The Tuesday of Royal Ascot is arguably the best day’s racing in the UK, certainly before QIPCO British Champions Day.
The card opens with the Group One Queen Anne Stakes over a mile for four-year-olds and upwards.
There is a fascinating runner from France in Recoletos, a recent Group One American in Yoshida – owned by the same group responsible for recent American Triple Crown winner Justify – and a strong Irish favourite, the Lockinge winner, Rhododendron. The Lockinge runner-up, Lightning Spear, for Sheikh Fahad, also runs.
The Group Two six furlong Coventry is next up – the first Group race for two-year-olds on the calendar and as normal, a major target for the Coolmore/Ballydoyle powerhouse. They are represented principally by Sergei Prokofiev but all eyes will be on Calyx, who recently provided stallion Kingman, an elite miler on the track, with his first winner. Calyx, trained by John Gosden, could provide Ascot’s favourite son, Frankie Dettori, with a first winner of the week as he attempts to topple perennial meeting top jockey Ryan Moore in 2018.
The Group One King’s Stand Stakes (five furlongs) could be a showdown between the fastest horse in America – last year’s King’s Stand winner Lady Aurelia – and Europe’s quickest, Battaash. This is one of the head to heads of the meeting but with so much speed anticipated finishers like Mabs Cross might well surprise a few, and the second American, Bucchero, who has rock solid form at home, shouldn’t be underestimated.
The traditional highlight of day one is the one mile St James’s Palace Stakes for three-year-old colts, a third Group One on the card. In the absence of the 2,000 Guineas winner, Saxon Warrior, who is having another crack at a mile-and-a-half in the Irish Derby after his fourth in the Derby, the Guineas flag is carried by the runner-up Tip Two Win. He has by far the strongest form in the race and would provide an emotional win for long term Ascot sponsor, Anne Cowley.
Favourite for the race, however, is likely to be Without Parole, an unexposed three-year-old for the Gosden / Dettori combination after a Listed win at Sandown. France have Wootton in the race after an unlucky fourth in the French 2,000 Guineas, whilst the Irish 2,000 Guineas winner, Romanised, and runner up, US Navy Flag also line up.
Fields for Wednesday have also been declared and the opening Queen Mary Stakes, over five furlongs for two-year-old fillies, sees one of Wesley Ward’s speed machines, Chelsea Cloisters, line up. However, the highlight of the day will undoubtedly be the second Ascot appearance of Europe’s 2017 Champion Racehorse, Cracksman, who was so impressive in last year’s QIPCO Champion Stakes. He will be a short price in the most valuable race of the week, the £750,000 Group One Prince of Wales’s Stakes over 10 furlongs.
Cracksman was, not for the first time, all at sea at Epsom in the recent Coronation Cup but on better ground and on a more conventional track, he is firmly expected to get back into the winners’ enclosure.
The opposition includes last year’s Eclipse winner, also a Group One winner in Dubai, Hawkbill, and Poet’s Word – a typical late developing Sir Michael Stoute five-year-old. However, there will be some surprised faces if Cracksman doesn’t score for the Gosden / Dettori axis, which is so strongly represented this week.