Horse Racing
A five-day feast of top-class action and fierce competition on the menu at Royal Ascot

14/06/2024 11:06

Royal Ascot is portrayed as the Olympics of British racing and next Tuesday (18 June), the G1 Queen Anne Stakes over Ascot’s straight 1600m serves as a fitting start to a 35-race celebration of racing, spread across five days.

World-class superstars such as Frankel and Baaeed have surged to victory in this Group 1 clash of elite older milers. Last year, a brilliant ride from Neil Callan resulted in Triple Time becoming an upset winner but stronger fancies for this year’s race include six-times Group 1-winning mare Inspiral, and Facteur Cheval whose supporters hope will provide a renaissance for French-trained Royal Ascot contenders.

The King’s Stand Stakes renamed this year as the King Charles III Stakes in honour of the new British monarch is the second Group 1 next Tuesday. Won by the Danny Shum-trained Zac Purton-ridden Little Bridge in 2012, this 1000m dash is the fastest event of the week.

Big Evs enjoyed a dazzling two-year-old season and showed unstoppable gate speed when winning the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes (1000m) at this meeting last year. An outsider in 2023, but then subsequent winner of Santa Anita’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (1000m) is well fancied for Tuesday’s dash, more so if the ground is good or faster.

Unbeaten in four starts, Notable Speech accelerated from the back for a stylish triumph in Newmarket’s G1 2000 Guineas (1600m) last month. Guineas form has been a powerful guide to victory in the third Tuesday Group 1 – the St James’s Palace Stakes (1594m) – and the Charlie Appleby-trained William Buick-ridden colt is sure of popularity in this famous three-year-old clash.

Day Two, Wednesday (19 June) is packed with a variety of racing challenges including the Royal Hunt Cup (1600m) where a maximum field of 30 will charge down the straight mile for one of the British calendars most prestigious handicaps.

But in terms of class, the glittering highlight is the G1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes (1993m), where White Birch could strike a significant blow for smaller under-the-radar stables.

Unbeaten in three 2024 starts, the John Joseph Murphy-trained grey four-year-old colt most recently powered clear of fellow Irish-trained and dual Classic and five-times Group 1 winner Auguste Rodin in last month’s G1 Tattersalls Gold Cup (2100m) at The Curragh.

Thursday’s (20 June) G1 Gold Cup is Royal Ascot’s oldest race - founded in 1807 - and, for many, this 3991m marathon contest is the meeting highpoint. Only rarely in recent times has there been a surprise Gold Cup winner, and Aidan O’Brien-trained Kyprios – winner as favourite in 2022 despite having to challenge wide – may again prove tough to overcome, having missed last year’s race through injury.

Friday (21 June) features back-to-back Group 1s, the Commonwealth Cup (1200m) for three-year-olds and Coronation Stakes (1594m) for three-year-old fillies. The former race has proved a huge success since it was introduced in 2015 and trainer Karl Burke – who won it back in 2016 - has a significant player in Elite Status who smashed the 1200m Newbury course record time when winning last start. And the same trainer could double Friday Group 1 glory, appearing to have a serious Coronation Stakes candidate in Fallen Angel, who led almost the whole way when easily winning the G1 Irish 1000 Guineas (1600m) at The Curragh last month.

Saturday’s (22 June) conclusion to the Royal Ascot extravaganza features everything from leading sprinters to out-and-out stayers. The leading sprinters will be on show in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes (1200m) with Hong Kong-based owner Marc Chan and trainer Ralph Beckett targeting Kinross for this prize. The spritely Kinross, now seven, has won at least two group events per season – including a Group 1 over this course and distance - for the last three years.