Desert Icon A Promising Runner At Pontefract This Wednesday6 min read
The Grade 1 Punchestown Gold Cup is the feature race on day two of the Punchestown Festival and, when you add the return to the track at Ascot of both the unbeaten Calyx and the former St James’s Palace Stakes winner Barney Roy, this is a wonderful day’s racing under both codes.
There is a bit of light rain forecast at Ascot, but we said the same thing about Sandown at the weekend and that failed to materialise. Safe to assume ground on the fast side of good for today’s Royal Ascot Trials day.
It is well documented how well American trainer Wesley Ward has done with his juveniles at the Royal meeting and he brings over the once-raced filly Lady Pauline (2.15) in the opener. The filly was sent off odds on for her debut at Keeneland on dirt earlier in the month and came home nearly 10l clear.
Ward has saddled the winner of the Queen Mary three times since first winning the 5f Royal Ascot juvenile contest in 2009 and Lady Pauline is just 5/2 to add a fourth ahead of today’s opener.
The Gp 3 Sagaro Stakes is a Gold Cup trial and sees the reappearance of last year’s Derby second Dee Ex Bee who steps up in trip to two miles for the first time. Mark Johnston’s 4-year-old failed to win last season and has won only two of his 13 career starts. He may improve for the step up in distance, but marginal preference is for Weekender (3.25) who has been gelded since disappointing on ground softer than ideal in the autumn.
The selection finished runner up in the Ebor under 9st 12lbs back in August and this 5-y-old son of Frankel finished third in the Henry II Stakes on rain-softened ground on his sole previous try at two miles. Frankie Dettoi takes the ride for John Gosden.
Calyx (3.55) has been off the course since winning the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot back in June and connections have decided to bypass the 2000 Guineas on Saturday to take this Commonwealth Cup Trial over 6f.
The selection is 8/1 (from 10s) for the Gp 1 Commonwealth Cup although connections are also considering stepping up in trip to a Mile in the St James’s Palace Stakes. Today’s race is likely to decide if the selection is kept to sprint distances this term and also sees the reappearance of the filly Signora Cabello who also scored at the Royal meeting – Queen Mary Stakes – 12 months ago.
Barney Roy may have had fertility issues at stud, but he was previously a top-class 8-10f colt on fast ground and his win in the Gp 1 St James’s Palace Stakes is, by some way, the best form on offer. But how much ability and passion does he still have for his previous occupation?
He will win this if anywhere near his best and he receives 3lbs from Wadilsafa (4.25) but preference is for the latter who won three of four starts last season and was clearly progressing well for Owen Burrows who, at the time of writing, has won with three of his last five runners. The 4-y-old Frankel colt is 14/1 for the Lockinge at Newbury next month and I would be disappointed if he didn’t run a big race this afternoon.
2.15: Lady Pauline
At Pontefract Desert Icon (3.00) shaped with promise when a never nearer fourth in the Wood Ditton at Newmarket last month and he looks sure to appreciate the step up to 10f this afternoon for William Haggas.
3.00: Desert Icon
Eight go to post for the Punchestown feature including Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo (6.05) and Aintree Bowl winner Kemboy whose only defeat in four starts so far this term came at Cheltenham when he was an early casualty. Ruby Walsh rode Kemboy at Aintree and he keeps the ride with Paul Townend aboard the selection as he was at the Festival. The selection is 7/4 with the Aintree winner 11/8 market leader in what looks a match with Snow Falcon having to improve considerably on his disappointing fourth at Fairyhouse just nine days ago.
Minella Indo reversed Clonmel form with Allaho (5.30) when landing the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham but the hope is that back on today’s less testing ground the Willie Mullins inmate can return to winning ways in the Grade 1 3m Novice Hurdle. The selection is 7/2 at BetVictor.
6.05: Al Boum Photo