Thunder can strike in St James’s Palace Stakes
The big race on the opening day of Royal Ascot sees a fascinating rematch between Kingman and Night Of Thunder in the St James’s Palace Stakes (4.25), and the latter is taken to come out on top.
The pair met first met on their seasonal reappearances in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury, in which Night Of Thunder was readily brushed aside and beaten 4 1/2 lengths by John Gosden’s colt.
Night Of Thunder was unable to match the turn of foot shown by the impressive winner, but the Richard Hannon trained colt showed the benefit of the run when turning the tables on Kingman in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
The son of Dubawi showed a devastating turn of foot to beat Kingman by 1/2 a length, despite veering badly across the track in the final furlong and forfeiting a huge amount of ground.
To my eyes, there was no fluke about the performance as Kingman had every chance but no answer to Night Of Thunder’s finishing thrust.
The form of the race has also worked out extremely well, with the 10th home The Grey Gatsby having since won Dante Stakes and the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly and the third home Australia having gone on to win the Investec Derby.
Kingman has also since gone on to land a facile success in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, and is now officially rated 5lb superior to Night Of Thunder.
The colt looked the real deal when winning at the Curragh, and is favourite to win this Group 1 contest and make it five wins from six starts.
However, there is nothing to suggest that Night Of Thunder will also not improve again and with Richard Hughes in the saddle he is taken to confirm the Guineas form.
The only other runner that can be given any realistic chance on paper is the Aidan O’Brien trained War Command.
The son of War Front was a top class juvenile, who won the Coventry Stakes at this meeting last year in good style.
The colt went on to land the Group 1 Dewhurst, and was far from disgraced when ninth behind Night Of Thunder in the 2,000 Guineas.
Although beaten 5 1/4 lengths, War Command’s stable is now in better form and it would be no surprise to see him put in a bold showing.