore season and is then whisked off to stud. The colt never has a real chance to prove himself before he starts passing on whatever infirmities and lack of staying power he may have. For those of you who follow or work in the racing industry, I know I am saying nothing new here, so please just bear with me.
I can’t put into words how much I wish Yeats would stand in North America. We have so many mares that have sprint-oriented pedigrees that would be a great cross with him. He would pass along staying power and soundness. Yeah, I know…I’m living in a fantasy world. A girl can dream, can’t she??? However, breeders don’t want that anymore, do they? What in the world would we do with a stallion whose (or is it who’s?) best distance is 20 furlongs??? Sigh….
For a horse like Yeats to continue to excel at the highest level for so many years is amazing. Especially since his owners are Coolmore, who operate one of the most powerful stallion operations on the planet. However, to be blunt, they do have plenty of sons of Sadler’s Wells already at stud. So, I can see why they decided to keep one of them in training for a bit longer.
Anyway, contrast the staying power of Yeats in the Gold Cup with that of the 2-year-old filly, Jealous Again, who captured the 5-furlong Queen Mary Stakes (Eng-II) on Wednesday. Trainer Wesley Ward, who is based mainly in California, shipped over several 2-year-olds to the Royal Ascot meet. In the past, North American-based horses have not had much luck at that race meet. That is, until this year.
Ward, who was champion apprentice jockey in the States in 1984, began training in the early 1990’s. (here’s an interesting tidbit….he was aboard champion and future KY Derby winner Ferdinand when that colt broke his maiden as a 2-year-old in 1985) The first 2-year-old that ran for Ward at Royal Ascot was Strike the Tiger, a 2yo gelded son of Tiger Ridge who ran in the 5-furlong Windsor Castle Stakes. Strike the Tiger went off at odds of 33-1 and shocked everyone, hanging on to win by a neck.
Not to be outdone by her stablemate, Jealous Again gunned it from the gate in the Queen Mary, and simply ran her competition off their feet, running away and winning easily by five lengths. Speed, speed, and more speed. Jealous Again is by Trippi, out of Chi Sa, by Bold Ruckus. Trippi is a son of End Sweep who excelled at sprinting (surprise), winning the 7-furlong Tom Fool Stakes (gr. II), Riva Ridge Stakes (gr. II), and Swale Stakes (gr. III) at age three. Trippi started out his stud career in Florida, before being sold in 2008 to stand in South Africa.
Jealous Again broke her maiden in April at Keeneland, capturing a 4 1/2-furlong event by 11 1/4-lengths. She then finished second to stablemate Aegean (who runs at Royal Ascot on Friday) in the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs on April 30. Should it be a surprise that she won the Queen Mary the other day? Not really, if you look at her form and pedigree.
As Ward said himself, “In America we train for speed and that’s one of the reasons I came over; I thought I could maybe get a jump on the other trainers and other horses as I train to get my horses out nice and early and take advantage of the early races. Your horses are bred more for longer distances and ours are bred more for speed.”
So, Jealous Again has a very important group II win to add to her resume. Do I think she will be a factor in any sort of major races later on this year, or next year (either on turf or dirt)?? No. I guess it won’t matter, though. She will always have that impressive Royal Ascot victory to boast about. 🙂
Now, I think it would be ‘totally cool’ to breed Jealous Again to Yeats. That could result in the perfect horse to compete in the States. The resulting foal would be from a sire who excelled at 2 miles and beyond out of a mare that was best up to 6 furlongs (well, as of right now it’s just 5 furlongs, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt). Can we say Triple Crown winner??!??!?! 😉 That foal could probably be sent over to contest the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I)…and it would probably win! 😉
Yeah, I know, I know. I’m dreaming again, aren’t I? ”If wishes were horses…..”