In terms of in-running tactics, the Princess of Wales’s Stakes has been very much a case of all or nothing over the last decade.
The last five winners all made the running (EPF of 1), while the four before that were all held up (EPF of 4), with 2018 winner Lucarno another who made every post a winning one.
Even pace forecast
The pace forecast for this year’s race is just an even one, and it’s Raa Atoll who is most likely to take up an early position at the head of affairs. He progressed again when two and three quarter lengths fourth of 9 to Old Persian in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot last time, despite having the run of the race.
His jockey Frankie Dettori may decide to set a stronger gallop here given the horse’s stout breeding on the distaff side (out of an 11.5f winner, sister to 1½m-1¾m winner Rostropovich and 1¼m-12.5f winner Moon Queen), as well as the fact that the horse kept on well (In-Play Symbol of k) and responded well (In-Play Symbol of r) when winning at Nottingham and Leicester earlier this year.
Though Muntahaa made the running in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester on his penultimate start, he appeared to improve for the return to more patient tactics when two lengths third to Monarchs Glen in a listed race at Royal Ascot last time. The fellow Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned Laraaib may also go forward, as he did when two and a quarter lengths second to Poet’s Word in the Birgadier Gerard at Sandown in May, for all this is his first crack at a mile and a half.
At the other end of the field, it’s more established that the grey Algometer – who was third in this race 12 months ago when needing a more truly-run race - will be easy to identify at the rear. He’s recorded an average EPF of 4 on each of his last five starts, including when failing to get competitive in a 1¾m listed race at York last time. A smart performer at his best, he needs something of a renaissance to feature prominently.
A much more eminent threat is ‘Horse In Focus’ Mirage Dancer, who recorded a good timefigure (118) when finishing third in the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2017, and he wasn’t far off that level when not seen to best effect when two and three quarter lengths fifth to Monarchs Glen at Royal Ascot last time.
His rider was seemingly under instruction to move off the rail (was drawn in stall 1) in the straight so as not to get locked in, the irony being that the winner took his spot and rolled on while Mirage Dancer continually worked left, not impeded as such but unable to fully open up; he's still ready for this Group graduation.
Best of the rest
Barsanti won a listed race over this trip at Ascot (by neck from Mirage Dancer) in May and ran about as well as could be expected when fourth in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last time. He’s just short on ability against the real high-flyers, but he will continue to run well in minor pattern company – he looks a major player here.
Duretto (good length third of 8 to Marmelo in listed race at York last time) and Best Solution complete the line-up, with the latter of more interest. He’s recorded an IPS of 2 on four of his last five starts, so should be well positioned here in what looks like being a tactical race. He won a handicap at Meydan in February and ran well faced with a stiff task (40/1) when a creditable five lengths to last year’s Princess of Wales’s Stakes winner Hawkbill in the Dubai Sheema Classic there when last seen in March.
Though he has something to find on ratings, the three-year-old Raa Atoll is the least exposed in the field and looks the type to continue progressing. His jockey Frankie Dettori has plenty of experience on his side and should be aware that there isn’t too much obvious competition for the lead, but even if there is, his mount has plenty of stamina to draw upon, and he could prove hard to pass. Mirage Dancer is the obvious danger, especially if ridden more astutely than last time, as he was when successful at Goodwood back in May; his in-form yard have won this race nine times.
Back Raa Atoll to win Thursday’s Princess of Wales’s Stakes at 7/1