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Albany Stakes preview

Three days down, two to go. Is anyone in front? Excellent work if you are. Friday's card isn't any easier but it kicks off with another juvenile race, this time for the fillies. Making his first appearance for the week is the talented Mark Rowntree, @uptheirons007. Read more of his work on his blog.

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Albany Stakes Preview – Royal Ascot 21st June 2013

Day Four of the Royal meeting commences with the 12th running of the Group 3 Albany Stakes for Fillies over Six Furlongs. Twenty fillies head to post aiming to add their name to a roll of honour which includes Cuis Ghaire (2008), Memory (2010) and Newfangled (2012).

Footstepsinthesand filly Sandiva provides the obvious starting point. The Chestnut filly remains unbeaten after two career starts, with her success in the Listed Coolmore Stud Stakes at Naas earmarking her as an exciting prospect. A half-sister to Wentworth, she’s already made the headlines this week, having being purchased by Qatari based Sheikh Joaan Al Thani. In truth, one would expect this purchase to be with as much of an eye on the 2014 1000 Guineas as this Group 3 contest. In getting the better of Heart Focus, Sandiva illustrated that she possesses that fearful combination of both natural speed (led), with deep stamina reserves (kept on well). Representing Richard Fahey, and now ridden by Frankie Dettori she commands maximum respect.

Heart Focus is more experienced than Sandiva. Jim Bolger’s Intense Focus filly has progressed with each of her four starts in Ireland. A half length scorer at Naas in mid May on her third appearance beating Aidan O’Brien’s debutant Bye Bye Birdie, she got to within two lengths of Sandiva on her subsequent start back at the County Kildare venue earlier this month. Although this form suggests Sandiva should again have her measure in the Albany, the fact that she’s shown winning form on a yielding to soft surface may readdress this apparent imbalance should any significant rainfall occur.

The Ken Condon trained Haatef filly Sacred Aspect also has form lines closely associated with Heart Focus. She’d put a non descript Leopardstown debut effort behind her with a surprise victory in a Six Furlong event at the Dublin venue in mid May. A neck victor on this occasion from Ealain Aibrean, with Heart Focus back in third, she’d clearly improved bundles for her debut experience. However, with Ealain Aibrean beaten at Sligo in another maiden as recently as Tuesday, this form has a slightly muddling look to it, given the good effort from Heart Focus next time behind Sandiva. Sacred Aspect missed her intended engagement at Naas (in the Coolmore Stud Stakes) and heads to Royal Ascot relatively fresh. Her trainer has gone on record describing her as “scopey with a bit of size” so presumably she’d be upto competing against her own sex in this grade in a competitive event.

Joyeuse sprung to the fore of the ante post market for next year’s 1000 Guineas after making a successful debut over this trip at Lingfield late last month. A much discussed sister to Frankel (and half sister to Morpheus), Joyeuse clearly has substantial shoes to fill. Visually, she produced a striking performance, running on strongly after leading at the furlong pole in the style of a horse who will relish six furlongs (and more) on a stiff track such as Ascot. However, whilst it’s entirely possible she will fulfil her undoubted vast potential, she clearly needs to prove that she’s destined for better things with a positive demonstration of her abilities at Group 3 level. At her projected odds, I’d be keen to take her on, with the caveat that any significant ease in the ground would increase her chances considerably.

Charles Hills sends his Dubawi filly Kiyoshi to post for Qatar Racing Limited. Kiyoshi finished fourth on debut in April in the strong looking Newmarket Maiden which featured Saeed Bin Suroor’s Fire Blaze (winner) and Clive Brittain’s Rizenna (fifth). Slowly away on this occasion, she put the experience to good use next time landing the odds at Goodwood. I particularly liked the way she dug deep on her second start, and stamped her authority over Ihtimal inside the final furlong. Coupled with the progression of Rizeena (Queen Mary winner) since Newmarket, she’s an interesting option, apparently with a similar profile to Joyeuse, but improving at a rate of knots and at a lot more attractive odds.

Wonderfully represents the all conquering O’Brien/Magnier/Tabor combination and looks the filly to consider longer term with the 1000 Guineas in mind. By Galileo, this stiff Six Furlong trip won’t pose any fears whatsoever to her. Easy to back, she showed that stamina is her forte at Leopardstown a few weeks back keeping on well to grab Queen of Power in a maiden by a short head. A fast pace would suit her down to the ground stamina wise, and if able to lay up close enough with the speedsters such as Sandiva, she’ll possibly mow them all down deep inside the final furlong.

Godolphin are represented by the once raced unbeaten Wedding Ring. This filly was held up and produced to lead inside the final furlong to beat Ihtimal by a neck on debut at Newmarket. Ihtimal has form closely aligned with Kiyoshi, but was perhaps a shade more exposed when meeting Wedding Ring in June than when racing against Charles Hills filly in May. Whilst Wedding Ring is entitled to improve, I’m not certain she’s capable of scooping this prize.

Brian Meehan’s Red Lady showed remarkable improvement in a Haydock Maiden on her second career start. Dwelling and a never competitive last of nine on debut behind Rizeena at Ascot, she was a filly transformed on her next appearance. Making all at odds of 25/1 she saw off a fourteen runner field, keeping on well for pressure when challenged. Red Lady comes here in preference to the Queen Mary, and although there are some questions about her ability to handle this longer trip, her trainer is seemingly unconcerned. She will be receiving plenty of assistance from the saddle from Kieran Fallon.

Richard Hannon sends two runners to post with stable jockey Richard Hughes preferring Midnite Angel over Suite (Pat Dobbs). On balance, he’s probably made the correct decision, but both horses are opposable. Midnite Angel was beaten on debut by a stablemate of Sandiva (Neighbother), giving Richard Fahey a clear idea of how his filly measures up against the Hannon filly. Whilst Suite, successful in a Polytrack maiden on debut, was clinging on for second place when upped in grade behind Alutiq at Newbury.

Princess Noor represents the Roger Varian and William Buick combo, and looks stamina laden on pedigree. Related to the useful 7f/1m winner Oratory, she created a good impression on the Kempton Polytrack late last month, simply being nudged out to score by three quarters of a length from Bewitchment. However, she’d have questions to answer with regards to form (Bewitchment beaten at Brighton this week), and both track (straight) and surface (turf). This Holy Roman Emperor filly is perhaps out of her depth at this level.

The unbeaten Lucky Kristale provides both George Margarson and Graham Lee with the opportunity to contest this Group 3 event. Although facing a significant step up in class based upon her two victories at Newmarket and Yarmouth, her trainer has expressed his faith in her ability to do so. Described as “hard as nails” by Margarson – a virtue invaluable for any Royal Ascot two year old event – she’s earned her chance at this level, a fact that Ryan Moore had been quick to make to her trainer after her most recent comfortable four length success from Vigor at Yarmouth. Margarson had further indicated Vigor was well regarded by trainer David Simcock – confidence well placed given her decisive beating of the aforementioned Bewitchment in a Brighton maiden on Tuesday.

Arabda (Mark Johnston) and Race Hunter (David Barron) need to improve from their debut successes at Catterick to figure in the placings. That said, Race Hunter impressed in the flesh at Catterick and looks a strong, scopey easy going sort who’ll progress. With both of these horses showing winning form with a shade of cut in the ground, either could be capable of a placed effort should the rain materialise, but on balance I’d prefer Race Hunter from the pair.

Rasheeda is another filly unbeaten from just the sole start in Yorkshire. Marco Botti’s Mastercraftsman filly was ridden out to see off Genuine Quality on the Town Moor at Doncaster in early June. Whilst she’s earned her chance at this level, she’s not my idea of the winner.

Finally, with the greatest of respect to the connections of Iseemist, Kidmenot, Sleepy Sioux, and Lady Lara their respective charges are unlikely to figure thrown in at the deep end in an excellent renewal of this Group 3 event.

Verdict
Sandiva and Wonderfully are the two standout fillies with the future (1000 Guineas) in mind. Both will be suited by further, however, any easing of the ground would be a major worry for Sandiva, and I’ve just a nagging doubt about the overall strength of her form last time at Naas. Wonderfully will handle any ground but softer ground would bring her stamina increasingly into play, and she’s likely to be powering home inside the final furlong. However, the tentative selection remains Charles Hills Kiyoshi. I believe it’s evident she learned plenty from her excellent debut effort behind Fire Blaze, and like the Queen Mary winner Rizeena is potentially a rapidly improving filly. At her projected odds, there is some value to be sought here against fillies such as Joyeuse who are arguably a little overhyped on their potential and pedigree alone. All in all, a fascinating race both for the present and the future.

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