Day One of Royal Ascot is widely acknowledged to be amongst the best racing days anywhere in the world with three Group One races and Ascot’s premier two-year-old race, the Group Two Coventry Stakes.
The Group One Queen Anne Stakes is for older horses over the straight mile. Recent Lockinge Stakes winner, Ribchester, will be a very short price, probably odds-on, to add to his Newbury win. Amongst the chief opposition are last year’s Summer Mile winner, Mutakayyef and Lightning Spear, the Newbury runner-up. Both will enjoy the quick ground as indeed will the two American runners, Miss Temple City, running at Ascot for the third year running, and American Patriot, for Todd Pletcher. The trainer is coming to the Royal Meeting on the back of victories in two of the three Triple Crown races in the US this year – the Kentucky Derby with Always Dreaming and the Belmont Stakes with Tapwrit.
An international array of jockeys will be on display in the opener including Edgar Prado for the US, Stephane Pasquier for France and Michelle Payne, the first and only lady rider to win the Melbourne Cup, for Australia.
The Group One King’s Stand Stakes is all about whether last year’s devastatingly impressive Queen Mary Stakes winner, Lady Aurelia, can repeat the dose over the same course and distance this year. Wesley Ward’s electric three-year-old filly is the mount of Frankie Dettori, who will be riding for him all week and indeed partners American-trained American Patriot for Todd Pletcher’s US stable in the opener.
It won’t be straightforward for the filly, however, with the likes of former race winner Goldream and recent impressive French winner, Signs Of Blessing, in the field.
The Group One St James’s Palace Stakes, on the round course, usually confirms champion three-year-old miler status and after victories in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas and Irish equivalent, Churchill lines up against the Newmarket runner-up, Barney Roy, in what is being billed as a head to head for category supremacy. Barney Roy appeared to be slightly unlucky in the 2,000 Guineas and it’ll be fascinating to see whether he can get any closer on Tuesday.
The Coventry looks wide open this year, and it’ll be interesting to see Wesley Ward’s first two-year-old of the week, Arawak, in action. De Bruyne Horse will have his supporters after an impressive win on Derby Day.
There are three long distance races at Royal Ascot, as defined by being two miles or over, the first of which is the Ascot Stakes (handicap). The great thing about this race is that it gives an opportunity for trainers who operate principally over jumps to get on the Royal Ascot scoresheet. The yards of David Pipe, Willie Mullins, Alan King, Nicky Henderson and, very unusually, Paul Nicholls, all have runners today.
The Windsor Castle Stakes closes the card. It is a Listed race for horses just below the level we will to see in the Norfolk Stakes later in the week, also over five furlongs for two-year-olds. Ward fires two arrows in this one.