Hardwicke Stakes Preview – Saturday 23rd June
Last updated: June 21, 2018 by Leon Marshal
Royal Ascot comes to an end on Saturday with two Group races, starting with the Hardwicke Stakes at 3.05. The £225,000 Group 2 all-aged contest over a mile and a half is often used as a stepping-stone to the Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes in July.
Sir Michael Stoute is the leading trainer of all time in the Hardwicke Stakes with ten previous winners. Rock Hopper (1991 and 1992) and Maraahel (2006 and 2007) both won the race twice and his most recent success came with Her Majesty The Queen’s Dartmouth in 2016. His most significant winner was Harbinger in 2010 who would go on to win the King George in spectacular style before his career was cut short by injury. Other notable Hardwicke winners include Stanerra (1983), Jupiter Island (1985), Oscar Schindler (1996) and Doyen (2004).
Crystal Ocean odds-on for Hardwicke Stakes
Stoute moved ahead of the late Sir Henry Cecil in the all-time winners list at Royal Ascot when Poet’s Word defeated the odds-on Cracksman on Wednesday. That gave him a record 76th winner and he quickly moved on to 77 when Expert Eye won the Jersey Stakes. Stoute has excellent prospects of another victory here with the odds-on Crystal Ocean.
The four-year-old son of Sea The Stars was the subject of an ante-post gamble for last season’s Epsom Derby but did not make the line-up. He was beaten in the Dante Stakes at York and was trained for the St Leger, eventually finishing a close second to Capri. A narrow victory at Sandown in April was followed by an emphatic six lengths win over Second Step at Newbury.
Aidan O’Brien could be represented by last year’s winner Idaho and last year’s Derby runner-up Cliffs Of Moher. Idaho was placed in both the English and Irish Derby as a three-year-old and was unfortunate not to win the St Leger when unseating his rider. The son of Galileo has been globetrotting since, performing creditably without getting his nose in front. He gained a well-deserved success in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester in May before finishing fourth in the Coronation Cup at Epsom.
Cliffs Of Moher has been declared, despite finishing a remote fourth behind Poet’s Word in The Prince Of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday. He was never really in contention that day and this race will surely come too soon.
Barsanti bids to go one better than last year
Roger Varian is represented by Barsanti, a six-year-old gelding by Champs Elysees. He overcame a 301-day break to beat Mirage Dancer by a neck over course distance in May. That was his first race since finishing second to Rare Rhythm over a mile and three-quarters at York in July. Barsanti came from well off the pace to finish second to Idaho last season and looks certain to go close again this year.
Defoe beat Red Verdon comfortably at Newmarket last month before finishing third to Lancaster Bomber. He disappointed in the St Leger last September and has shown his best form with a bit of cut in the ground. Rare Rhythm has been racing over longer trips, notably when third to Vazirabad in the Dubai Gold Cup over two miles. He may find this a bit sharp, particularly on good to firm ground.
The same applies to Red Verdon, no match for Magic Circle in the Henry II Stakes at Sandown last time. Ed Dunlop’s five-year-old has been running consistently but place money looks the best that he can hope for here.
Hardwicke Stakes Betting Tips
Barsanti (each-way) @5-1 Coral
The Hardwicke Stakes is due off at 3.05 at Royal Ascot on Saturday 23rd June and will be televised live on ITV.