Looking forward to next week and the world’s greatest horse race meeting, we have Royal Ascot. You can expect to see the finest of equine horseflesh straining every sinew to win the glittering prizes on offer. So as a preview here is a short run-down to each of the great races involved on a day by day basis for the first four days. Find all previous UK racing previews in his weekly column: Saturday Horse Racing Tips.
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The meeting kicks off with the Queen Anne Stakes over Ascot’s straight mile. This race is for 4-year-olds and upwards so expect to see the world’s hottest milers in contention including Accidental Agent who is due back to defend the crown he won last year. Expect Aidan O’Brien to have a strong hand here including the current favourite, Le Brivido, and Magical who is unbeaten in three outings this season.
Next up is the Coventry Stakes where the star 2-year-olds strut their stuff over 6 furlongs. O’Brian has the current favourite here as well with Arizona who romped home winning by 8 lengths at the Curragh at the end of May. But Richard Hannon has a potential star with Threat who won his maiden easily at Newmarket earlier that same month. Pierre Lapin from Roger Varian’s yard has also come in to contention after a fine victory at Haydock three weeks ago.
The Kings Stand Stakes will feature the fastest horses on the planet as the speedsters line up for this 5 furlong contest for 3-year-olds and up. Charlie Appleby’s Blue Point, last year’s winner will be here along with last season’s Prix De L’Abbeye hero Mabs Cross from Michael Dods’ stable. But the hottest entry around at the moment is Battaash after his victory in the Temple Stakes at Haydock three weeks ago for trainer Charles Hills.
The St James’s Palace Stakes is over a mile for 3-year-old colts so look for those who ran prominently in the English and Irish 2000gns. The current favourite is Charles Hills’ Phoenix Of Spain who hammered his rivals in the Irish race seeing off Too Darn Hot, Decrypt, Skardu and Magna Grecia who will reoppose here. Too Darn Hot interests me most, after being unbeaten as a 2-year-old, John Gosden’s potential superstar was beaten in both the Dante and the Irish Guineas and will be looking to redeem himself here.
The distance horses come into their own in the Ascot Stakes run over 2m 4f next on the card. This race is for 4-year-olds and upwards and will be targeted once again by Willie Mullins who has won three of the last four renewals. He won it last year with Lagostovegas so whoever he sends over should be noted. The Chester Cup winner Making Miracles from Mark Johnson’s yard should also be a credible contender.
The final race on the first day is the Wolferton Stakes, a 10 furlong contest for 4-year-olds and upwards. This race inaugurated in 2002 was originally run as a handicap but because of its Listed status the handicap element has been removed. John Gosden has won the race four times since 2011 so any entry he has should be respected, also look out for any Group 3 winners from earlier in the season.
Starting the action today is the Queen Mary Stakes, a 5 furlong sprint for 2-year-old fillies. Some of these young horses will be seeing a racecourse for the first time and are difficult to evaluate but ones who have and are high in the betting include Chasing Dreams. Charlie Appleby’s charge won on her debut at Newmarket when well fancied and the trainer has high hopes for her. Wesley Ward brings over Anna’s Fast from the USA, she won at Keeneland beating two rivals and the trainer is hoping she lives up to her name.
The Queens Vase is a 2 mile race for three year olds and is a great opportunity for trainers to find if their reasonably young horses can handle these longer distances potentially looking for Cup horses. Currently heading the betting is Western Australia, an Aidan O’Brien colt who put in a good performance to win at Navan last time. Charlie Appleby’s Jalmoud has won both his starts this year including a Listed race at Longchamp and looks a force to contend with.
The second fillies race on the card is the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes over a mile for 4-year-olds and upwards. One highly fancied filly, Rawdaa, is trained by Sir Michael Stoute. She won twice as a 3-year-old and she was only beaten a neck at York recently by the classy Lah Ti Dar. William Haggas sends Beshaayir after her success at the Curragh in May where she beat an O’Brian contender I Can Fly. Anna Nerium, the winner of the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom for trainer Richard Hannon has also come into contention after that fine victory.
The feature race of the day is the Prince Of Wales Stakes, a 10 furlong contest for 4-year-olds and up. Aidan O’Brian will be aiming his star filly at this, she is unbeaten this season and is reportedly in fine fettle after bolting up on her latest outing at the Curragh in the Tatersalls Gold Cup. William Haggas has Sea Of Class entered, she had a fine season last year winning two Group 1s but she has not had a prep race this year. Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Ocean has been out twice this year winning on both occasions latterly beating a top class field at Newbury. Last year’s Derby hero Masar is among the declarations and trainer Charlie Appleby will be hoping for a good run from his stable star.
The Royal Hunt Cup is always a wonderful spectacle with 30 horses charging down the Ascot mile in this handicap. Current favourite is New Graduate trained by James Tate who has shot up the handicap after winning at Ripon in April. Jamie Osborne reports Raising Sand is in the form of his life and he had a good prep run here at Ascot in May. Blue Mist was just behind him that day and his trainer Roger Charlton will not want too much give in the ground for him as he is a course a distance winner on good/firm. One who will want some give in the ground is Robin Of Navan trained by Harry Dunlop, he is a horse that seems to be unlucky in his races and may be more suited by the wide open spaces here.
The day closes with the 5 furlong Windsor Castle Stakes for 2-year-olds. This race for juveniles gives trainers an opportunity to evaluate the youngsters in their yards. One horse that has come to the fore is Jeremy Noseda’s Bomb Proof after his fine win at York recently. There is also an American challenger, Chilli Petin trained by Wesley Ward, who won at Keeneland and could be anything. Joseph O’Brien sends Air Force Jet from Ireland who won his maiden at the beginning of June at Navan.
Ladies Day begins with the Norfolk Stakes, a Group 2 five furlong Sprint for 2-year-olds. Aidan O’Brien has the favourite here in the form of Monarch Of Egypt who won at Naas in April beating a classy field. O’Brian also has Pistoletto in the contest, he has won his last two latterly at Naas when he was a really hot favourite. Paddy Twomey’s Sunday Sovreign has also won his latest two races, last time out he beat a top class field at Tipperary just a week ago.
The Hampton Court Stakes is a 10 furlong race for 3-year-olds. It is a Group 3 contest and has been won three times by Aidan O’Brian since 2005. Charlie Fellowes has declared King Ottokar for this race, after running poorly in the Chester Vase the trainer is dropping him back in trip to get his career back on track.
There is a 1m 4f race for fillies that attracts those that ran in the Oaks. The Ribblesdale Stakes give these horses a chance to redeem themselves and there several of them declared. Pink Dogwood was second favourite for the Oaks but Aidan O’Brien’s filly will be going to the Curragh for the Pretty Polly leaving this race open. Manuela De Vega was a fast finishing fourth that day in th Oaks and Ralph Beckett’s filly has another crack. In sixth place was Frankellina and William Haggas thinks she will have come on for that experience.
The highlight of the day is the Gold Cup over 2m 4f and Stradivarius returns to defend the crown he won last year. After his stunning victory in the Yorkshire Cup in May, trainer John Gosden will have him spot on for this and Frankie Dettori will be dying to be reunited with this great horse for this marathon contest. But he won’t have things all his own way with horses like Leger winner Kew Gardens against him. Willie Mullins has also stated Thomas Hobson will run, he won the Ascot Stakes in 2017 and was second to Stradivarius last October in the Long Distance Cup. Cross Counter comes from his heroics of winning the Melbourne Cup and the Dubai Gold Cup for Charlie Appleby and he represents a tough customer for Stradivarius to overcome to repeat last year’s victory. A mouth watering contest.
The Britannia Stakes is a one mile handicap for 3-year-olds and it always attracts a large field. Currently this year’s favourite is Velorum trained by Charlie Appleby, he is a winner of both his starts this season, the latest was at Yarmouth where dealt with a strong field with comparative ease. Awe was a winner for trainer William Haggas at Newmarket last Saturday and deservedly so after being unlucky at previously at Haydock. Beat Le Bon picked up a nice contest at Goodwood last month and trainer Richard Hannon will fancy his chances here.
The King George V Stakes rounds off the day. This 1m 4f Handicap for 3-year-olds was won last year by Baghdad trained by Mark Johnson, his fifth win in this race since 2002. He could be worth following with whatever he sends out here.
The opening race today is the Albany Stakes, a 6 furlong Sprint for 2-year-old fillies. The favourite for this is Wesley Ward’s Nayibeth, another of his Keeneland winners from April. Final Song is high in the betting after the Saeed Bin Suroor filly won here at Ascot in May although that was only over 5 furlongs. Another Godolphin entry, this time trained by Charlie Appleby is Divine Spirit who won a novice race at Windsor in May beating eleven rivals.
Next up is the King Edward VII Stakes, a Group 2 over 1m 4f for 3-year-old colts. This race has attracted some of the runners from this year’s Derby including the horse that was favourite, Sir Dragonet, who finished fifth. Aidan O’Brien’s colt was considered unlucky that day in a bunched finish. Another O’Brien horse was third, that was Japan whose rider dropped his whip in the last 100 yards, would that have made a difference? John Gosden sends Private Secretary who has won all three of his races this year but is trying 1m 4f for the first time,a furlong more than he has ever run at.
The Commonwealth Cup is a race for the speedsters over 6 furlongs for 3-year-olds and upwards. Aidan O’Brien has the hot favourite for this with Ten Sovereigns who was unbeaten at two, beating everything in sight. He came out for his first run this season at Newmarket in the 2000Gns and didn’t get a mile finishing sixth. The drop back to 6f will suit. Jash is trained by Simon Crisford and after a fine season last year he went to Newmarket and won the King Charles II over 7 furlongs. Fairyland is another O’Brien horse who is dropping back in trip after failing to get home in his last two contests.
The Coronation Stakes over a mile for 3-year-old fillies attracts the 1000Gns runners. Again O’Brien has the hot favourite here in the form of Hermosa, the Guineas winner, she then went to the Curragh and won the Irish equivalent, she is a really hot prospect. Jubiloso has won both her starts this year latterly at Newmarket. Her trainer Sir Michael Stoute is reported to hold her in high regard. Castle Lady is a French challenger, trained by H-A Pantall she is a Group1 winner and unbeaten this year.
The Sandringham Stakes is a one mile handicap for 3-year-old fillies. There is usually a big field for this contest and the trends are to look for a horse near the top of the betting. Jamie Spencer has won the race on the last two occasions.
The final race on day four is the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes, a Heritage Handicap. It is raced over 1mile 4furlongs and is for horses aged 3 and above. It was won last year by Dash Of Spice a winners tend to be drawn high.