We are in for an amazing start to flat racing’s showpiece event after runners and riders were confirmed for the first two days of Royal Ascot, starting on Tuesday afternoon.
Day One Littered with Top Class Types
Three of the 6 races on Tuesday are officially Group 1’s, but the top-level quality doesn’t stop with the Queen Anne, the King’s Stand or the St James’s Palace Stakes.
The Group 2 Coventry Stakes is for juveniles and is often won by a first-class animal, in fact whoever wins this race will earn shortish quotes for next year’s 2000 Guineas.
The Ascot Stakes Handicap is the domain of National Hunt trainers from both sides of the Irish Sea and this time Gordon Elliott has brought Grade 1-winning jumper Mengli Khan to the party, a horse who could well prove to be a handicap blot.
The final race of the first day is run at Listed level, but once again it features real quality with favourite Elarqam having been considered a future superstar at two and who comes here rather than take up his original engagement, Wednesday’s Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes with the owner’s representative Angus Gold stating that he will be found a top level opportunity before long.
Competitive Queen Anne
The first race of the meeting gets us off to the perfect start with the Queen Anne looking mightily competitive. The market is headed by former Andre Fabre runner and Jersey Stakes winner Le Brivido, though he has serious competition in the shape of Lockinge Stakes winner Mustashry and the returning Barney Roy.
Barney Roy was a very good winner of the St James’s Palace Stakes in 2017 before being sent off to stud, however having been found to be infertile he is back on the track in the colours of Godolphin and has been primed for a big run this year.
Battaash v Blue Point MKII
In last year’s King’s Stand we saw super speedster Battaash use up far too much energy early in the race having gone to free early on, leading to him being collared late on by the more than useful Blue Point and the two go head-to-head again this year.
Battaash looks much more mature now and was as good as ever when taking his second Temple Stakes at Haydock late last month, though he may be drawn on the wrong side making this another hotly anticipated clash in which we cannot forget about Michael Dods’ runner Mabs Cross either.
The Return of Too Darn Hot?
Despite having already run twice this season after missing the Guineas with an injury last year’s champion juvenile and the highest rated since Frankel, Too Darn Hot, may actually make his genuine return to the top level in a red hot St James’s Palace Stakes.
He was only 80% fit for a Dante Stakes he didn’t stay the distance in and should not have gone to Ireland, though he did finish second there to Phoenix Of Spain who was well drawn and had the run of the race. They clash again along with John Gosden’s apparent second strong King Of Comedy who himself looks potentially top class in a race that looks chock full of quality.
Sir Michael To Be Top Dog on Day 2?
Having thought about going for a repeat in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes, Royal Ascot’s top trainer Sir Michael Stoute has decided to let his improving five-year-old Crystal Ocean take his chance in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1) on Wednesday and he has a mighty chance of beating admirable fillies Magical and Sea Of Class.
It could be some day for the Newmarket handler as he has a great hand in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes too. Bearing in mind his Veracious has the form to go very close in the race, the fact that he has nominated Rawdaa as his best chance of the week really goes a long way and it’ll be a major surprise if she doesn’t go close on a day when the Royal Hunt Cup is also run.