The Diamond Jubilee Stakes
Run over the straight six furlongs on the final day of the five-day Royal Ascot fixture, the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes has gradually evolved since its inaugural running way back in 1868. For many years it was known as the Cork and Orrery Stakes, but in 2002 was renamed the Golden Jubilee Stakes in honour of The Queen’s Golden Jubilee and upgraded to Grade 1 status. Ten years later it was renamed again as the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, marking The Queen’s 60 years on the throne, and given the outstanding longevity of the royal family, it could very well undergo a further name change in 2022!
This race attracts some of the very best six furlong sprinters in the world, and over the last 15 years the likes of Australian greats Choisir (2003) and Black Caviar (2012), Hong Kong’s flying Cape of Good Hope (2005) and the USA’s Undrafted (2015) have landed the spoils, alongside British and Irish stars such as Kingsgate Native (2008), Starspangledbanner (2010), and most recently James Fanshawe’s The Tin Man (2017). This is a truly world-class race.
Just 25 horses are entered in the race two weeks ahead of the event on June 23, and we may see one of the smallest fields for some years. The presence of Clive Cox’s HARRY ANGEL may well have scared a number of potential rivals away, persuading them to look elsewhere for realistic opportunities. When you look at the profile of the Godolphin-owned four-year-old, it’s not hard to understand why some trainers may have thought twice about going into battle against the flying son of Dark Angel.
Four-year-old Harry Angel is relatively lightly raced having won five of his nine career starts to date. It’s quite possible he could still be improving as so many top sprinters only reach their peak at four or five years old, and judging by his reappearance run at York last month when easily accounting for Group 1 winner Brando in the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes, he could be in for a stellar season. That success came on good to firm ground with Adam Kirby’s mount looking as if the outing would do him good.
Winner of the 2016 Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on his second and final start as a juvenile, Harry Angel built on a solid first run of last campaign by winning the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock before finding only the very smart Caravaggio too good for him in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot last summer. Three weeks later he powered to victory in the Group 1 Darley July Cup at Newmarket, the returned from a 12-week break to slam Tasleet by four lengths in the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock, defying heavy ground to win as he pleased. He was probably past his best on his final outing last term when only fourth in soft ground at Ascot in October’s Group 1 Qipco British Champion Sprint won by Librisa Breeze.
It’s not easy to find a flaw in Cox’s colt. He goes on just about any ground, six furlongs is his optimum trip, he’s proven at this track, he’s clear on official figures, and he may well be getting better. All in all, the 3/1 still on offer with Betfair looks a very fair price. He’ll be hard to beat.
The main dangers both appear to come from Australia, although one is now trained temporarily by Aidan O’Brien in Ireland. Merchant Navy (4/1 with BetStars) was very smart in Australia last season, winning the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington over six furlongs before ending his season failing by only a neck to beat Redkirk Warrior (also set to run in this Diamond Jubilee Stakes) in the Group 1 Lexus Newmarket Handicap, a massive effort for a three-year-old against a high-class seven-year-old.
The son of Fastnet Rock, according to O’Brien, didn’t even have a proper gallop after joining his Ballydoyle squad from Aaron Purcell in mid-April, so it was especially impressive to see him dismiss very useful sprinters such as Spirit of Valor, Tasleet, and Brando with the minimum of fuss in the Group 2 Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh on May 26. That was a great effort and O’Brien appears bullish about the chance of Merchant Navy, a horse who could be very special. He may well give Harry Angel a proper fight.
So too might David Hayes’ Redkirk Warrior (13/2 with Sportingbet), the experienced Australian sprinter who started his career in England with William Haggas winning both outings as a three-year-old over 10 furlongs. He stayed on powerfully to beat Merchant Navy into third at Flemington in March, and the son of Notnowcato appears equally effective at a high level over five and six furlongs these days. He has reportedly travelled over well from Down Under and is expected to make his presence felt.
The defending champion is James Fanshawe’s fine sprinter The Tin Man, who finished fast to catch Tasleet in this event 12 months ago. He was well beaten behind Harry Angel next time in the July Cup , and was beaten a similar five lengths behind Clive Cox’s star when third in the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock in September. On all known form it is hard to see this admirable gelding turning the form around, but he won well on his seasonal reappearance at Windsor and undoubtedly saves his best for Ascot, where he also won the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Sprint in 2016.
American trainer Wesley Ward has both Lady Aurelia and Bound For Nowhere entered for this race, but Lady Aurelia is almost certain to take her chance in the five furlong Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes. Were she to win easily she may take this race in four days later, but that would be a tough task,especially as she is a better horse over the minimum trip. Bound For Nowhere ran a fine race to be fourth to Caravaggio in last year’s Commonwealth Cup over course and distance and looks the likelier of the pair to run, but his overall profile leaves him with quite a lot to find and this looks too hot for him.
Charles Hills superb ’ Battaash is rated just 2lb behind Harry Angel but he is a pure five furlong horse and will undoubtedly head to the King’s Stand Stakes. It would be a major surprise for him to run over six furlongs. Henry Candy’s Limato lost out by only a length to The Tin Man in last year’s race then got within a length-and-a-half of Harry Angel in the July Cup at Newmarket, a very good effort. He won the seven furlong Group 2 Challenge Stakes at Newmarket last autumn, but found the mile of last month’s Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury stretching his stamina beyond the limits. Back at this trip and on a track he likes he looks overpriced at 16/1 each-way with Bet365, but it would be a surprise to see him land the spoils.
Librisa Breeze and Tasleet are good sprinters but don’t look good enough, and the only other horse that catches the eye as a possible surprise package is Blue Point, who defeated Harry Angel over course and distance in May 2017 in the Group 3 Merriebelle Stakes.He went on to finish third to Caravaggio in the Commonwealth Cup and then fourth to Harry Angel in the July Cup, but while Clive Cox’s charge has progressed relentlessly, Blue Point appears to have plateaued and needs to take a big step forward to reverse that trend.
ADVICE: HARRY ANGEL (3/1 with Betfair)
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.