The 2013 Queen Anne Stakes (2.30pm, Tuesday, June 18) is set to get Royal Ascot started in style. The American raider, Animal Kingdom, is the hot favourite and the horse that his twelve rivals will have to beat.
Trained in the US by the shrewd, UK-born Graham Motion, Animal Kingdom has amassed prize money of over £5 million for owners, Team Valor. In 2011 he was the surprise winner of the Kentucky Derby and followed up with a second place in the Preakness, demonstrating his prowess on dirt.
In his most recent run in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan he took the top prize and bagged more than £3 million. He beat Ed Dunlop’s Red Cadeaux by two lengths over a mile and two furlongs on a tapeta surface.
That was his first foray outside the US. It suggests that Animal Kingdom is capable of producing his best after the rigours of travel. His connections are also confident that his calm temperament should enable him to cope with the circus surrounding Royal Ascot.
So how good is he on turf? In February this year he started as the favourite in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. He was beaten by two lengths by Claude McGaughey III’s thoroughly useful Point Of Entry. He also came second to Charles Lopresti’s Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf in November 2012 after getting trapped at a crucial stage in the race. Aidan O’Brien’s Excelebration finished about half a length behind him in fourth.
Whilst you could argue that he produces his best performances on dirt and synthetic surfaces, turf holds no fears for this immensely adaptable five-year-old.
Roger Varian’s Aljamaaheer (14/1 in the Royal Ascot betting) is an interesting contender. This four-year-old son of Dubawi looks progressive and the stable are in good form. Aljamaaheer finished third by four lengths in the Lockinge under Paul Hanagan. It was his first experience of Group One company and he emerged with merit. In his only other start this season he was narrowly beaten in a listed race at Leicester over seven furlongs. He will need to have progressed further to feature here but will have Hanagan on board which has to help his chances.
The Queen Anne Stakes was last won by a filly in 2010 when Freddy Head’s superstar, Goldikova, showed the colts a clean pair of heels. This year John Gosden’s Elusive Kate (8/1) is looking to follow in her footsteps. This will be her first outing as a four-year-old.
This daughter of Elusive Quality has a couple of Group One wins over a mile under her belt and was unlucky in the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket last season. She almost fell out of the stalls but still managed to get within a length of the winner, Francois Doumen’s Siyouma. She finished the season with a third place. She finished six lengths behind Aidan O’Brien’s Excelebration in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in October.
Her official rating of 116 puts her ten pounds lower than Animal Kingdom. As a filly she will carry three pounds less than her rivals in the shape of William Buick.
John Gosden also sends out Princess Haya’s Gregorian (16/1). This four-year-old son of Clodovil is the only runner other than Animal Kingdom to come into the race on the back of a win. He won the Group Three Diomed Stakes at Epsom on 31 May beating David O’Meara’s Penitent by a length and a half with Richard Fahey’s a head behind in third. The handicapper was sufficiently impressed to raise him a couple of pounds to a rating of 113. He will obviously need to muster further improvement to score here but is not to be discounted. Jockey Tom Queally will be looking to make it two Queen Anne wins in a row, having partnered Frankel to victory last year.
Aidan O’Brien had a trio of horses entered until the most recent declarations but Ballydoyle’s hopes now rest solely with the four-year-old Declaration Of War, the second favourite at 7/1.
This son of War Front was disappointing in his most recent run, in the Lockinge at Newbury in May. He started the 5/4 favourite but finished more than ten lengths behind Saeed bin Suroor’s Farhh in fifth. We can perhaps forgive him as he gave away a lot of ground at the start, taking a while to get into his stride.
In his only other race this season he won a listed race over a mile at Leopardstown. He has won five of his seven lifetime starts but is unproven in top class company. He will be partnered by Joseph O’Brien.
A thoroughly exposed colt that emerged from the Lockinge with credit was Michael Bell’s Sovereign Debt (14/1). He surprised everyone by finishing four lengths behind Farhh in second, having started as one of the outsiders at 80/1. If Michael Bell’s horses had been running well in the past two weeks this four-year-old son of Dark Angel would be one for the shortlist. Unfortunately less than half of them have run to form so he is probably best watched.
Another runner attracting some interest is David Simcock’s Trade Storm (12/1). This five-year-old son of Trade Fair has clocked up two wins from four runs in Dubai this year, including a Group Two win on turf over a mile. He has not run since finishing fourth in a Group One there at the end of March. He will have Jamie Spencer on board and is not without a chance.
Queen Anne Stakes Betting Tips Verdict
Since the loss of Farrh from the list of entries, this race could well provide an easy win for Animal Kingdom. At 4/6 he does not look to provide any value. He may be rated 10lb higher than any of his rivals but he has never won over a mile and has never encountered a straight course before.
We have to oppose him. I would rather take a chance and follow DECLARATION OF WAR (7/1) with a healthy each-way bet in the expectation that he can emulate his equally unexposed stablemate, Ruler Of The World who won the Derby at a similar price.