Six overseas countries represented as Royal Ascot G1 entries unveiled
The potential raiders include 12 American entries, three each from Australia and Japan, plus one from Hong Kong.
Staged from Tuesday, June 19th to Saturday, June 23th, inclusive, Royal Ascot 2018 offers record prize money over the five days of £7,305,000 (2017: £6,665,000, +10%).
Nick Smith, Director of Racing and Communications at Ascot, commented today: “We’re very pleased with the variety and quality of the Royal Ascot entries this year.
“Seven countries, including Britain, are represented, and amongst them a Hong Kong Chairman’s Sprint Prize winner, two US-trained Breeders’ Cup winners and a dual winner of the Group One Newmarket Handicap in Australia.
“One of the great storylines of the 2017 meeting was the owners’ title, which went to the final race, the Queen Alexandra Stakes, with Coolmore just pipping Godolphin.
“With a record 110 entries from Ireland, a large number of them naturally from the Coolmore team, and after the flying start to the year by Godolphin, it looks like the 2018 competition will be just as competitive.”
Below can be a found a race-by-race guide to all the Group 1 contests, along with quotes from several of the horses’ connections.
First Day – Tuesday, June 19, 2018
2.30pm £600,000 G1 Queen Anne Stakes, straight mile (36 entries)
Royal Ascot starts with the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, one of three top flight races on the opening day.
US representation at entry stage comes from Yoshida, trained by Bill Mott and owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International Ltd., SF Racing LLC and Head of Plains.
The Japanese-bred four-year-old, a son of the 2006 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes third Heart’s Cry, was a comfortable winner of the G3 Hill Prince Stakes over nine furlongs on turf at Belmont Park on October 7th, his final start of 2017.
Mott, who trained the great Cigar, revealed: “Yoshida is in lovely form. He had a great year in 2017 and he won well at Belmont in the G3 Hill Prince Stakes on his last run.
“I have been very happy with how he has wintered and we are strongly considering heading to Royal Ascot for the Queen Anne Stakes.
“We have nominated him to run and the plan is to run once here in America before that. We are targeting a race on May 5th [G3 Fort Marcy Stakes, Belmont Park] so we are currently preparing him for that race. If all goes well there, then Ascot will certainly be on our agenda.
“Yoshida is in very good order and he is doing very well at the moment. I couldn’t be happier with him.
“I think Ascot and the straight mile would suit him. I don’t think he would be too inconvenienced by travelling.
“He’s a big, strong horse and he has matured physically again over the winter. He has done most of his racing over nine and 10 furlongs, but we think the drop to a mile could actually be beneficial.
“We had a runner at Royal Ascot last year (Long On Value, finished 12th in the G1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes) and everyone at Ascot took really good care of us.
“American horses have run well at Royal Ascot before, so it proves that it’s not an impossible task to win there. From a trainer and owner’s point of view, it is something we are really interested in.
“We have different owners this time around, but hopefully Yoshida will go to Royal Ascot. I really enjoyed the experience last year and it was wonderful to be involved with Royal Ascot.
"Yoshida has only raced on good to firm ground, but I wouldn’t say he would be inconvenienced by soft ground. He has no real experience on that ground, but we’ll just have to wait and see closer to the time what the ground is like – fast ground would probably suit us best.”
3.40pm £500,000 G1 King’s Stand Stakes, five furlongs (43 entries)
The first of the two Group 1 sprints staged at Royal Ascot is the £500,000 King’s Stand Stakes over five furlongs on the opening day.
The King’s Stand Stakes is shaping up to be one of the races of the week, with star five-furlong sprinter Battaash (Charlie Hills) heading the European entries.
A strong US challenge is led by last year’s winner Lady Aurelia (Wesley Ward, USA), who is seeking a third success at the Royal meeting, having also captured the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes as a two-year-old in 2016.
The four-year-old Scat Daddy filly returned to action in the Giant’s Causeway Stakes at Keeneland on April 14th, when she came home second to Triple Chelsea.
Trainer Wesley Ward, who pioneered American Royal Ascot challenges, has also made a King’s Stand Stakes entry for Bound For Nowhere, fourth in last year’s six-furlong G1 Commonwealth Cup and an impressive four-length winner of the Group 2 Shakertown Stakes over five and half furlongs at Keeneland on April 7th.
Ward revealed: “I am delighted with Lady Aurelia following her second-place finish in the Giant’s Causeway Stakes at Keeneland. I’m very happy with how she has come out of the race and it was a very good run.
“She is an older season mare now and had been training very well coming into the race. The initial comments from Johnny Velazquez was that one of the jockeys on the outsider in the race was chirping to his horse and hustling his filly along. That basically meant that Lady Aurelia was not relaxed like she was when winning the race last year.
"However, looking at the race afterwards and with hindsight, she was racing against fillies who were race fit and had been running throughout the winter. They were tough, hardy and fit horses, whilst Lady Aurelia was only just starting to come back into work.
“Lady Aurelia was therefore definitely not helped having to come off a long layoff, so we have to be pleased with how she ran. It is never easy, whether you are a fancied horse or not, to come from a layoff and beat horses who are race fit.
“After her disappointing run in the Breeders’ Cup, we turned her out and brought her back to Keeneland, bringing her along steadily. She had plenty of time off and we were not able to do too much with her too soon, which meant she wasn’t as fit as the others.
“Also, that race was over five and a half furlongs and she is a real out-and-out five-furlong horse - that is the trip at which she is most effective. Watching that race again, she was in front at five furlongs, so if the race had been over a flat five furlongs, we would have won. The winner only put that extra kick in to score over the last half-furlong. Lady Aurelia kept battling and she just moved past her in the closing stages, which sort of proves that our filly really is one of the best five-furlong horses in the world and that final half-furlong just caught us out.
"At the same time, we can take nothing away from the winner who beat us fair and square, but we know how good our filly is and she’s one of the best in the world over five furlongs.
“I couldn’t have been happier with her now she’s got that run under her belt. This year, she is definitely a bigger, stronger and more mature filly. She was quite keen in that race, but she seems to have settled nicely this year and we’re delighted with her.
“We have been slightly compromised by the weather here as she only had one turf workout, prior to her latest run which dented her chances. However, she’s come out of it in great shape and if you are going to get beaten, you’d rather get beaten in a Listed event at Keeneland in her pre-race contest, rather than a Group One event at Royal Ascot.
“She’ll run in the King’s Stand again at Royal Ascot and heads over to England on June 4th with the rest of our team for the meeting.
“There are some very good sprinters in England right now, but I’m confident that she can win the race again. She is so talented and given that she is a bigger and stronger filly this year, I think she will take all the beating. Her experience of the track will stand her in good stead and she likes the straight five-furlongs - it really seems to suit her style of running.
“It was a brilliant experience to win at Royal Ascot again last year, a year on from her win in the Queen Mary. Johnny Velazquez gave her a great ride last year and she went on to run another big race at York.
“We’re looking forward to going back to Royal Ascot and hopefully she can win there again.
“Bound For Nowhere is a horse I’m really, really excited about. We will head straight to Royal Ascot with him and the King’s Stand is also potentially the plan with him.
“He ran well to finish fourth at Royal Ascot last year as he was going up against some of the best three-year-old sprinters around in Caravaggio and Blue Point, so it was no disgrace to lose to them.
“I think one thing that did count against him going into that race was experience. He had only had two runs prior to heading to Royal Ascot and whilst he had won both of his starts impressively, particularly over a nice field at Keeneland, he just lacked the experience which is important coming into Royal Ascot.
“It was a really good run last year in a tough event. It was his first real run on a big stage and on a straight track and that is never easy for a horse with two runs under his belt. I felt he gave a good account of himself and I expect a really, really big run this year.
“I was excited about running him in France at Deauville in August in the Prix Maurice de Gheest but he didn’t really give his true running there and whilst there was no real excuse, I just don’t think that was him. He travelled back with Lady Aurelia after her run in the Nunthorpe at York and we turned him out and he did really well over the winter.
“He was really impressive at Keeneland on his return to action over five and a half furlongs earlier this month and I loved the way he beat a very smart field of American sprinters.
“I’m really, really excited about this guy and I always have been. For me, he was an expensive yearling purchase and he is now a bigger colt and that was a convincing win last time.
“In many ways, he could be like another of my sprinters Undrafted. He went to Newmarket the year before and finished fourth in the 2014 July Cup and that experience really helped him when he came back to Royal Ascot the year after and won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Therefore, with Bound For Nowhere, I think the fact that he has had an experience of a big race in Britain will really help him.
“He’s a lightly raced colt with only six runs, but his speed figures have been good and I’m really hopeful of a big run at Royal Ascot this year.”
Runner-up to Bound For Nowhere in the Shakertown Stakes was Bucchero, trained by Tim Glyshaw and another Royal Ascot contender. The Indiana-bred six-year-old landed the Group 2 Woodford Stakes at Keeneland in October prior to finishing fourth to Stormy Liberal (Diamond Jubilee Stakes entered) in the Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar.
The Kantharos horse boasts a remarkable tale. His dam, Meetmeontime, was rescued by the Marion County Humane Society in the summer of 2009 when she was found among 33 neglected horses on a farm in Ocala, Florida.
Rescued back to full health, she went on to produce five foals, the second of which was Bucchero.
Harlan Malter, managing partner of owners Ironhorse Racing, revealed: “All is good with Bucchero at the moment. He worked on the turf on Sunday and we are targeting the Group 3 Twin Spires Turf on Kentucky Oaks Day with him (Churchill Downs, Friday, May 4th).
“I think Bucchero has run at 13 tracks in 26 races, which is obviously more common in Europe but pretty rare over here in the US. This will be one of the first races where he just walks over from his barn and races. The horse is a real trooper and we are looking forward to it.
“We are a very small operation in terms of the amount of horses we have. Bucchero was one of our more expensive horses and, with the things he has done, I have really wanted to soak it all in. I spent eight days with him when he ran at the Breeders’ Cup and am looking forward to two weeks over in England with him.
“The horse is a really cool customer. Every time he has been to a new track he eats, settles down and sleeps. He takes it all in his stride. It’s pretty amazing.
“Once the casinos came around, regional breeding programmes in the US were flushed with money and there was a lot of support for state breeding programmes as they obviously have the effect of supplying employment in the state. I am financial planner in my day job, so every penny matters to me and this breeding programme really appealed to me. Most people in racing and breeding don’t care that much about how much they are losing or winning, so the breeding programmes in places like Indiana and Pennsylvania are not that well supported, despite being very lucrative, and most horses produced are of what I would call ‘state quality.’
“It is therefore rare for a horse of Bucchero’s quality to pop up from a place like Indiana. His dam has some quality about her and when she was bred to Kantharos he was only a regional stallion in Florida. He really has exceeded expectations for a state-bred horse.
“Bucchero won his first level allowance race on turf and looking at his speed figures it was nothing exceptional but visually it looked like he loved turf. I think he is probably a bit better on turf although he has also boasted impressive speed figures on dirt. Interestingly, Kantharos is getting very good results on turf, with 47 per cent on his turf runners in the money, with 17 per cent of them winners.
“We are excited to be able to run him on a straight track at Ascot. I have a ridiculously high respect for Wesley Ward and what he can do with turf sprinters and when I saw we were up against Bound For Nowhere last time out, I went back and watched last year’s Commonwealth Cup. Bound For Nowhere got into a lot of trouble during that race and had three real racehorses in front of him that day. We didn’t know how Bucchero would handle the soft turf last time and he didn’t get the best trip, but Fernando de La Cruz gave him a great ride and he ran a great race to finish second to Bound For Nowhere. I think the Shakertown Stakes was one of the best turf races run for long time and we ran right up to our best.
“I am the sort of person who believes you have to think something can happen to make it happen. At the end of his four-year-old season, I went out for the Hong Kong International races in December and I wrote to the Hong Kong Jockey Club saying I have this horse called Bucchero who I hope can run in one of your races one day. It wasn’t in my wildest dreams that something like that could ever happen and now it is, that is just amazing.
“The horse is a Woodford winner which gives us hope that he can carry that sort of form over to Ascot. Of course, everything has to go right but we have the type of horse that will always run his race for you. I have spoken to Tim Glyshaw and we have always campaigned Bucchero carefully to run him in races where he is telling us we should run. We are coming to Ascot because we done the analysis and he has earned the right to be there.”
Turning to Bucchero’s background, Malter continued: “I have been in the business of horses for a long time. On the one hand, there is this unbelievable fragility of horses but, which is one of the things that first drew me to racing, there is also something special inside the best horses that just makes them run every time. It is so rare and so pure, it is really special. I always hoped that I could have a horse that could develop. To start from where Bucchero has come from, that pure unadulterated will to win is just exceptional.
“There are four other partners in the horse and we will all be coming over to Ascot. We are all great sports fans and to have a runner at Royal Ascot was on our bucket list. To have a horse that can come over to Royal Ascot with a chance is rarer than a (Kentucky) Derby horse and we all recognise how lucky we are to have a horse that will get us there.
“The plan at this point is to stable Bucchero in Newmarket. Everybody who thinks about horseracing would love to experience Newmarket sometime. I am a big history guy and looking forward to it.”
The King’s Stand Stakes has gone to Australia on four occasions, courtesy of Choisir (2003), Takeover Target (2006), Miss Andretti (2007) and Scenic Blast (2009). This year’s hope from Down Under is Redkirk Warrior (David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig), although his primary target is the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on Saturday, and Frankie Dettori has been booked.
The seven-year-old has already won two G1 contests in 2018, following up his success in the five-furlong Black Caviar Lightning at Flemington in February by taking the Newmarket Handicap over a furlong further at the same venue on March 10th under top weight.
4.20pm £500,000 G1 St James’s Palace Stakes, round mile (52 entries)
QIPCO 2,000 Guineas favourite Gustav Klimt (Aidan O’Brien) is one of 52 entries for the G1 St James’s Palace Stakes run over the round mile
Leading French colts Wootton (Henri-Alex Pantall) and Olmedo (Jean Claude Rouget), who fought out the finish to the G3 Prix de Fontainebleau at ParisLongchamp recently, are also entered.
International interest in the St James’s Palace Stakes comes courtesy of Tower Of London and Fast Approach, both trained by Kazuo Fujisawa in Japan.
Owned by Godolphin and bred by Darley Japan, Tower Of London is a son of Raven’s Pass and landed the Group 3 Arlington Cup at Hanshin on April 14th.
Fast Approach, a son of New Approach, was not beaten far when sixth last time out in the mile Group 2 New Zealand Trophy at Nakayama on April 7th.
Both will run next in the NHK Mile Cup and a decision on Royal Ascot will follow.
Wednesday, June 20
4.20pm £750,000 G1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, a mile and a quarter (27 entries)
Cracksman and Enable (both John Gosden), who were the two top-rated horses in Europe and the best three-year-olds in the world in 2017, headline 27 entries for the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes over 10 furlongs.
Cracksman is set to return in the G1 Prix Ganay at ParisLongchamp this weekend, while Enable is earmarked for the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup (May 27) at the Curragh, Ireland, or the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom Downs (June 1).
Other entries to note include two top class Godolphin horses, Group 1 Dubai World Cup hero Thunder Snow (Saeed bin Suroor) and G1 Dubai Sheema Classic victor Hawkbill (Charlie Appleby).
Thursday, June 21
4.20pm G1 Gold Cup, two and a half miles (33 entries)
Defending champion Big Orange (Michael Bell) and 2016 victor Order Of St George (Aidan O’Brien, IRE) are on course for a thrilling rematch in the Group 1 Gold Cup over two and half miles, having been separated by a short-head in 2017 after a pulsating duel.
Ireland’s champion Jumps trainer Willie Mullins has an excellent record with his Flat runners at Royal Ascot. His three entries include impressive Stayers’ Hurdle victor Penhill.
The up-and-comers include Group 1 Goodwood Cup victor Stradivarius (John Gosden), winner of the Group 2 Queen’s Vase at the meeting last year, and lightly-raced Cesarewitch Handicap victor Withhold (Roger Charlton).
Top French stayers Vazirabad (Alain de Royer-Dupre FR) and Ice Breeze (Pascal Bary FR) are engaged too.
Friday, June 22
3.40pm £500,000 G1 Commonwealth Cup, six furlongs (70 entries)
Ireland’s champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien, who sent out Caravaggio to win the Commonwealth Cup in 2017, is responsible for 11 of the 70 entries for the six-furlong contest this year.
They include Group 1 Middle Park Stakes winner U S Navy Flag, as well as Sioux Nation and Different League, respective winners of the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes and Group 3 Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot 2017.
A strong US-trained entry for the Commonwealth Cup includes Gidu (Todd Pletcher, USA), a son of Frankel who is runs in the famous colours of Zayat Stables, which were carried to US Triple Crown glory in 2015 by American Pharoah.
Gidu began 2018 with a good second in the mile Group 3 Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park in February prior to a comfortable success in the non-graded Dania Beach Stakes over the same distance at Tampa Bay Downs on March 10.
Wesley Ward has entered Hemp Hemp Hurray, impressive when winning the Animal Kingdom Stakes over six and a half furlongs on Polytrack at Turfway Park in March.
Ward continued: "I’m excited for Kenneth Ramsey (owner of Hemp Hemp Hurray, along with his wife Sarah) to have a winner one day as it has been his plan to run in the Commonwealth Cup.
“He’s a very smart colt who won a couple of stakes contests at Belmont and Monmouth Park last season. I believe he is a Group level quality sprinter.
“Things didn’t work out in the Breeders’ Cup but I like him and he had won his two races convincingly on his first two starts. He was not racing against horses who had the same level of form as horses such as Caravaggio but I think he is a horse who could step hip his game.
“He might not be well fancied in the betting to do it on the day, but I’ve been impressed with how he is moving and I’m sure there is a lot more to come from him.
“He has been running over a mile but six furlongs on a straight track like Ascot is very similar to a mile trip in America given all the twists and turns on those type of tracks. You need a horse in the Commonwealth Cup who can go a little further and I think this guy is a six/seven-furlong horse who is bred for further.
“He is a lovely colt and I think he has a good chance. He might not be the most well-fancied but there is more to come from him and I’m looking forward to running him at Royal Ascot.”
An intriguing US challenger is Beckford (Brendan Walsh, USA). The Bated Breath colt was trained in Ireland by Gordon Elliott last year when successful in the Group 2 Railway Stakes at the Curragh and placed twice at Group 1 level. Simon Callaghan, who began his training career in Newmarket, has put in Run Away, a Group 2 scorer at Del Mar last year.
Tower Of London (Kazuo Fujisawa) has also been given a Commonwealth Cup entry in addition to the St James’s Palace Stakes.
4.20pm £500,000 G1 Coronation Stakes, round mile (57 entries)
QIPCO 1,000 Guineas favourite Happily (Aidan O’Brien, IRE) and stablemate September are among 57 entries for the Group 1 Coronation Stakes over the round mile.
Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby has Chantilly Group 1 scorer Wild Illusion and recent Group 3 Nell Gwyn winner Soliloquy among his three entries.
US interest comes from Rushing Fall (Chad Brown, USA). The unbeaten daughter of More Than Ready has proved herself the best of her generation in the USA, taking the Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf in 2017 and beginning this year with success in the mile Group 2 Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.
Bob Edwards of owner e Five Racing Thoroughbreds, which also consists of his wife Kristine and their three children, Cassidy, Riley and Delaney, commented: “We are excited about the future of our turf rocket and couldn’t be happier than seeing her in our silks at Royal Ascot.
“We are 58 days out from Royal Ascot and 10 to go until the Kentucky Derby. This is all new territory for the Edwards family and e Five Racing Thoroughbreds.”
Saturday, June 23
4.20pm £600,000 G1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, six furlongs (40 entries)
The third Group 1 sprint of the week and the highlight of the fifth and final day of Royal Ascot, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes has attracted a strong international entry.
Australian Redkirk Warrior (referenced earlier) and Americans Bound For Nowhere and Lady Aurelia are all entered in this contest in addition to Tuesday’s five-furlong King’s Stand Stakes.
Further Australian interest could come from Shoals (Anthony Freedman), successful over a mile in the Group 1 Myer Classic at Flemington in November and over seven furlongs last time out in the Group 1 James Boag's Premium Surround Stakes at Randwick on March 3rd.
The Fastnet Rock filly is set to run in the Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes at Adelaide in May before a possible trip to Royal Ascot.
Anthony Freedman recently revealed: “Shoals pulled up well [from the trial] so her fitness is not an issue so we’ll go to the Sangster.
“I think we’d use that race to decide whether we go to the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. She would want to probably win or be unlucky to make that trip but first thing first. We'll get there and try our hand and base our decision on that.”
In addition to the Wesley Ward-trained duo, there is another American entry in Stormy Liberal (Peter Miller USA). The six-year-old led home a 1-2 for the trainer in last year’s Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and looked as good as ever on his return when just failing by half-a-length behind Godolphin’s Jungle Cat in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan, UAE, on March 31.
The Diamond Jubilee Stakes went to Hong Kong in 2005 when Cape Of Good Hope took the spoils at Royal Ascot at York and a contender hoping to take the prize back east in 2018 is seven-year-old Lucky Bubbles (Francis Lui, HK), who enjoyed his finest hour when capturing the Group 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize over six furlongs at Sha Tin in May last year.
Lucky Bubbles, owned by the Lucky Syndicate, will defend his title in Sunday’s (April 29) renewal at Sha Tin. Trainer Francis Lui said this morning: “Royal Ascot is one of the most prestigious race meetings in the world and it will be a great honour for us to participate.
“As we have a suitable horse to be entered for the meeting, I decided to have an entry and would say that Lucky Bubbles will have a great chance to go.
“The horse is well-prepared for Sunday’s Chairman’s Sprint Prize, and I believe he will run a good race on the day. After that we will be targeting Ascot. Lucky Bubbles is the right type of horse to travel, and the distance at Ascot will suit him.”
Hong Kong has had six runners in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and, most recently, the Richard Gibson-trained Gold-Fun finished a close second in 2016.
Blue Point is another likely to target the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, having finished third to Harry Angel in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup over the course and distance at Royal Ascot last year.
Merchant Navy, who was trained in Australia until recently by Aaron Purcell, is now based in Ireland with Aidan O’Brien. He recorded his biggest victory in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington in November.
All eight Group 1 races run at Royal Ascot form part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
The winners of this year’s Queen Anne Stakes, Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Norfolk Stakes and Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot will be awarded automatic “Win and You’re In” berths into the 2018 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs, which is staged on November 2 and 3.
All 30 races will be covered live on ITV1 and extensively globally, including by NBC in the USA, who will have multiple on course positions and provide live coverage of all Group One races and more.
All the eight G1 races run at Royal Ascot form part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.