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Trio of Guineas Winners to Clash in St James's Palace

Previews of the top group stakes on opening day of Royal Ascot.

Notable Speech wins the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket

Notable Speech wins the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket

Edward Whitaker/Racing Post

William Buick has been full of praise for Notable Speech, who will bid to confirm his position as Europe's best 3-year-old miler when he lines up against the winners of the Irish and French Two Thousand Guineas (both G1) in a high-class St James's Palace Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot June 18.

The son of Dubawi took an unconventional route to the Two Thousand Guineas (G1) last month—debuting in January and winning three times on the Kempton all-weather. Sent off at 16-1 for the first British classic of the season, he made a mockery of those odds when stretching a length and a half clear of group 1 winner Rosallion under Buick, who thinks he is something special.

"I don't like to compare horses, but I've never ridden one who can do what Notable Speech can do," said Buick. "He's extraordinary, and the way he won the Guineas was impressive. He had an unconventional preparation but showed a very good turn of foot in his last win at Kempton.

"He's an uncomplicated and laid-back character who does what he needs to. So far he's shown no chinks. It's going to be a tough race, possibly tougher than ever, but he's done everything right and the Guineas form looks incredible. It's a deep race but he's in good form and hopefully he can put in another performance like his last."

Rosallion began his 3-year-old campaign with a big reputation, after landing the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) in his final start at 2. After missing out in the Guineas at Newmarket, the son of Blue Point bounced back in the Irish equivalent, striking late to win by a head under Sean Levey.

"Rosallion is the best horse I've ever trained," said trainer Richard Hannon. "He won a group 1 as a 2-year-old and the Irish Guineas, and his work has been excellent since the Curragh. I'm delighted with him. He couldn't be any better going to Ascot and I'm looking forward to the race as much as anyone. If I didn't think we had a chance of winning it, I wouldn't be looking forward to it."

The third Guineas winner in the lineup is Metropolitan, who beat a high-quality field in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (G1) at Longchamp last month for trainer Mario Baratti. Metropolitan won his two juvenile starts in August and September before finishing down the field in the Prix de Fontainebleau (G3) on his seasonal reappearance under regular jockey Alexis Pouchin.

"We thought he was very special even before his first start," said Baratti. "I broke him in and he was always such a good athlete; not easy mentally, but I always hoped he would go the right way because he has a big personality."

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T) winner Unquestionable attempts to bounce back from his classic defeat for Aidan O'Brien. After a busy 2-year-old campaign capped with his victory at Santa Anita Park, the son of Wootton Bassett finished fourth in the Irish Two Thousand Guineas on his reappearance.

"We think Unquestionable will come on nicely," said O'Brien. "He had a setback in the spring, so we knew he was just ready to start back at the Curragh. He's done well since."

Charyn Aims for Breakthrough in Queen Anne

There are plenty of ways you can prove the struggles of the older horses in the milers' division. The first is simply to observe the lack of supply. Since Frankel , only three winners of the Two Thousand Guineas (G1) have stayed in training at 4. For the Irish version, it has been four, while six winners of the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (G1) have stayed in training. The figure for the Epsom Derby (G1) is eight. Milers are more in demand at stud, and so good ones are less likely to hang around.

There is a more applicable point of evidence in the Queen Anne Stakes (G1), which is one of the last chances the older milers get at a group 1 contest before the 3-year-olds join issue. The past six runnings produced two winners at 33-1, and a further two at 2-7 and 1-6. In different ways, both point to a division without depth.

This running has the shape of one of those years that produced a shock. Early favorite Charyn casts no longer a shadow than Modern Games or Benbatl, who were favorites in the years when 33-1 shots triumphed. Those horses were both group 1 winners, whereas Charyn is 0-for-6 in top-level races.

The prevailing case for Charyn is that, by rights, he should be 1-for-6 in group 1 races. The head start he gave Audience in the Lockinge Stakes (G1), plus the ground he lost by hanging left, could be argued to more than make up for the gap between them.

Charyn (Silvestre de Sousa) is the first winner of the new turf season winning the Doncaster Mile<br>
Doncaster 23.3.24 Pic: Edward Whitaker
Photo: Edward Whitaker/Racing Post

There is a counter to this. The Lockinge form was a mess, with several leading contenders failing to fire. This will also be a very different race. Audience is unlikely to be given such freedom this time. Big Rock is a habitual front-runner (he stumbled out of the stalls at Newbury in the Lockinge), so are a couple of outsiders. The free-going Facteur Cheval is also unlikely to sit and wait while others make mid-race moves.

Trainer Roger Varian is confident Charyn is "thriving" as he bids to make his breakthrough at the top level in the opening race of this year's Royal Ascot meeting, the Queen Anne.

"I don't think he could be in any better shape and seems to be thriving," Varian said. "He's ticked every box at home since the Lockinge and is as good as he could look. If I had my choice I think I'd have had the ground a little softer just to inconvenience some of the others, but I think he handles any ground.

"His good run in the St James's Palace Stakes last season was on similar ground as this and he also put in a strong performance on a tighter surface in the Irish Two Thousand Guineas, so I don't think at this stage we can be too concerned about the ground. He's in super form."

Breeders' Cup Winner Big Evs Targets CHARLES III Stakes

It is easy to be suspicious about fast 2-year-olds building on their juvenile campaign. It is the flip side of always giving them the utmost respect when they run in open-age races at 2. Big Evs, narrow favorite for this contest, took his chance in the Nunthorpe Stakes (G1) last August, when he received 24 pounds weight-for-age but beat only two home. Less than 10 months on, in his second open-age sprint, the King Charles III Stakes (G1) (formerly the King's Stand), he will receive just six pounds.

There is a lot of theory in the weight-for-age scale. Space does not allow for a full discussion here, but it suffices to say that the weight-for-age scale is designed to fit the average case. In theory, fast-developing horses like Big Evs are naturally ahead of that curve at first. As the gap narrows, so do their gains from being precocious.

Big Evs (Tom Marquand) wins the Westow Stakes<br>
York 16.5.24 Pic: Edward Whitaker
Photo: Edward Whitaker/Racing Post
Big Evs wins the Westow Stakes

Like many theories, this one often does not translate well into the real world. Since 2015, when 3-year-old sprinters got their own group 1 at Royal Ascot, that age group has performed somewhat better than the average in this race. More than that, those who have done most to build that record were all early 2-year-olds.

Big Evs won the Windsor Castle Stakes at this meet by a big margin 12 months ago. Precedent shows that being so forward does not bar you from winning the King Charles III at 3. The reasoning would be pretty obvious. Those who home in on the weight-for-age scale generally choose to focus on the 18 pounds Big Evs has lost since the Nunthorpe. What they are likely missing is that he is still getting six pounds, when that might be generous for the most forward five-furlong sprinters.

Trainer Mick Appleby said he thinks last season's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1T) winner Big Evs will face his toughest test to date Tuesday. Big Evs returned this season with victory in a listed race at York last month and has enjoyed a trouble-free preparation.

"He'll have come on a bit for York and I'm pleased they missed the rain," Appleby said. "The ground should be spot on for him.

"I think Regional is a very good horse and the one to beat, but it's a tough race all round. Having said that, this track plays to Big Evs's strengths and there are no excuses."

Camille Pissarro Could Give O'Brien 11th Coventry Win

Aidan O'Brien has won the Coventry Stakes (G2) a record 10 times, and Camille Pissarro is his sole representative for this year's contest.

Aidan O'Brien after City of Troy's win in the Derby<br>
Epsom 1.6.24 Pic: Edward Whitaker
Photo: Edward Whitaker/Racing Post
Aidan O'Brien

The son of Wootton Bassett defied inexperience to win a Navan maiden race on his debut before narrowly losing out in a group 3 at the Curragh, shaping like this stiffer test would suit. He comes from stall 2 here and Ryan Moore has had success from low draws in this race. Even by the rider's own high standards, he's in fine form of late with seven winners from his last 13 rides, including a big-race double at York on Saturday.

"We've always liked him and Ryan [Moore] just felt he was still a bit babyish last time in the Marble Hill, and that he would benefit a good bit from the experience," O'Brien said. "We hope there's plenty more to come from him."