The eighth and final Group One race of Royal Ascot is the six furlong Diamond Jubilee Stakes, one of the most important sprint races in the world.
The best of Europe’s sprinters line up including last year’s July Cup winner Limato, who will have the quick ground he appreciates and didn’t encounter last time out in the Al Quoz sprint in Dubai when down the field.
In front on that evening in Dubai were the winner, The Right Man, for France, and runner-up Long On Value, for the USA. Both run tomorrow afternoon, the latter being particularly exciting as he is a first runner at Royal Ascot for top American trainer, Bill Mott.
There is significant strength in depth in the race, including 2016 QIPCO British Champions Sprint (course and distance) winner, The Tin Man, and recent Group Two Duke of York Stakes winner and runner-up, Tasleet and Magical Memory.
The main support race is the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes over a mile-and-a-half for four-year-olds and up. The race has unusual conditions in that Group One winners go unpenalised – by which is meant that winners of Group One races carry the same weight as those that haven’t won at that level. This concession was made to the race to encourage Group One winners to run in Royal Ascot’s premier mile-and-a-half race and provide as best a trial opportunity as possible for horses who are targeting the Group One King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes over course and distance next month, such as last year’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes winner, My Dream Boat.
Of course all eyes will be on The Queen’s Dartmouth, who will be a worthy favourite to win the Hardwicke for a second time after his recent win in a Group Two race at York last month. That was over a mile-and-three-quarters and he only got on top late so there may be a slight question mark over his speed for this trip now, but he very much sets the standard in the race.
Idaho represents Coolmore in the race and this is a horse for whom absolutely nothing has gone right in his last three runs but is considered to be potentially top class. Last September, he was travelling smoothly as odds on favourite in the St Leger only to stumble and unseat his rider. Then in Canada, perhaps the long distance travel affected him, again as favourite, where Dartmouth was in front of him. Last time out in the Group One Coronation Cup at Epsom, he lost all chance to show his best when his flight was delayed. He never looked happy with so little time to be prepared for the race on arrival. It is very interesting that the powerful Aidan O’Brien stable rely only on him tomorrow.
The Chesham over seven furlongs for two-year-olds opens proceedings and Coolmore’s September is likely to be a warm favourite. The Wolferton is next up, and is a fascinating renewal of this Listed handicap over 10 furlongs. There is a very strong word for the relatively unexposed Chester winner, Khairaat in a race that features a runner for the Prince Of Wales and The Duchess Of Cornwall, in Pacify.
The Wokingham Handicap opens an unofficial triple crown of the highest profile six furlong handicaps in Britain, leading into the Stewards’ Cup and Goodwood and Ayr Gold Cup. A full field of sprinters will line up as ever, and it is wide open.
Royal Ascot comes to an end with the traditional final race of the meeting, the much loved Queen Alexandra Stakes, at two-and-three-quarter miles the longest race of the week.
Although not a Pattern or Listed race, or indeed a feature handicap, it has, in recent years begun to attract a much higher calibre of horse than once was the case. This year’s renewal may be the best yet, with last year’s Derby runner-up US Army Ranger remarkably lining up. The powerful Godolphin operation, who have had such a fabulous week, run Qewy and Thomas Hobson, who won the Ascot Stakes on Tuesday, lines up again.
It is an intriguing renewal of the Queen Alexandra Stakes and a fitting end to what has been a wonderful week’s racing.