The 2019 British flat racing season is well underway, and preparations are heating up for the prestigious five-day Royal Ascot meet in mid-June.
The annual opening race at Royal Ascot is the Queen Anne Stakes (G1), a one-mile test that pits some of the best older milers in Europe—both male and female—against each other in a straight run down the long chute and homestretch at Ascot.
A major prep race for the Queen Anne is the Lockinge Stakes (G1), which is likewise contested over a straight mile, but at Newbury instead of Ascot. The list of recent Lockinge winners reads like a “who’s who” of top-notch European milers, including Frankel, Ribchester, Canford Cliffs, Paco Boy, and Olympic Glory. The first three followed up their successes at Newbury with victories in the Queen Anne.
Fourteen horses are set to contest the 2019 Lockinge Stakes, with British bookmakers favoring the chances of No. 3 Le Brivido. On paper, this doesn’t make much sense; the lightly-raced five-year-old has run just twice since June 2017 and lost on both occasions, most recently coming home third in the Gladness Stakes (G3) at Naas. But Le Brivido races for the high-profile team of trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore, so Le Brivido’s connections might be the driving force behind his surprisingly low odds.
A significantly more accomplished alternative to Le Brivido is the filly No. 14 Laurens, a five-time Group 1 winner who has cracked the exacta in nine of her 11 starts. She’s successfully handled a few different distances during her career, but a flat mile seems to be her strong suit. Three of her Group 1 wins have come over this distance, including her memorable upset victory over Alpha Centauri in the 2018 Matron Stakes (G1) at Leopardstown.
But Laurens will be making her first start of the season, and considering she was beaten in her 2018 debut, there’s no guarantee she’ll be ready to defeat a field of this caliber while returning from a layoff. Rest assured, the depth and quality of the 2019 Lockinge Stakes is impressive. Case in point—No. 8 Romanised and No. 12 Billesdon Brook, both classic winners going a mile last year, are floating around 20-1 and 25-1 in the wagering, while the 2018 Queen Anne winner No. 1 Accidental Agent is a 25-1 shot.
I’m rather intrigued by No. 4 Lord Glitters, listed at 8-1 by most bookmakers. Although he’s never won at the Group 1 level, Lord Glitters has consistently held his own against high-class competition and prepped for the Lockinge with a solid third-place finish in the Dubai Turf (G1) at Meydan in March. He finished just 1 ¾ lengths behind the sensational Almond Eye while leaving fellow Lockinge contender No. 11 Without Parole nearly five lengths in his wake.
I suspect Lord Glitters will be overlooked a bit in the North American betting pool, considering his lone start on our side of the pond yielded a sixth-place finish in the 2018 Woodbine Mile (G1). But Lord Glitters was severely compromised by a slow early/fast late race shape at Woodbine; the situation was so extreme that Lord Glitters could barely make a dent on the leaders despite running the final half-mile in less than :44 seconds, a sensational fraction.
The main reason I’ll be watching the Lockinge is to get a feel for some of the top contenders heading into the Queen Anne next month. But in order to have a rooting interest in the outcome, I’ll bet Lord Glitters to win and play him for second with “ALL” in the exacta.
$12 to win on No. 4 Lord Glitters
$1 exacta: ALL with 4 ($13)