Keying Rhododendron in the Queen Anne Stakes
Fifteen starters with no clear standout—that’s what makes Tuesday’s Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) at such a compelling betting race.Bettors will have plenty of options to consider in the prestigious one-mile event, which is the first race on the opening day of Royal Ascot’s five-day meet. Many of the starters were last seen competing in the one-mile Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I) last month at Newbury, in which the filly #15 Rhododendron won by a short head over Lightning Spear to stamp herself as the slight favorite for the Queen Anne.
Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Rhododendron has been a quality runner for years and has won Group 1 races at age two, three, and four; for good measure, her runner-up efforts include strong showings in the Epsom Oaks (Eng-I) and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. I), She’s been very successful negotiating longer distances, but her form at a mile is sharp as well, and her gutsy pace-tracking win in the Lockinge suggests she’ll be one of the main contenders in the Queen Anne.
#6 Lightning Spear is back for a rematch, though it’s worth noting that the seven-year-old son of Pivotal is something on an infrequent winner (with just two victories since July 2015) and has yet to break through at the Group 1 level, so turning the tables of Rhododendron could be a challenge. He’s also shown a tendency to fire a big effort in his first start of the season, then regress second time out. In contrast, #3 Benbatl won three of his four starts at Meydan during the winter, including a decisive triumph in the Dubai Turf (UAE-I). Owned by Godolphin and trained by Saeed bin Suroor, Benbatl also won the Hampton Court Stakes (Eng-III) at Royal Ascot last summer, and his proven ability going farther than a mile could come in handy if the Queen Anne turns into a test of stamina.
The American hopeful #13 Yoshida will be a bit of a longshot in the wagering, but the Bill Mott-trained four-year-old showed plenty of promise last year and delivered on those expectations with a win in the Old Forrester Turf Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs on May 5th, his seasonal debut. That race was nine furlongs, but Yoshida is also a stakes winner going a mile and his best runs have come over softer turf courses, so the conditions at Royal Ascot should be to his liking. I wouldn’t count him out of the mix.
Let’s combine Rhododendron, Benbatl, and Yoshida in the exotics along with #10 Recoletos, a four-time group stakes winner shipping in from France:
$3 exacta: 15 with 3,10,13 ($9) $3 exacta: 3,10,13 with 15 ($9) $1 trifecta: 15 with 3,10,13 with 3,10,13 ($6) $1 trifecta: 3,10,13 with 15 with 3,10,13 ($6)