For the first time since 1945, Newmarket will host the Group 1 Coronation Cup as part of their season-opening four-day QIPCO Guineas Festival, which begins on Thursday 4th June. The 1m4f Coronation Cup, which features as the first leg of the QIPCO British Champions Series, will be sponsored for the first time by Hurworth Bloodstock. The Group 1 Hurworth Bloodstock Coronation Cup is scheduled to take place at 3.35pm on Friday 5th June.
RUNNER BY RUNNER GUIDE
1 (7) – Alounak (Camelot x Awe Struck (Rail Link), Andrew Balding/King Power Racing Co Ltd/Silvestre De Sousa, 5yo horse, OR114, Form: 141/12/244645125-)
5 year old Alounak makes his first racecourse appearance on British soil, following a fruitful 2019 campaign for trainer Waldemar Hickst that culminated in his winning the Group 3 Preis Der Sparkassen Finanzgruppe at Baden-Baden, finishing half a length behind the re-opposing Desert Encounter in the Grade 1 Canadian International and latterly finishing 5th in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita, beaten just 2 1/2 lengths.
Following his Breeders’ Cup 5th placing, Alounak was acquired by King Power Racing, and was brought over to England to be trained by Andrew Balding. The comments by Alastair Donald following his purchase suggest that Alounak has been bought with an international campaign in mind, with races such as the Melbourne Cup and Hong Kong Vase being flagged up as possible targets. With that in mind, this seasonal reappearance may well be a stepping stone to other races later on in the year. In any case, Alounak has bumped into a top-class field for his first domestic start and, with plenty to find in the book with several of his rivals, looks a watching brief today.
2 (6) – Anthony Van Dyck (Galileo x Believe’N’Succeed (Exceed And Excel), A P O’Brien/Mrs John Magnier & Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith/Ryan Moore, 4yo colt, OR118, Form: 7111239/1120330-)
You would have to go back to Quest For Fame (Rainbow Quest x Aryene (Green Dancer)) in 1991 to find the last time that the Epsom Derby winner lined up in the Coronation Cup the following year (where he finished 4th of 7 runners), and even further back to 1973 to find the last horse to successfully complete the double, when Roberto (Hail To Reason x Bramalea (Nashua)) complimented his 1972 Derby win with an easy victory from the front in the following year’s Coronation Cup for the Vincent O’Brien/Lester Piggott combination.
Anthony Van Dyck came into last year’s Epsom Derby as the most experienced runner in the field (with 8 prior starts) and with one of the best pieces of form in the field (being his Group 1 National Stakes 2nd to Quorto (Dubawi x Volume (Mount Nelson)) as a juvenile), and he arguably did not need to better that level of form to see off 12 rivals under Seamie Heffernan, picking a seam against the far rail to score by half a length. Anthony Van Dyck failed to score in 5 subsequent starts, with his best performances coming with a 3rd placing in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes and a further 3rd placing in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf, where he may have finished closer but for stumbling a furlong out when clipping the heels of the weakening Bandua (The Factor x If Angels Sang)). His final start of 2019 came in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase, where the combination of a slowish start, a wide draw (12 of 14) and a long season may have taken its toll; there is every chance that the first-time application of blinkers did not have the desired effect either (they are left off here).
Anthony Van Dyck has had 14 starts to date, and has so far run to a level that might leave him with a bit to find on a couple of his rivals on his seasonal reappearance.
3 (2) – Broome (Australia x Sweepstake (Acclamation), A P O’Brien/M Matsushima/M Tabor/D Smith/Mrs Magnier/James Doyle, 4yo colt, OR117, Form: 51622/1146-)
Broome began his 2019 season with a bang, slamming subsequent Irish Derby winner Sovereign (Galileo x Devoted To You (Danehill Dancer)) by 8 lengths in the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown before following up in the Group 3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes over the same course & distance (albeit in a less emphatic manner). Sent to post as a well-backed 6.33 BSP chance in last year’s Epsom Derby, Broome played up a touch in the stalls just before they opened, and was consequently one of the slowest away; he proceeded to race wide at times through the 2nd half of race but ultimately proved one-paced in the finish, coming up a touch short where it mattered to finish a close-up 4th.
The starting stalls once again were to Broome’s undoing in the Irish Derby where, despite being the last to go into the gates, he once again proved restless in the stalls and once again was slow to jump, losing some 3-4 lengths at the start. To further compound his woes, the Irish Derby (like many of Curragh’s better races on the round course last year) played into the hands of those who raced ‘on the speed’, and Broome was never able to get involved in the race from his position, plugging on from the rear to finish a well-beaten 6th; he was put away for the season following this run.
The ownership make-up of Broome has changed since the Irish Derby, with Masaaki Matsushima coming into partnership with the Coolmore axis of Magnier, Tabor & Smith in what appears to be his first runner in the UK as an owner (with his silks having been carried in France last year by the likes of Amarena (Soldier Hollow x Amouage (Tiger Hill)), Savarin (Deep Impact x Sarafina (Refuse To Bend)), Geniale (Deep Impact x Sarafina (Refuse To Bend)) & the ill-fated Helter Skelter (Wootton Bassett x Winna Chope (Soave))).
For all that there could be more to come from Broome in the future, he is best watched here, with his strongest form still leaving him short of what is likely to be required; it will be interesting to see how he fares in the starting gates after nearly 12 months off the track.
4 (3) – Defoe (Dalakhani x Dulkashe (Pivotal), Roger Varian/Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum/Andrea Atzeni, 6yo gelding, OR118, Form: 120/11110/113202/42119-2)
Following 3 placings at the highest level, Defoe finally captured his maiden Group 1 win when seeing off Kew Gardens (Galileo x Chelsea Rose (Desert King)) by half a length to win last year’s Coronation Cup at Epsom. Defoe would back up that win with a half-length victory in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes before disappointing in a vintage renewal of the Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, with his jockey Andrea Atzeni reporting to the stewards that his mount ‘had no more to give’; he was also reportedly unsuited by the ‘good to soft’ going.
Given a 224 day break, Defoe reappeared in the Group 2 City Of Gold Stakes in Meydan over 1m4f, going down by a short-head to Loxley (New Approach x Lady Marian (Nayef)) in what would have likely proven a good springboard into the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic over the same course & distance the following month.
It could be argued that Defoe has been placed to excellent effect throughout his career by trainer Roger Varian, yet has fallen a long way short in the 3 strongest races he has encountered (namely the 2017 St. Leger, the 2018 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe & the 2019 King George). Where does this year’s Coronation Cup rank in terms of competitiveness?
5 (5) – Desert Encounter (Halling x La Chicana (Invincible Spirit), David Simcock/Abdulla Al Mansoori/Jim Crowley, 8yo gelding, OR115, Form: 42/31/11132/123615/93726131/38831111-56)
Over the last few years, trainer David Simcock has perfected the art of conditioning the older horse, as borne out by the likes of Breton Rock (Bahamian Bounty x Anna’s Rock (Rock Of Gibraltar)) winning the Group 2 Lennox Stakes at the age of 7, Sheikhzayedroad (Dubawi x Royal Secrets (Highest Honor)) winning two Group 2’s at the age of 7, Trade Storm (Trade Fair x Frisson (Slip Anchor)) taking the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile as a 6 year old and Lightning Spear (Pivotal x Atlantic Destiny (Royal Academy)) finally making the breakthrough at Group 1 level with his victory in the 2018 Sussex Stakes at the age of 7.
He has repeated the trick with 8 year old gelding (and dual Group 1 scorer) Desert Encounter, whose two victories in the Grade 1 Canadian International Stakes came as a 6 & 7 year old. In six domestic Group 1 starts, Desert Encounter has surprised on occasion, but overall tended to have come up short at the highest level in the UK, invariably at long prices. Following two below-par efforts in Meydan earlier this year, the Coronation Cup represents the 3rd race of a campaign for Desert Encounter that is likely to revolve around a crack at a record-equalling 3rd win in Woodbine’s 1m4f feature in October; he looks set to come up short here.
6 (1) – Ghaiyyath (Dubawi x Nightime (Galileo), Charlie Appleby/Godolphin/William Buick, 5yo horse, OR126, Form: 311/1/1310-1)
Since 2010, between Tattersalls, Goffs & Arqana, there have been just six foals to have reached 7 figures in the sales ring across the three auction houses, with Godolphin assuming ownership of 3 of those 6, all of which were colts by Dubawi (Dubai Millennium x Zomaradah (Deploy)). Only one of those high-profile foal purchases has made the track to date, and it is so far a case of money well spent as €1,100,000 Goffs November Foal Sale 2015 graduate Ghaiyyath has proven electrifying on the racecourse at times, winning last year’s Group 1 Grosser Preis Von Baden by a staggering 14 lengths to leave himself on an official rating of OR126, making him the 3rd highest-rated horse in the world (according to Longines World Rankings) behind Enable (Nathaniel x Concentric (Sadler’s Wells)) & Beauty Generation (Road To Rock x Stylish Bel (Bel Esprit)).
The key to Ghaiyyath is that he goes extremely well fresh, as borne out by the fact that he has a perfect 4/4 record off breaks of 100 days or more, running his 3 best figures to date off his last three 100+ day breaks. However, Ghaiyyath is a bit of a showoff, a proper ‘ratings’ horse who will keep pouring it on in front if & when asked to. Consequently, the flip side to this is that Ghaiyyath appears to put an awful lot into his races, and he has proven underwhelming on the last two occasions that he has been turned out relatively quickly after a race, most recently in the 2019 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe when breaking 40mph (and running the fastest furlong in the race’s entirety) whilst setting the pace before ultimately burning himself out by the time the field had straightened for home, finishing a well-beaten 10th of the 12 runners.
Following an 8 1/2 length slamming of stablemate Spotify (Redoute’s Choice x Gwenseb (Green Tune)) in the Group 3 Dubai Millennium Stakes over 1m2f at Meydan in February this year, Ghaiyyath missed his intended date in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic on the abandoned Dubai World Cup fixture, and comes here as a seemingly fresh horse. Expect Ghaiyyath to serve it up to all 6 of his rivals a fair way from home; he could take plenty of pegging back.
7 (4) – Stradivarius (Sea The Stars x Private Life (Bering), John Gosden/B E Nielsen/Frankie Dettori, 6yo horse, OR122, Form: 541/121133/11111/111112-)
Not since 1913 has a previous winner of the Ascot Gold Cup dropped all the way back to 1m4f to take the Coronation Cup the following year, but that is exactly what Prince Palatine (Persimmon x Lady Lightfoot (Isinglass)) achieved just over 100 years ago, and that is who Stradivarius is attempting to emulate on his seasonal reappearance as a 6 year old.
Over the last 3 seasons of racing, Stradivarius has reached superstar status in the staying ranks, winning the 2m4f Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup twice and the 2m Group 1 Goodwood Cup three times, in total winning 12 of the 15 races he has contested beyond 1m4f. However, on so many occasions, Stradivarius has shown both speed and acceleration to get him out of tricky spots, most notably when a sharp turn of foot burst him through a rapidly-closing gap at the top of Ascot’s home straight to see him victorious in the 2018 Long Distance Cup on QIPCO British Champions Day and, despite having not raced at a distance as short as 1m4f in over 3 years, he looks a good chance of acquitting himself very well at this distance.
While Stradivarius is far and away the most decorated runner in this line-up, he is not the highest-rated, with his current rating of OR122 leaving him officially 4lb behind Ghaiyyath. However, this is down to Stradivarius’ nature: he is not a flashy horse, instead seeming to only do what is required to win (as borne out by the fact that 12 of his 14 career wins have come by less than 2 lengths). The horse once dubbed a ‘street fighter’ by his trainer John Gosden, Stradivarius seems to love a battle in the finish and, if he can engage with his rivals in the closing stages of this race, Stradivarius can go very close to winning this contest en route to a crack at a historic 3rd Ascot Gold Cup.
HOW WILL THE RACE UNFOLD
Ghaiyyath has so far proven devastating from the front and, with the prospect of seemingly little competition for the lead, he can dictate. However, a lot will depend on how Ghaiyyath looks after himself in the lead, and whether William Buick can get into a good rhythm without overdoing the fractions. Frankie Dettori will not want Ghaiyyath to be getting too far ahead during this race and, with stamina assured, may not be too far away from the lead throughout aboard Stradivarius, who has never appeared to enjoy leading in the early stages but has proven more than happy to take a sit in previous races. Anthony Van Dyck’s hand looked a touch forced last time out in the Hong Kong Vase when he went forward from a wide draw and, whilst he is not likely to repeat the same tactics, he should not be too far away throughout. On his first start for Andrew Balding, Alounak should not be miles off the lead either, with his stamina at the trip also assured. Defoe is a harder horse to read from a tactics perspective: he used to be a strong traveller, but on his last few starts he appears to have lost half a stride of toe and, if Andrea Atzeni chooses to sit too far back, Defoe could be off the bridle a fair way out, and with likely plenty of ground to make up too. Desert Encounter has long been a hold-up performer; similar tactics look likely to be applied here. Finally, Broome raced at the rear in all four of his starts last year, and it would be little surprise to see him off the pace in the run; a lot will depend on how he behaves in the stalls, and consequently how he jumps.
In what has the potential to be an intriguing game of ‘Cat & Mouse’, Stradivarius is taken to overcome Ghaiyyath in a finish that could be one to savour. It looks particularly tight for the minor honours but, if things can fall right for Broome (and there are a few things that need to, chiefly good stalls behaviour and a very strong pace to aim at), he might just stay on late to fill the frame.