All-conquering Irish handler Aidan O’Brien has won three of the last four renewals of the Group 2 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot, and saddles two leading contenders for the 1m 6f three-year-olds contest this year on Wednesday (15:05).
Norway has a very similar profile to 2018 victor Kew Gardens, so appeals most at 4/1 with Betfred to take the step up in trip now eased in grade.
The son of Galileo got 10 furlongs as a juvenile and that usually bodes well for tests of endurance like this.
After winning a Naas maiden over a mile on his third career start, Norway made the step up into Listed company with a length victory in the Zetland Stakes at Newmarket.
Although then fourth in a Group 1 at Saint-Cloud over in France, he was only beaten four lengths and had to give the winner 4lb.
He was also far from disgraced on reappearance when runner-up to Sir Dragonet in the Group 3 Chester Vase when stepped up to 1m 4f at the May Festival.
While Norway was beaten eight lengths by the ready winner, that doesn’t tell the full story as he was short of room and denied a clear run before two out.
It was a performance that can be upgraded and connections then pitched him back in at the highest level last time out in the Epsom Derby.
Norway was only beaten seven lengths and eighth to stable companion Anthony Van Dyck when unable to quicken in the final furlong.
This increased stamina test should suit him on breeding – given half-brother Kew Gardens was beaten much further in the premier Classic, then came out and landed this 12 months ago.
Western Australia a clear danger
Another Ballydoyle blueblood Western Australia heads the betting at 7/2 with Bethard after relishing a marked step up in trip last time out.
The son of another Epsom Derby hero trained by O’Brien in Australia, this colt brings leading juvenile form claims into the contest after finishing a length third in the Group 1 Futurity Trophy at Doncaster on his final start of last season.
That straight mile contest has produced two Classic winners in Magna Grecia and Phoenix Of Spain.
Prior to that, Western Australia was far from disgraced when fourth in the Group 3 Autumn Stakes being French Guineas winner Persian King.
Although beaten on his first couple of starts this season, connections then stepped him up to 1m 5f for a Listed event at Navan after stable staying great Yeats.
This is the same race that O’Brien farmed with Southern France last year en route to this. Western Australia only needed riding clear in the closing stages after hitting the front at the furlong marker to score by 1 1/2 lengths.
While this obviously demands more, he has shaped as a stayer and joins Norway atop the official ratings in the 13-runner field on a mark of 107.
Western Australia has been rated 3lb higher for previous assignments over trips which didn’t suit; so, granted further improvement, looks the one who can give his stable companion most to think about.
Punters should consider a reverse forecast to cover their stake on Norway.
The other O’Brien inmates – Barbados and Harpo Marx – have plenty to find on official figures, so it’s the first two in the betting that look likely to fight out the finish.
Nate The Great appeals each-way
A case can be made for a few to fill the frame behind Norway and Western Australia, but the Archie Waston trained Nate The Great appeals more than most at 12/1 with Betway based on his reappearance.
This son of Nathaniel ran well in Listed company three times as a juvenile after winning on debut at Carlisle.
Nate The Great also landed a 1m 1f novice event at Musselburgh before finishing a 1 1/4 lengths third to Norway in the Zetland Stakes.
Although then outpaced in the Listed Derby Trial over an extended 1m 3f at Lingfield on his return to action, he found plenty for pressure and stayed on in the final furlong to go down by four lengths.
The winner, Anthony Van Dyck, came out and landed the premier Classic itself at Epsom earlier this month, so that reads very well in the context of this Group 2 contest.
Jalmoud looks the pick of two Godolphin owned colts trained by Charlie Appleby at 11/2 with William Hill but looks plenty short enough.
While this son of New Approach is lightly-raced and relatively unexposed after just three career starts and comes to Royal Ascot seeking a hat-trick, he only just did enough under a sustained driving run to land a Listed affair at Longchamp by a head when last in action.
This venue is a galloping track with a stiff uphill finish and the prominent racing position Jalmoud has taken up in both his wins this season will be difficult to maintain here.