Royal Ascot eye-catchers: Five who showed their Epsom credentials

Frankly Darling was an impressive winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes.
Frankly Darling was an impressive winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes.

With Royal Ascot now over, Nick Seddon has taken a look at five horses who showcased their Epsom credentials at the Royal meeting...

Frankly Darling (Ribblesdale Stakes)

Frankly Darling carries the familiar black and white silks of Anthony Oppenheimer, which are perhaps best known for being sported by Golden Horn, and it didn't take long for punters to connect the dots after she produced a taking display to get off the mark at Newcastle at the beginning of the month - with the daughter of Frankel quickly being shortened into 10/1 for the Epsom Oaks. She represents the exact same connections as last year's Ribblesdale winner Star Catcher, so it was no surprise to see the filly line up for at the Royal meeting, for a Group 2 contest which this year serves as a key pointer for Epsom rather than a consolation race.

Frankly Darling is bred for middle distances, and she took the step up to a mile and a half in her stride at Ascot, quickly putting the race to bed and staying on really well to the line. She was still very much learning on the job that day - as Frankie Dettori pointed out after the race - but it was hard not to be impressed, and there's likely to be plenty more to come from her yet. The undulations of Epsom will be a new obstacle for her, but the 11/4 on offer seems big bearing in mind she took care of a useful-looking field in taking fashion, and she is now a key contender for the Oaks - if she wasn't already.

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Pyledriver (King Edward VII Stakes)

Pyledriver is quickly becoming one of the stories of the season, in that he represents pretty humble connections in the grand scheme of the Epsom Derby, but he is making a habit of defying expectations. A straightforward type, Pyledriver looked a useful colt as a two-year-old, and he impressed with his staying on second in what appeared to be a warm renewal of the Group 3 Classic Trial at the beginning of the month. That form hasn't worked out as well as it perhaps promised to, and Pyledriver entered the Royal meeting as a 66/1 outsider for the Derby - while he was sent off as a pretty unconsidered 18/1 shot in the King Edward VII Stakes, behind another Epsom Derby contender in Mogul

However, Mogul proved to be a disappointment, and there was plenty to like about Pyledriver's tenacity to thwart the challenge of another O'Brien runner in Arthur's Kingdom once he had hit the front. He'll almost certainly need to take another step forward if he's going to have a serious chance at Epsom, but he's into 16/1 for the classic, and has the services of a Derby-winning jockey in the form of the hugely-experienced Martin Dwyer. There's an element of the fairytale about the plucky Pyledriver for a jockey who's riding for his father-in-law, but he's forced himself into the reckoning, and will be a lively outsider in what looks an open renewal of the Derby at the beginning of next month.

Russian Emperor and First Receiver (Hampton Court Stakes)

This is most likely going to be the one and only year that the Hampton Court Stakes serves as a port of call for Derby clues, though both Russian Emperor and First Receiver showcased their Epsom credentials by finishing first and second, respectively. The first-named only just failed to peg back his front-running stablemate Cormorant in the Derrinstown Derby Trial at Leopardstown earlier this month, though his general price of 16/1 for the Derby in the aftermath hinted that he would show his best form when upped to a mile and a half. That theory seemed to ring true enough at Ascot, as he really came into his own in the stiff finish of the Hampton's 10-furlong trip, and needed every yard to reel in First Receiver and Berlin Tango. However, he left the firm impression that there would be plenty more to come from him over further yet - and his price of around 10/1 for Epsom could seem more than fair in hindsight. 

Meanwhile, First Receiver was ultimately collared in the dying strides at Ascot, though there was plenty to like about his performance, too. He was taking a sharp step up in class having won a maiden at Kempton at the beginning of the month, and looked completely at home in Group company. Seeing off the power-packed challenge of Berlin Tango in the final two furlongs perhaps just cost him for win purposes, but he's got plenty of stamina in his pedigree, so the step up to a mile and a half should bring about more improvement. Indeed, the frenetic nature of an Epsom Derby could suit his prominent racing style much better, and he rates as a lively outsider for The Queen - who is still chasing an elusive Derby success.

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Quadrilateral (Coronation Stakes)

Quadrilateral looked a filly right out of the top drawer when winning the Fillies' Mile at Newmarket last October, finishing her juvenile campaign unbeaten in the process, though her Oaks credentials took another knock at the Royal meeting. Her inability to settle seemed to cost her when third in the 1000 Guineas, and while her run in the Coronation Stakes was a more polished display in that regard, she ultimately found Alpine Star far too good on the run-in. There's no doubting that she's a smart filly, and there could well be more to come when stepped up in trip, but it appears as though a handful of fillies have improved past her this term, and she'll have something to prove at Epsom - for all that she's still available at around 10/1 in the betting. 

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