Asadna puts up best juvenile performance this season

Asadna puts up best juvenile performance this season

In a week featuring York’s Dante Festival and the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury the headline performance from a ratings viewpoint came from a rather unlikely source.

There have been examples of talented two-year-olds running at Ripon in recent seasons as A’Ali was runner-up on debut before winning the 2019 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, while Ever Given and Shouldvebeenaring both went on to win the valuable sales race at York’s Ebor Festival after shedding their maiden tag in a six-furlong novice at the track.

Even so, few could have imagined the latest edition of that six-furlong novice proving so significant, but in beating his rivals in a rapid time Asadna (109p) posted the best performance by a juvenile so far this season.

Asadna produced an exceptional performance on the clock at Ripon, earning a higher timefigure than any two-year-old debutant starting out before Royal Ascot in the last decade.

Asadna, a 160,000 guineas purchase from the breeze-up sales, streaked 12 lengths clear on his debut for George Boughey, registering a time nearly a second faster than Pinafore – a progressive and fairly useful handicapper – managed over the same course and distance later on the card.

The performance earned Asadna a timefigure of 109, which is an outstanding achievement for a juvenile of any experience. A timefigure represents the time value of a single performance, whereas a Timeform form rating – which is on the same scale – is an assessment of the merit of a horse’s form.

In the last decade, Caravaggio, who went on to win the Coventry Stakes, is the only two-year-old to have clocked a higher timefigure prior to Royal Ascot. He achieved a timefigure of 115 when winning at the Curragh on his second start.

It’s also a higher timefigure than the last five winners of the Coventry Stakes produced in the race itself.

Reflecting on the performance, Timeform’s two-year-old handicapper Simon Baker said: “Timefigures are maybe the most powerful tool there is when it comes to rating early-season juvenile form and the one Asadna posted at Ripon is among the best we have on record for a two-year-old debutant.

“Indeed, it’s a better timefigure than most Coventry winners produce in the race itself and, while I think it’s important to qualify our praise by acknowledging that the opposition at Ripon were a modest bunch who were plodding home in his wake, Asadna will surely head to Royal Ascot with an outstanding chance.”

The Coventry Stakes is shaping up to be a cracker this season as Aidan O’Brien’s River Tiber (104p from 102p) also underlined his Royal Ascot credentials on Sunday.

He had created a huge impression when scoring by ten lengths on testing ground over just shy of six furlongs at Navan last month, and although he had to work harder to follow up over five furlongs on faster ground at Naas on Sunday he was ultimately well on top and performed to a similar level.

River Tiber briefly looked to be struggling to reel in Tourist – who had shaken up the winner’s stablemate Johannes Brahms on debut – but he stayed on strongly and was impressive at the line, pulling two and a half lengths clear in the style of one who will relish stepping back up in trip.

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On a good-quality card at Naas, the best performances in the fillies’ juvenile division so far this season were posted in the Group 3 Fillies Sprint Stakes, a race that includes Alpha Centauri, Mother Earth and Meditate among its recent winners.

A total of 13 fillies went to post in the latest edition but Porta Fortuna (101p from 80p) and Navassa Island (100p) came clear, with the former, who had the benefit of previous experience, just doing enough to fend off the promising newcomer.

Porta Fortuna had overcome inexperience to make a winning debut for Donnacha O’Brien at the Curragh last month and she took a significant step forward to follow up at Naas, showing a striking turn of foot to secure a decisive advantage. Her performance is rated slightly higher than what Meditate produced in the race last season, on a similar level to Mother Earth’s success but behind Alpha Centauri’s wide-margin win.

Navassa Island, who was still nearer last than first when the winner made her move, was forced to switch to get a clear run approaching the final furlong, but she finished with a flourish when in the clear down the outside, only just failing by a neck. The Timeform rating of 100 that she earned is a high one for a juvenile debutant, particularly a filly, and she is clearly one to be positive about having shown so much after being thrown into the deep end on debut.

Another filly who created a taking impression on debut was Jabaara (93P), who showed a sparkling turn of foot to overcome trouble in a steadily run race at Newmarket on Saturday, adding her name to a contest with a rich roll of honour (subsequent 1000 Guineas winners Cachet and Mawj have won the past two renewals).

Jabaara is trained by Roger Varian whose Daahyeh struck in this six-furlong fillies’ novice prior to landing the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot. Jabaara, who has the Timeform Large P to denote she remains capable of much better form, is set to follow that tried-and-tested route.

The Albany or the Queen Mary is on the agenda for Got To Love A Grey (93p from 88p) who showed a fine attitude to land the listed Marygate Fillies’ Stakes at York on Friday, digging deep to fend off Karl Burke-trained stablemate Dorothy Lawrence (91p from 82p) who impressed with how well she travelled.

Earlier in the week at York, Mon Na Slieve (94p) posted a ready success in a five-furlong novice to earn a trip to Royal Ascot. The 190,000 guineas breeze-up purchase knew his job on debut and, after racing with zest at the head of affairs, kept on well to score by a length and three-quarters with a bit in hand.


Earlier on Wednesday’s card at York, Soul Sister (116p from 85p) won the Musidora Stakes to establish herself as the big danger to Savethelastdance (117p) in the Oaks at Epsom.

Soul Sister, a winner on her only start as a juvenile, had disappointed on her return in the Fred Darling but, upped in trip and tackling a sound surface for the first time, she proved a completely different proposition at York. The bare form is of a similar standard to the level produced by Snowfall and Emily Upjohn in the past two editions, though the style of success means Soul Sister can be considered value for extra.

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In the preceding 1895 Duke of York Stakes, the progressive Azure Blue (118 from 113) got the better of last year’s winner Highfield Princess (remains 126) who ran a race full of promise under a penalty on her seasonal reappearance.

Azure Blue progressed through the handicap ranks last season and has clearly kicked on again this term, raising her form another notch to add this Group 2 prize to the fillies’ listed race she claimed on her return at Newmarket. She kept on well to overhaul Highfield Princess, a three-time Group 1 winner last season who has clearly retained all her enthusiasm based on how she tanked along at York.

There was a competitive and intriguing edition of the Dante Stakes on Thursday but there was something of an inconclusive result with The Foxes (115 from 109p) coming out on top in a race where the first five home were separated by little more than two lengths.

The Foxes (115 from 109p) improved on his Craven Stakes second to prevail by a neck, proving well suited by the step up in trip, though connections of the runner-up White Birch (115 from 108p), who made his effort on the opposite flank and took a bit longer to hit top gear, and the joint-third Passenger (115p from 90p), who met plenty of trouble in running, may feel that things could have panned out differently another day. You have to go back to 2009 to find the last time the winner of the Dante registered a lower Timeform performance rating.

It would be little surprise were the winner of the concluding mile-and-a-half handicap for three-year-olds, Chesspiece (109p from 98p), to end the campaign as one of the highest-rated horses in action on Dante day. He had looked slightly rusty when third behind Derby favourite Military Order on his return to action at Newbury but took a big step forward at York, looking like a relentless galloper as he stayed on strongly, making up plenty of ground in the straight, to score by a length and a quarter in decisive fashion. He’ll be suited by an even stiffer test and the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot looks like a suitable option.

Last year’s Queen’s Vase and St Leger winner Eldar Eldarov (123 from 121) had to settle for second on his reappearance in the Yorkshire Cup on Friday but he ran a stormer under a penalty, emerging as the best horse at the weights and enhancing his Gold Cup claims in the process. He stayed on powerfully in the style of one who will be suited by at least two miles, but he couldn’t quite get on terms with Giavellotto (119 from 115) who produced his best effort yet despite again failing to keep a straight line.

There was nothing of Palace Pier or Baaeed’s quality in the latest edition of the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday, though Modern Games (126 from 122) posted a high-class display to run out an authoritative winner, beating Chindit (122 from 119) by a length and a half.

Modern Games won three times at the highest level last season, landing the French 2000 Guineas, the Woodbine Mile and the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and he proved better than ever to secure a first domestic Group 1, appreciating the strong gallop set by Mutasaabeq. In the Queen Anne he will hold similar claims on form to Inspiral once that filly’s sex allowance is factored in, though the fact he’s already up and running for the campaign and has proved he’s at the top of his game marks him out as the one to beat.

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The meeting started with a couple of beaten favourites for Godolphin, including Noble Style (117 from 119p) in the opening Carnarvon Stakes. His two-year-old form gave him obvious claims on his return to sprinting after a respectable but non-staying effort in the 2000 Guineas, however he seemed to find things happening too quickly for him and got going too late into third.

The winner, Shaquille (118p from 111p), is a sprinter going places, though, and took the rise in class in his stride, scoring by two lengths with a bit in hand. His performance is among the best in recent years – behind only what Creative Force produced in 2021 – and he should not be underestimated in the Commonwealth Cup having already run to a similar level as to what Perfect Power produced at Royal Ascot last year.

There was an exciting finish to the Group 3 Al Rayyan Stakes with Haskoy (119p from 116p) getting the better of Israr (120 from 116) by a short-head with only a head back to Bolshoi Ballet (118 from 112+) in third. It may have been a narrow victory but Haskoy did well to win as she got stuck behind the weakening leaders before staying on to lead close home, and she is a lightly-raced, progressive filly to be positive about.

Haskoy’s trainer Ralph Beckett came out on the wrong side of a close finish to the mile-and-a-quarter fillies’ listed race, however, as the promising Bluestocking (108p from 99p) was unable to overhaul Aidan O’Brien’s Warm Heart (105p).

Warm Heart showed improved form away from the mud and stuck to her task in likeable fashion to fend off Bluestocking, who shaped well on her reappearance, impressing with how she made up ground from a disadvantageous position towards the rear in a steadily run race.

Warm Heart was completing a double on the card for O’Brien who also struck with Bertinelli (110p from 101p) in the London Gold Cup, a race with a rich roll of honour which invariably provides strong form.

Bertinelli defied a higher BHA mark than any recent winner of the race, including the likes of subsequent Group 1 winners Al Kazeem, Defoe and Bay Bridge, and he looks well up to making his mark in pattern company. The placed pair, Bold Act (114 from 104) and Exoplanet (108p from 98p), can also prove competitive outside of handicap company.



  • May 22, 2023