The Duke Of Cambridge for fillies and mares really does appear to be a battle between three horses at the top of the market, with the rest of the field lacking any consistent pattern-company performers.
Laugh Aloud has been favourite for this contest ever since she hosed-up by five lengths in a Group 3 on Derby day at Epsom Downs. She is clearly a filly that the bookies want to keep onside with her price around 11/4, and is the obvious favourite given she is the form horse going in to this Group 2 event.
However, the form of that Group 3 at Epsom doesn’t look overly solid with the second-placed horse, Absolute Blast, rated a meager 102, and her best performance represents a mediocre Listed success.
There is no doubt that the way Laugh Aloud has progressed in its last two starts is mightily impressive, but she has had things her own way in those events and won’t get the easy lead out in front that she has been afforded recently. So she may be worth taking on with one of the proven top-class mares in the race.
The other Godolphin entrant Usherette put in a run somewhere near back to her best last time out in France. That was a Group 1 race, against colts, and she will be right on the premises as she attempts to retain her crown. She has two Group 2 successes to her credit, and is a very good mare so could ultimately turn out to be the best Godolphin horse in the race.
And although we wrestled with the prospect of backing her on value terms, as she currently trades a couple of points outside the favourite, there is a slight nagging doubt about whether the super-quick ground will truly suit her, and her best-form is surpassed by another.
The multiple Group 1 winner QEMAH is our selection and there is lots to like about her chances as she bids for a repeat success at the Royal meeting. This daughter of Danehill Dancer – who is trained by the masterful Jean-Claude Rouget – looks to have been targeted at this and is fancied to bounce back from her first start.
She can be forgiven her reappearance run at Lingfield when she finished a couple of lengths behind the reopposing Mix And Mingle. It was a solid enough prep run in what was a tactical race, but she was too fresh and should strip much fitter for this.
Qemah looked to be a filly of the highest order when rattling off two consecutive Group 1 wins in a row last season. More significantly, one of those victories came on good ground so she should not be inconvenienced on this surface.
She has a high cruising-speed, a devastating turn-of-foot, and we know she likes the track. She also escapes a 5lb penalty for her Group 1 victories last year which is a plus.
Her final start of 2016 saw her finish a lackluster third to top-class mare Alice Springs at Leopardstown – a horse she previously had in behind. That performance may have been the result of a tiring campaign, and Qemah’s connections seemed extremely optimistic about keeping her in training this season.
In reality there doesn’t appear to be much between the front three, but slight preference is for the Al Shaqab raider – who could be trading at a larger price than she should – as she bids to make it two from two at Royal Ascot.
1.5pts win Qemah @3/1, 15:40 Ascot, Wednesday (several)