The feature race of Day 2 of Royal Ascot is always a classy affair, won in the past by the likes of Dubai Millennium and Ouija Board. Read on for our expert tip and runner by runner preview for the 2017 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.
IN SUMMARY: The market has this as a three horse race but Ulysees is priced up on potential rather than what he has actually achieved while Jack Hobbs is a better horse over an extra quarter of a mile, twice tapped for toe over this trip in the Champions Stakes over course and distance. HIGHLAND REEL is far more adaptable with regards to trip and with the ground coming in his favour this week, he is very much the one to beat as he bids for a sixth Group 1 win.
1 DECORATED KNIGHT – A Group 1 winner in both the Jebel Hatta and Tattersalls Gold Cup, he has stepped his form up in 2017. He won the Group 3 Meld Stakes at Leopardstown last season on good to firm ground, but the general impression is that a little more juice in the ground suits him ideally. Is probably open to some more improvement given that he has only had fourteen races in total, but he is going to need that improvement to make a significant impact here.
2 HIGHLAND REEL – Fast ground is right up his street, so connections will be delighted to have seen the ground drying out with the recent warm weather. He performed above himself at this meeting last year, runner up to Dartmouth in the Hardwicke Stakes on ground that would have been plenty soft enough for him. He reversed that form in no uncertain terms when landing the King George and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes in July over that same course and distance. Runner up in the International and Arc preceded a win in the Breeders Cup Turf, again the fast ground there, playing perfectly to his strengths. He returned to the U.K with a win on Oaks day in the Coronation Cup and tactically versatile, he looks the clear pick under these conditions.
3 JACK HOBBS – Unlucky to be in the same three year old crop as Golden Horn, he would avoid that horse when running riot in the 2015 Irish Derby, He has been a little inconsistent since, having his problems staying healthy but his 2017 return saw him back to something like his best when winning the Dubai Sheema Classic. There were excuses for those in behind on that occasion but it would be harsh to say he didn’t deserve the win. That (like the Irish Derby) was over a mile and a half and despite twice being placed in the Champion Stakes over this course and distance, that trip probably suits him better.
4 JOHANNES VERMEER – Picked up the Criterium International on bottomless ground as a juvenile but has got nowhere close in three runs since, including last time when well behind Decorated Knight. The refitted tongue tie may help him see his efforts through a little better but it would be a huge shock if he were good enough to win this contest on ground quicker than he has raced on before.
5 MEKHTAAL – Won the Prix d’Ispahan last time out, the race won by A Shin Hikari before he was sent off favourite for this race in 2016. It is a Group 1 win that can never be taken away from him but a neck beating of Robin Of Navan doesn’t read as genuine Group 1 form that would be good enough to win this contest. His second to Cloth Of Stars in the Prix d’Harcourt the time before is arguably stronger form even though it was a Group 2. The winner went on to take the Prix Ganay the next time, three lengths in front of Hawbill who was five lengths behind Highland Reel on ground that would have been quick enough for him. A line through Hawkbill entitles this French raider plenty of each way respect.
6 SCOTTISH – Likely pace angle to the race, he will enjoy this quick ground. He is yet to win above Group 3 level but he was runner up to Highland Reel in the 2015 Gordon Stakes which gives him some sort of chance. He is likely to need a career best to win this, especially without the benefit of a prep run.
7 ULYSEES – Like so many of Sir Michael Stoute’s horses, Ulysees looks like he will make up into a better four year old. The trainer is a master at bringing his horses along slowly and this lightly raced son of Galileo looks another from the same mold. He appeared to have the world at his feet when putting in one of the most impressive performances in a maiden in 2016 at Newbury last Spring but he was well beaten off in the Derby and despite winning the Group 3 Gordon Stakes afterwards, he didn’t reach the heights that had looked likely. 2017 dawned with a win in the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown, held up in a slowly run contest on a track that favours front runners, he overcame that in style to get the better of globetrotter, Deauville. That was a clear career best and a stronger run race at this trip promises to deliver more again, but he needs it to get the better of Highland Reel.
8 NEZWAAH – NON RUNNER
9 QUEENS TRUST – Sole filly in the field will enjoy being back on a quicker surface having flopped in the Middleton Stakes at York. She showed smart form in 2016, runner up to Minding in the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last summer before bringing the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf prize back across the Atlantic. She has more to do pitched in against the boys now and she looks the stable’s second string to Ulysees but with conditions in her favour, she is likely to run better than the market suggests.