By Ben Asgari, racing.com
Names like Black Caviar or So You Think may not feature but this year’s contingent of Australian gallopers heading to Royal Ascot deserves to be respected.
Brazen Beau looks to be the best chance of the four Aussie raiders, however, the big question is what race trainer Chris Waller settles on for the three-year-old.
Last seen defeating a hot field in the Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington in March, history would suggest Waller should opt for the King’s Stand Stakes rather than the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
The past three Australian-trained King’s Stand winners - Takeover Target (2006), Miss Andretti (2007) and Scenic Blast (2009) - all went into the race off wins in the Newmarket, with the Aussie sprinters’ sharper turn of speed seemingly better suited over five furlongs than six up the testing Ascot straight.
While Starspangledbanner and Black Caviar were able to win the Diamond Jubilee, Starspangledbanner was a Group 1 winner over a mile in Australia while Black Caviar, aside from being the best sprinter of her era, had won at the highest level over 1400.
Brazen Beau did finish runner-up at Group 1 level over the mile as a two-year-old but hasn’t been tried beyond 1200m in five starts during his three-year-old season.
There remains speculation Waller could run the colt in both races but wherever the son of I Am Invincible does line up, he should be seriously respected.
Shamal Wind, who will contest the King’s Stand on the Tuesday, is an interesting runner as she has never really been considered an elite level sprinter in Australia.
A mare that has always possessed an electrifying sprint on her day, the Robert Smerdon-trained five-year-old broke through for her first win at Group 1 level last start in the Oakleigh Plate (1100m) under handicap conditions.
In the daughter of Dubawi’s favour is the fact she is brilliant fresh, with five wins from her six previous first-up runs. She also boasts five wins from six starts at five furlongs or less, however, it remains to be seen whether that statistic will work against her up the taxing Ascot straight.
The third of the Aussie sprint hopefuls is the Gai Waterhouse-trained Wandjina, who will take his place in the Diamond Jubilee. Unlike his aforementioned compatriots, there are no question marks over this son of Snitzel’s ability to run out a strong six furlongs at Ascot.
After displaying glimpses of his potential during the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, the three-year-old has gone to a new level this preparation with a victory in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) and a narrow runner-up finish behind the likely Australian Racehorse of the Year, Dissident, in a star-studded All Aged Stakes (1400m).
Though he doesn’t possess the brilliance of Brazen Beau, if the Jubilee becomes a test of stamina then it would hardly surprise to see him come out on top.
Prince Of Wales’s Stakes hopeful Criterion stamped himself as Australia’s premier middle-distance galloper with a dominant victory in the AUD$4m Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m).
The runner-up from that race, Red Cadeaux, will be well known to English race fans and though it isn’t form that would have the locals overly worried, Criterion has measured up twice internationally in Hong Kong.
In December he finished third at his debut for the David Hayes and Tom Dabernig stable behind local stars Designs On Rome and Military Attack in the Hong Kong Cup (2000m), while at his latest start he held on for third after a tough run in the QEII Cup (2000m) in April. Though he appears on paper to face the toughest task of the Austalian quartet, he is a versatile galloper that can race either on or off the speed and is adept in any conditions.
Royal Ascot takes place from Tuesday 16th to Saturday 20th June. Tickets for Thursday and Saturday have now sold out, with Grandstand tickets sold out on Friday. There is limited availability across the remaining days and enclosures so secure your place now.