The flat season at Ascot starts with a card including two Group Three races and a Listed event – all have relevance to Royal Ascot next month.
The feature is the Longines Sagaro Stakes over two miles and a significant race on the road to the two-and-a-half mile Gold Cup. For the last two years the Sagaro has been won by the now retired Mizou, who in 2016 went on to chase home Order Of St George in the Gold Cup.
In 2013, The Queen’s Estimate won the Sagaro before winning the Gold Cup.
This year’s renewal looks strong, and you can’t get much better at this time of the year than seeing the previous season’s St Leger winner in action as we will tomorrow, in the shape of Laura Mongan’s Harbour Law.
He does have a 7lb Group One penalty to shoulder, however, against established top class stayers including the enigmatic but able Pallasator, who possibly sets the standard on last summer’s Goodwood Cup (Group Two last year) and Lonsdale Cup (Group Two, York) seconds.
Also key to Royal Ascot next month are the Merriebelle Stable Pavilion Stakes, a trial for the Commonwealth Cup and the Rundles Paradise Stakes, which could see the emergence of a potential Queen Anne Stakes contender.
The Pavilion was promoted to Group Three in 2015, in tandem with the creation of the Group One Commonwealth Cup. That year, Limato won the May race before finishing second in the Commonwealth Cup.
A particularly interesting contender this year is the Frankel colt, Seven Heavens, who made an impressive debut here in July. Last time out he didn’t quite see out the seven furlongs of the European Free Handicap at Newmarket and he is expected now to be very much in his comfort zone as a sprinter. It is, however, an exceptionally strong Group Three race, with the Dewhurst (Group One) third, Blue Point, setting a very high standard to aim at. He is likely to be favourite tomorrow. Group Two Mill Reef Stakes winner, Harry Angel, for the Clive Cox Stable that had such a memorable 2016 Royal Meeting, will also be strongly fancied.
Rounding the day off, Redcentric are very kindly sharing their race title with the family of jockey Manny Mercer, who sadly lost his life at Ascot on 26th September 1959. Manny was a leading jockey throughout the 1950s and won both the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas and the inaugural Washington D.C. International in the USA.
Manny's brother Joe, also a top class jockey in his time (rode Bustino, Brigadier Gerard and Kris amongst others), will be here with family members.
We recently won the Dual-Purpose Racecourse Award at the RCA Showcase Awards. Our grounds team were applauded by our racecourse peers for consistently ensuring the highest quality racing surfaces. It wasn’t easy to deliver such an impressive surface at Royal Ascot, fair to all, with the prevalent rain. The team will be presented with their much deserved award following the second race.