A cosmopolitan field of top-class sprinters lines up for Saturday’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes, the last of four Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge contests at Royal Ascot’s five-day stand.
However, the shape of the race changed drastically when top-class sprinter Blue Point was surprisingly given the go-ahead to run in the £600,000 ($760,000) G1 – just four days after winning the G1 King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday’s card.
Few European races feature such a global roll of honour as the six-furlong Diamond Jubilee, the winner of which will earn a guaranteed fees-paid spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita on November 2.
No horse has completed the Royal Ascot sprint double since Australian groundbreaker Choisir in 2003, but Blue Point’s trainer Charlie Appleby is keen to strike while the iron is hot after the Godolphin 5-year-old’s epic victory over Battaash in the five-furlong King’s Stand.
“We were delighted with Blue Point’s performance on Tuesday and he seems to bring his A-game to Ascot,” said Appleby. “He came out of the race well and, from what we have seen so far, the signs have been good.
“His well-being will continue to be monitored ahead of Saturday’s race, but we felt that he deserved the chance to win another Group 1 at Ascot.”
Since the turn of the century, horses trained in Britain, Ireland, Hong Kong and the U.S. – not forgetting another Aussie in the great Black Caviar – have claimed the Diamond Jubilee.
With James Doyle doing the steering again, Blue Point is favourite to strike once more in a race featuring horses from six nations across three continents, among them a familiar Royal Ascot name trained by another familiar Royal Ascot name in the shape of Bound For Nowhere, who represents Wesley Ward. He won the Diamond Jubilee in 2015 with Undrafted, who went on to finish fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Five-year-old Bound For Nowhere is making his third successive appearance, having made the frame with prominent efforts in both 2017 and 2018, when he was a close third behind Merchant Navy in this race. French-trained City Light, touched off 12 months ago, is also back for more.
Tyler Gaffalione, the rising star of the U.S. jockey ranks who won last month’s Preakness Stakes on War Of Will, rides Bound For Nowhere.
Of the other long-range visitors, Singapore sprint star Lim’s Cruiser will be ridden by the region’s champion jockey, Vlad Duric, while New Zealand’s Enzo’s Lad is scheduled to reappear after coming ninth in the King’s Stand on Tuesday’s card.
Le Brivido, fifth over a mile in Tuesday’s Queen Anne, also reappears swiftly for Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore; he won the Jersey Stakes over seven furlongs two years ago for former trainer Andre Fabre.
For all the overseas interest, however, the ante-post betting has been headed by James Tate-trained Invincible Army, a son of leading sprint sire Invincible Spirit, who is looking to complete a hat-trick after a decisive victory in the G2 Duke of York Stakes. PJ McDonald rides.
Given all the rain at Ascot this week, it may be worth noting that 2017 winner The Tin Man and Sands Of Mali have G1-winning form in testing conditions, the latter winning over course-and-distance on soft in October.
Last year was the first time the Diamond Jubilee had been included in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, part of the benefits of which include a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside North America to compete in the two-day event at Santa Anita on November 1-2.