06/13/2016 10:56AM

Rain could dampen Tepin's Royal Ascot chances

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Kim Pratt
Tepin has had some success on wet turf courses in America.

The most compelling story at Royal Ascot this week, for American racing fans at least, is Tepin’s bid to win the Queen Anne Stakes, the first race on Tuesday’s opening-day card of the five-day Royal meeting, but the story at Ascot has become the weather, and that story encompasses more than just an American perspective.

Gray skies and rain have been locked over Ascot for several days now, with no sign of a reprieve. The course’s official listing Monday was good-to-soft, but there’s a strong chance that the ground will be soft all over by the time the Queen Anne is contested Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Eastern.

Generally speaking, that is bad news for American-based horses, and there are several prominent European runners, too, whose connections have withdrawn them from competition or are considering doing so. Wesley Ward has pulled Acapulco from the King’s Stand Stakes, one of three Group 1 races on Tuesday, though Acapulco still could run in the Commonwealth Cup on Friday if there’s drying by then. Sole Power also is out of the King’s Stand, while the England-based filly Nemoralia has all but been ruled out of the Group 1 Coronation Stakes on Friday. And Ward is very much less than thrilled with the prospect of soft ground for any of the 2-year-olds he plans to run this week.

Tepin, meanwhile, has been drifting upward in antepost wagering for the Queen Anne since rain began falling in earnest late last week, but she is one American who might have a chance to handle the going. Tepin, a 5-year-old mare owned by Robert Masterson and trained by Mark Casse, has thrived on turf courses wet and dry on this side of the Atlantic. Last year’s champion turf female has won six in a row, including the First Lady Stakes last fall at Keeneland over a soft course and the Breeders’ Cup Mile there over ground called “good” but more testing than that.

Tepin’s camp has broadcast encouraging signals about the way the mare has taken her overseas travel since the day she arrived in England last week, but even if she has shipped well and adapts to the soft ground, Tepin has yet another task: transferring her form running around turns to the Queen Anne’s undulating, straight-course mile. Julien Leparoux has the mount.

Another filly, the 4-year-old Ervedya, has plenty to recommend her in the Queen Anne. She has won on courses soft and very soft and is well proven on straight courses. Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, she finished second May 1 in the Prix Muguet at Saint-Cloud in what surely was a prep for Tuesday’s tilt.

The French mare Esoterique also rates consideration, having finished second in this race last year to Solow, while Belardo ran second to Solow last fall at Ascot in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Both go well on soft ground and have a real chance at success.

The Group 1 St. James’s Palace for 3-year-olds, run around one right-handed bend, has produced such memorable winners as Frankel and Kingman in the last five years, and there are at least a couple of horses with bright futures in this year’s eight-runner edition. The Ghurka, trained by Aidan O’Brien for the Coolmore group, lost his debut in April but has since won two in a row, including a 5 1/2-length pasting of 12 foes in the French 2000 Guineas on May 15, albeit over good ground.

He, however, might have nothing on another Ireland-based colt, Awtaad, whose three-race winning streak culminated with a decisive victory May 21 in the Irish 2000 Guineas. That race was contested on yielding ground, while Awtaad’s two previous wins came on soft, so Ascot rain is of little concern. Second in the Irish 2000 was the English 2000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold, who also is set to line up for the St. James’s Palace, which goes at 11:20 a.m. Eastern.

With Acapulco and Sole Power out, there still are 19 left in the five-furlong King’s Stand, but even in that large group, Mecca’s Angel is not far from odds-on in antepost wagering. Mecca’s Angel beat Acapulco over good-to-soft ground last summer in the Nunthorpe Stakes and took the worst of the trips when second to King’s Stand second favorite Profitable last month in the Temple Stakes at Haydock.

There are American entrants in both of the 2-year-old stakes Tuesday. Ward runs Silvertoni, a longshot, in the Coventry, the second race on the card, in which Caravaggio, 2 for 2 for O’Brien, is a strong favorite. But the two Americans in the Windsor Castle, Big City Dreamin for Ward and Drafted for Eoin Harty, are among the favorites in a 22-horse field.