The Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot Saturday
The Diamond Jubilee Stakes is the focus of Royal Ascot’s Saturday swansong and as ever it has attracted an array of international sprinting talent for the 1200m G1 charge up the Ascot straight.
UK-trained runners have won six of the last 10 renewals and it is fairly obvious that their main contender is Harry Angel, Britain’s Champion Sprinter in 2017 after two scintillating G1 victories.
As far as the overseas challenge is concerned it is hard to isolate where the strongest challenge comes from. City Light (France), Bound For Nowhere (USA), Merchant Navy (Ireland) and Redkirk Warrior (Australia) are all powerful last-time-out winners with legitimate claims.
Redkirk Warrior started his career in Newmarket (where he is now being readied for Saturday’s challenge), was a winner in Hong Kong when being readied for the BMW Hong Kong Derby over 2000m, but has really blossomed since switched to sprinting in Australia.
Co-trained by the former Hong Kong-based David Hayes, he has won three sprinting G1’s including the last two runnings of Flemington’s prestigious Newmarket Handicap (1200m). In March, he scorched off in front for the second of those wins, with fast-finishing Merchant Navy – having his final Aussie start before joining Aidan O’Brien in Ireland – in third.
Merchant Navy – also a Flemington G1 winner – swiftly enhanced that form with a victory in the G2 Greenlands Stakes (1200m) at The Curragh, prompting Hayes to comment: “It goes to show that Aussie sprinters are right up there again.”
With race conditions ensuring that seven-year-old Redkirk Warrior has a 12lb pull at the weights with three-year-old Merchant Navy, and bang in-form Frankie Dettori booked to ride, there is some confidence in the Australian camp.
There also seems to be confidence behind US speedball Bound For Nowhere who comes here off a monster win in the G2 Shakertown Stakes (1100m) at Keeneland in April.
“He’s now got the experience of a straight track (from his two European starts last year) and that’s what’s going to help us run really big at Ascot. I’m excited about this guy and he’s breathing fire right now,” trainer Wesley Ward said.
So what of the local star Harry Angel who easily gave four rivals weight and a beating in the G2 Duke Of York Stakes on last month’s 2018 return.
Trainer Clive Cox said: “What he achieved last season was unbelievable especially as a three-year-old beating older sprinters so comprehensively in the Sprint Cup at Haydock. And I believe we have him in the same shape now.”
And referring to what some consider to be a sizeable chink in Harry Angel’s armour, Cox said: “People say he’s never won at Ascot but I don’t think there’s anything in it.”
It is true that Harry Angel has won all his five starts at other tracks and has lost all four starts at Ascot. In fact, he’s been a narrow second in three of those and didn’t handle the mud the other time. But supporters of his cosmopolitan band of rivals will of course be hoping that this explosive four-year-old sprinter really does have a jinx where Ascot is concerned.