The five day Royal Ascot meeting gets underway next Tuesday and the whole week boasts an array of thoroughbred talent from the UK, Ireland and overseas in what is the highlight of the first half of the English summer racing calendar. You could not wish for a finer start than is always provided on day one with a feast of pattern races and a few competitive handicaps thrown in for good measure, and as usual the three Group 1’s look set to provide quality racing and some intriguing viewing.
Day one kicks off with the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes over 1600 metres for four year old horses and above. The market is headed by the horses that duelled in the Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge at Newbury in May, the winner of the race Mustashry (by Tamayuz) trained by Sir Michael Stoute and Le Brivido (by Siyouni ) trained by Aidan O Brien who was only fifth that day on seasonal debut. A number of horses behind Mustashry in that race will re oppose including the third Accidental Agent (by Delegator) the 2018 Queen Anne winner who went off at 33-1 when winning the race last year and has a slightly less insulting price right now for this year’s contest at odds of 12-1. Currently declared are a number of others who were beaten in the Lockinge including the second Laurens (by Siyouni), fourth Romanized (by Holy Roman Emperor) and lively outsider and track specialist Lord Glitters (by Whipper), and throw in to the mix Group 1 winner Barney Roy (by Excelebration) and the race should offer a great spectacle to start proceedings.
The second Group 1 contest is the Kings Stand Stakes over the minimum trip of 1000 metres and brings together the cream of sprinting talent headed by last year’s 1,2,3 the Godolphin owned Blue Point (by Shamardal), the brilliant but temperamental Battaash (by Dark Angel) and the flying mare Mabs Cross (by Dutch Art). The margins can be so fine over this distance it looks sure to be close, and two others who must be considered are the USA raider Imprimis (by Broken Vow) and Sergei Prokofiev (by Scat Daddy) from the all-conquering Aidan O’Brien stable.
The highlight of the first day could well be the Group 1 St James Palace stakes for three year olds over 1600 metres. Phoenix of Spain (by Lope De Vega) the impressive Irish 2000 Guineas winner locks horns again with last year’s champion two year old Too Darn Hot (by Dubawi)who he beat at the Curragh and the fourth Skardu (by Shamardal) who finished one place better in the English 2000 Guineas. John Gosden believes he has Too Darn Hot back to his brilliant best and he will need to be as Phoenix Of Spain looked to have progressed from his two year old career and he won the Irish 2000 on seasonal debut. Gosden has a second string to his bow in King of Comedy (by Kingman) who has been running at a lower level but could be the joker in the pack. France is represented by Shaman (by Shamardal) who was second to Persian King in the French 2000 Guineas and the addition of the Derby fifth Circus Maximus (by Galileo) from Ireland gives the race a real international feel covering all strands of form.
As if this was not enough we also have the best two year old race of the meeting the Group 2 Coventry Stakes with a field of untapped juveniles many of whom have only raced once or twice and are ready and waiting to announce themselves on the big stage. The day is completed by a big field long distance handicap and an excellent listed race, both interesting puzzles in their own right that look equally difficult to solve.
The touch paper is ready to be lit….boom!