Friday’s G1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot is not one of the many historic races at this spectacular five-day meeting, but this 1200m dash for three-year-olds up the Ascot straight annually gets more than its share of pre-race analysis and this seventh renewal looks as absorbing as any.
Most interesting is the reappearance of star US-based filly Campanelle, trained by Wesley Ward who has become an intrinsic fixture at the Royal Meeting after originally hitting the headlines when long-priced outsider Strike The Tiger became the first-ever US-prepared Royal Ascot winner in 2009.
A champion apprentice jockey back in the 1980s with a great following on the New York tracks, Ward has now trained 11 Royal Ascot winners, with gate speed and early pace being pivotal hallmarks to those triumphs. Campanelle is the highest profile of an impressive 2021 raiding party and Frankie Dettori – annually a crucial part of the Ward team at this meeting – will ride.
It was the veteran superstar who had delivered Campanelle with the surge of raw speed that saw her eclipse 17 rivals in the G2 Queen Mary Stakes (1000m) here last year, and the pair followed up with G1 glory in the Prix Morny (1200m) at Deauville in August.
Dettori recently partnered the Irish-bred daughter of Kodiac on the gallops at Newmarket and Ward said: “She dominated Golden Bell (who runs in Wednesday’s Listed Windsor Castle Stakes, 1000m) and showed that she had taken the flight from the US in her stride.”
A Royal Ascot preparation run had been scheduled for Campanelle – who had spent the winter in the Florida sunshine – but Ward explained: “I probably would have preferred a run, but we had to scratch her at Keeneland in April as she had bruised a heel. But she is doing fantastic now.”
Much less high profile than Campanelle but quite possibly a serious threat to her is Suesa, Irish-bred by Night Of Thunder, American-owned but trained in the South West Of France by Francoise Rohaut.
Of the great horses trained in France, very few have been sprinters but this filly – purchased for just €17,000 (approx. HK$159,997) – is now unbeaten after four increasingly stylish performances.
Very little effort on the part of Olivier Peslier was required for her to win two G3s at Chantilly this year, especially May’s Prix Texanita (1200m). Rohaut is hoping that some predicted rain materialises while star UK jockey and Ascot specialist William Buick has been booked for the ride.