Ascot contenders line up

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  • The St James’s Palace Stakes (3.45), has three mile-Classics winners fighting for the crown. Haafhd, who looks likely to set off favourite, was a convincing winner of the Newmarket 2,000 Guineas; Bachelor Duke was victorious in the Irish version at the Curragh; Brunel was triumphant in Germany.

    Form puts Haafhd ahead of his rivals. He beat Bachelor Duke and Azamour soundly at Newmarket, and he is known to like firm ground. But “lazy” work last week put a question mark over his participation, and although he was back on form on Saturday, unless he can produce his exceptional best this afternoon, he could quite easily be outclassed.

    Bachelor Duke, on the other hand, seems to be improving consistently, and his record against both Azamour and Brunel places him ahead of them in form, but beating Haafhd will be no cakewalk.

    Antonius Pius all but won the French Classic Poule d’Essai des Poulains at Longchamps. Just as the colt seemed to have the race sewn up, he veered right, crashing into the rails, handing victory to American Post. If his roguish side can be kept under wraps, he could yet prove an impressive challenge.

    The Queen Anne’s Stakes, sees the cream of the older crop lock horns. Fillies take on their male counterparts and French-trained Six Perfections could be the one to make history. A filly hasn’t won the race since 1956, and the trip could prove to be beyond Six Perfections’ staying power, but she already has three Group 1 victories to her name and is the highest-rated horse in the line-up.

    The progressive Salselon could well turn out to be the best of the boys in this field. He beat much of today’s competition in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury a month ago, just chasing Russian Rhythm to the line. The Sir Michael Stoute-trained filly would have been a strong contender in the Queen Anne’s Stakes, but was “not quite ready”, according to her trainer.

    Norse Dancer was close behind Salselon and comprehensively beat him in their previous match. Although the colt does not seem to have quite settled at this trip (his only wins are over 7 furlongs), he is improving and will like the going. However, he has never succeeded in overcoming the challenge from the filly Soviet Song who is another strong contender, and with the 3lb allowance for fillies could prove more than a match in today’s conditions.

    St James’s Palace Stakes
    1. Bachelor Duke
    2. Antonius Pius
    3. Haafhd

    Queen Anne’s Stakes
    1. Soviet Song
    2. Norse Dancer
    3. Six Perfections

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