The sprinters take centre stage for the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee on the final day of Royal Ascot (4.25pm Saturday). This year it is a race that lacks the strength in depth or quality of previous renewals but still appeals as an interesting punting medium.
The 7/2 favourite, Slade Power, is aiming to emulate his older stablemate, Sole Power who defied his age and showed impressive speed to take the King’s Stand Stakes. This five-year-old son of Dutch Art trained by Edward Lynam is thoroughly useful but his past form suggests that he needs a bit of cut in the ground to make the grade beyond Group 3 company. If the weather forecast is any indicator he seems unlikely to get it.
On a more positive note he has proved he has recovered from his fruitless travels to Hong Kong in September. He took the Group 3 Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh in late May on his seasonal debut. He beat Evanna McCutcheon’s top performer, Maarek the 11/8 favourite by two lengths but I would not be interested in Slade Power at double his current price unless the word soft appears in the going description.
Aljamaaheer (9/2), trained by Roger Varian (pictured), looks a much more tempting prospect given his preference for firm ground. He was successfully campaigned over a mile last season, winning the Group 2 Summer Mile Stakes here on good to firm in July. He also finished second to Aidan O’Brien’s Declaration Of War beaten three quarters of a length at this meeting in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes a year ago.
He was dropped back to six furlongs for his only run this season. He started slowly but finished third, half a length behind Kevin Ryan’s Hamza in a Group 3 at Newmarket in May. Blinkers are being tried for the first time here and Varian has form in the headgear department. His 25/1 winner in the Juddmonte last season, Princess Noor, was a memorable beneficiary of first time blinkers. If the ground is good or faster, this horse has to have serious claims.
The highest rated runner to line up is Tom Hogan’s stable star, Gordon Lord Byron (9/1). This talented six-year-old has clocked up plenty of air miles recently, starting his season with two runs in Australia. He was the surprise 18/1 winner of a Group 1 over a mile in Rosehill at the end of March on soft. Next time out he finished out of the placings at Randwick on heavy. He was subsequently sent to Hong Kong for the Group 1 Champions Mile at Sha Tin early in May but was beaten over eight lengths by Mike De Kock’s Variety Club and failed to bring back any prizemoney.
Last season he beat Slade Power by three lengths when winning the six furlong Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock on good to soft in September. He then found only Freddie Head’s Moonlight Cloud too good in the Group 1 Prix De La Foret at Longchamp a month later.
Horses returning from global travels have to be treated with caution on their first run back at home and this one seems to need cut in the ground to feature at the highest level. Others have stronger claims.
Kevin Ryan’s Astaire (10/1) is a three-year-old son of the American-bred stallion Intense Focus who has successfully made hay at home. Last season he looked very progressive and ended his campaign by beating his more fancied stablemate Hot Streak by half a length when taking the six furlong Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket in October. He had already scored in the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes at York in August over the same distance on soft going.
This year he has yet to get his head in front. He was tried over seven furlongs first time out but did not appear to relish the extra distance in the Greenham in April, finishing eight lengths behind John Gosden’s St James’s Palace Stakes winner, Kingman. Astaire came close last time, beaten by only half a length by Maarek in the Duke Of York a month ago, back over his preferred six furlongs. He is yet to be tested in top class company on a fast surface but looks to be one for the shortlist.
Another three-year-old with reasonable claims is Aidan O’Brien’s Due Diligence (7/1). He comes into the race on the back of two wins over this distance, most recently in early June in a listed race at Naas. He started as the 5/4 favourite and won easily, beating Dermot Weld’s Sailors Swan by nearly four lengths. He has only once encountered Group company. That was in his second run as a two-year-old when he was trained in the US. He finished fourth beaten eight lengths in a Group 3 at Belmont Park over nine furlongs.
This son of War Front looks promising but it is difficult to gauge just how good he is. His two recent wins suggest that he is in good health and have earned him a competitive rating of 113. Like Astaire he will benefit from a generous looking 7lb weight for age allowance but only two three-year-olds have won this race since the turn of the century, albeit the race has a particularly weak look to it this year which may help negate that statistic. He will have the expert assistance of Ryan Moore.
Diamond Jubilee Preview & Betting Tips Conclusion
Unknown commodity Due Diligence looks interesting at around 7/1 for Ballydoyle, and the yard’s horses have hit a bit of form now. The surface on the day could have a massive impact on the result of this race. A number of runners, including the favourite, seem to need cut in the ground to show their best, but it looks likely to be good or faster so our preference has to be for Roger Varian’s ALJAMAAHEER best priced at 9/2 with Betfred, BetVictor & Paddy Power. He will need every yard of this trip but first time blinkers should get him going earlier and with the bookies trading at 1/4 odds for this race you could go each-way.