Whilst always a tremendous card, it wasn’t so long ago that the Friday of the Royal Meeting was perceived to be the lesser of the five days.
That has all changed now. Since the inception of the Commonwealth Cup in 2015, Friday is now arguably the second best day of the week with two Group One races.
The Commonwealth Cup was introduced at Group One level from the start to address a perceived (and subsequently proven) gap in the European calendar – a championship for three-year-old sprinters.
The two winners to date have been Muhaarar and Quiet Reflection, who went on to prove themselves against their elders and in the case of the former, become Europe’s Champion Sprinter.
This year’s renewal is arguably the best to date, with Godolphin represented by Pavilion Stakes (the premier trial for this over course and distance) first and second Blue Point and Harry Angel. Interestingly, the former always carried the famous blue colours but so impressed were Godolphin with the runner-up, who was conceding weight, that they immediately stepped in to purchase him too. All the colts in tomorrow’s race carry the same weight.
The quality doesn’t stop there – in fact Godolphin don’t have the favourite. That honour goes to Coolmore’s Caravaggio, who blitzed his rivals, again over course and distance, in last year’s Coventry Stakes. His season was cut short last year but he was back with a bang at Naas recently and is already being talked about as a potential Champion Sprinter.
If that isn’t enough, Wesley Ward is ebullient in his admiration for Bound For Nowhere, who is stepping up in class considerably but has looked full of potential.
The traditional highlight of the card, and as good a renewal as you could ask for, is the Coronation Stakes, the mile championship race for three-year-old fillies following the European Guineas.
True to that billing, Winter heads the market and will be odds on having won the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas and Irish equivalent easily. That hasn’t scared off the French 1,000 Guineas winner, Precieuse, though, and nor has it dissuaded Mark Casse, winner of the Queen Anne last year with Tepin, from bringing another potential star over the Atlantic in La Coronel. After a hugely impressive win in the Group Three Appalachian Stakes in April, she overcame a bad draw and wide trip throughout to win another Group Three race much more impressively than the form book will tell you, on the Kentucky Derby undercard.
The Albany (Group Three), over six furlongs for two-year-old fillies, opens the card with Alpha Centauri for Jessie Harrington likely to be a strong favourite.
The King Edward VII Stakes (Group Two), over a mile-and-a-half for three-year-old colts attracts horses that have run in the Derby, such as Permian (the York Dante winner), Khalidi, Glencadam Glory, and Best Solution.
However, it is likely that those who were considered not quite ready for Epsom will head the market, principally Crystal Ocean and potentially Sir John Lavery, whose run in the Lingfield Derby Trial was too bad to be true. He is clearly highly regarded.
The Queen’s Vase has been promoted from Listed status to Group Two this year and will start in front of the stands, as the distance has been reduced from two miles to a mile-and-a-three-quarters. In tandem with its promotion, a quality field of potential Goodwood Cup and St Leger three-year-olds have been declared.
The closing race is the Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap over a mile-and-a-half in which The Queen’s Mainstream has a very good chance of providing her with victory in the race named in honour of her husband.