Diamond Jubilee Stakes Preview: Sceptical ready to strike

A classy field of sprinters will line up for the Diamond Jubilee next Satuday.
A classy field of sprinters will line up for the Diamond Jubilee next Satuday.

Steve Chambers previews the 2020 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, which will see a hugely competitive field line up for the six furlong Group 1 prize on the final day of Royal Ascot.

Denis Hogan's announcement on Friday morning that his star four-year-old Sceptical will be targeted at the Diamond Jubilee Stakes instead of the King's Stand Stakes on the opening day of Royal Ascot has seen the Irish raider's price plummet in the ante-post betting for the former, and he is now a clear favourite for Saturday's sprint showpiece.

Bought from Godolphin for a paltry £2,800, the son of Exceed And Excel has already amassed over £40k in prize money, which has been accrued from a four-race winning streak, and he will look to make it five on the bounce in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes next weekend. An impressive three-length winner of a Listed event over five furlongs at Naas last week, Sceptical will now step up significantly in grade for his Royal Ascot assignment. With winning form over six furlongs, the return to this trip won't pose any problems, and having proven he can sparkle on the turf at Naas, he's entitled to sit prominently in the betting.

However, despite Hogan's charge still being open to some improvement, he will need to continue on an upward curve, and with some firms offering a meagre 5/2, the value could lie elsewhere in what is shaping up into a hugely competitive betting heat for punters to get stuck into.

Kevin Ryan's Hello Youmzain, who had previously held the position at the head of the betting, has shown he can produce the goods at the highest level as he was a fine winner of the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock Park last season. Having finished third in the Commonwealth Cup at last year's Royal meeting, the Kodiac colt then relished the soft conditions in the Sprint Cup and edged out The Tin Man by half a length to claim top honours. The pair are likely to clash again here, with James Fanshawe's charge aiming to reverse that form and record his second win in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, having won the event in 2017, but age is certainly not on his side and Hello Youmzain should confirm the form. Down the field in the Sprint Stakes on British Champions Day, Hello Youmzain will need to improve on his return to Ascot, but with the quicker ground likely to bring on improvement then he could well be the one to beat.

Another contender with decent Royal Ascot form is last year's Jersey Stakes runner-up Space Blues, who will be bidding to go one place better at the Royal meeting this season when lining up in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes for Charlie Appleby. A narrow winner of a Listed event at Haydock Park earlier this month, the Godolphin raider is likely to improve for his first run of the season, but he is yet to show the credentials of a genuine Group 1 performer, and it could be that he just finds one rival too good on the day.

One Master is gearing up for a crack at this mouth-watering contest, and the William Haggas-trained mare will be bidding to emulate her fine second placed run in the British Champions Sprint Stakes on British Champions Day last season. A fine winner of the Group 1 Prix de la Foret before that Ascot outing, the six-year-old adds significant depth to the race, but she has often been seen in her best light when running in softer conditions, so if the rain stays away from the Berkshire racecourse next week then she could be one to avoid.

The Charles Hills-trained Khaadem has been nibbled at in the betting over the last couple of weeks, and the Stewards' Cup hero will be aiming to show he can produce the goods now out of handicap company. Well beaten in the Commonwealth Cup last season, Khaadem produced a career best when winning at Glorious Goodwood, but was then found wanting in both the Sprint Cup and the Champion Sprint Stakes. Those both came in soft ground, so a return to a quicker surface could see him in a better light, but he may just lack the class to figure at the highest level and can be discounted.

Of the others, Cape Byron was a hugely impressive winner of the Wokingham at Royal Ascot last season, and will relish an end-to-end gallop next weekend, but he could be another that is just below the level needed to claim top class glory here, while last year's Diamond Jubilee runner-up Dream Of Dreams may have put it up to crack sprinter Blue Point in this renewal 12 months ago, but Sir Michael Stoute's charge's form fell off a cliff after that fine run, so he can't be fully trusted.

In a race that is full of imponderables, Sceptical is the improving sprinter that could well continue to blossom and be a class above, but Hello Youmzain has proven Group 1 form on his record, so he could well be the safe option in what should be a thrilling renewal on the final day of the Flat extravaganza.

Selection

Diamond Jubilee Stakes, 15:35 Royal Ascot, Saturday 20th June - back Hello Youmzain at 11/2

Diamond Jubilee Stakes
Hello Youmzain silk

Hello Youmzain

won

An impressive winner of the Group 1 Sprint Cup last season at Haydock Park, Hello Youmzain can continue on an upward curve this season providing he doesn't fluff his lines at the start and can hold a prominent position from the outset, which could help he dominate proceedings.

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