360 days since Pique Sous and jockey Ryan Moore won the final race of Royal Ascot 2014, the long wait is finally over – this year’s Royal Meeting is finally upon us again and ready, as always, to take the sporting world’s breath away.
Months of planning and preparation, the trainers and the jockeys are now at an end, as one of the highlights of the British summer, wrapped up in over 300 years of glorious history and tradition, gets under way at one of the world’s most iconic sporting venues.
And talk about starting off with a bang. Three of the week’s eight Group One contests take place on this mouth-watering first afternoon. The opening race of the whole meeting, the Queen Anne Stakes (2:30pm), sees a clash between the world’s finest older milers. The 2014 2000 Guineas winner Night Of Thunder will fly the flag for Britain but faces a pair of formidable overseas raiders in the shape of Solow, from France, and Able Friend, who takes his place in the field after thrashing all comers in four starts this season in Hong Kong.
The eight-year-old sprinter Sole Power will make his dash for the history books in Tuesday’s second Group 1 race, the King’s Stand Stakes (3:40pm), over the minimum distance of five furlongs. No horse has ever won this contest three times and, having won it in 2013 and 2014, the evergreen Irish speed machine will no doubt bring the house down if he can hold off a host of old rivals and young pretenders to lift the prize again under the Champion Jockey Richard Hughes, who is riding at his final Royal Ascot before retiring.
The third Group 1 event of the day, the St James’s Palace Stakes (4:20pm), features Europe’s two best three-year-old milers going head-to-head in a race that will settle any early season arguments over supremacy in that division. Gleneagles has looked formidable in winning the English and Irish 2000 Guineas this spring but faces his toughest test of the season so far in the form of the hugely impressive pillar-to-post winner of the French 2000 Guineas, Make Believe.
Supported by three other historic and ultra-competitive races across the afternoon, the first day of Royal Ascot 2015 is a fitting opening showpiece that is simply not to be missed. It really isLike Nowhere Else.
Gates open: 10:30am
Opening race: 2:30pm
Last race: 5:35pm