The biggest meeting of the flat racing season is here, its Royal Ascot 2016. After all the build-up some of the world’s finest horses will grace the famous turf of Ascot Racecourse for five days of truly glorious action.
Read our preview of the big race action on day one of Royal Ascot which includes the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes and the King’s Stand Stakes.
2.30pm – Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1)
The traditional curtain raiser of Royal Ascot is the Queen Anne Stakes one of the season’s premier one-mile contests which has once again attracted a high-class field.
The market for the race is led by US super-mare Tepin, one of many international superstars who will grace Ascot this week. The five-year-old is a multiple Group 1 winner and took the Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2015, marking her out as a global star.
Her form this season has been impressive again and she arrives as the one to beat. The only concern for Mark Casse’s stable star will be the softer ground, something she has not encountered in 19 career starts.
French star Ervedya arrives in the Queen Anne with a Royal Ascot win under her belt after taking the Coronation Stakes in 2015. The form of that race has worked out magnificently well with the likes of Found and Arabian Queen winning Group 1 contests since.
While the four-year-old was turned over in her reappearance at Saint-cloud, the softer ground we are likely to see will play right into her hands and she is a major player for Jean-Claude Rouget.
Another French raider with a strong chance is Esoterique for the Andre Fabre yard. The six-year-old has a lot of high-quality Group 1 form in the book especially on slower ground. She was second to the world-class Solow in this contest in 2015 and will be one to watch.
The home challenge looks likely to be led by the Roger Varian-trained Belardo. The four-year-old took the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes as a juvenile, he had a difficult campaign as a colt, but looks back to his best this season.
This soft-ground specialist took the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury last time out, showing plenty of heart on the run in to score by a length. He mustn’t be ignored for an in-form stable.
Interesting outsiders include Kodi Bear (Clive Cox), Toormore (Richard Hannon Jnr) and Cougar Mountain (Aidan O’Brien) but they will have to improve their form to be major contenders against this quality of opposition.
Verdict: A hot renewal of one of the season’s biggest races. There is quality wherever you look. Tepin brings some of the best form and is the headline act but the ground is a concern. But that can’t be said of previous Royal Ascot winner Ervedya who will relish conditions and looks to hold a superb chance at making it two-from-two at this historic meeting.
3.40pm – King’s Stand Stakes (Group 1)
The second Group 1 contest of the day is always one of the most exhilarating contests of the week as the best sprinters thunder down the Ascot straight in the five-furlong King’s Stand Stakes.
High-class sprinter Mecca’s Angel has been the long-time favourite for this event and she will relish the conditions at Ascot Racecourse. Michael Dods stable star took the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York on her final start of 2015 beating Acapulco (who was removed from the race on Monday due to going conditions) on good-to-soft ground.
The five-year-old was narrowly beaten on her reappearance at Haydock by the highly-progressive Profitable. That run should have put her spot on for this race and she will be dangerous once again.
As mentioned Profitable got the better of Mecca’s Angel at Haydock, his second big win of the season. Clive Cox’s progressive sprinter took the Palace House Stakes on Guinea’s weekend at Newmarket before his victory in the Temple Stakes.
He will not be inconvenienced by the softer conditions, but it remains to be seen if he can confirm the form with the favourite.
The huge gap in the market between the two principles and the rest would suggest it is a two-horse race but there are plenty with the potential to cause an upset. Pearl Secret is a real soft-ground horse and is a talented individual.
He has run to a consistent level in the biggest sprints and took the Group 2 Temple Stakes lasts season. If everything drops right for him he could run a big race.
The same can be said of David O’Meara’s Move In Time, the eight-year-old claimed the Group 1 Prix De L’abbaye De Longchamp in 2014, proving he has the quality for a race like this. Since then he has failed to fire on all cylinders but he could be prepped for the big day by a shrewd trainer.
Waady represents the powerful combination of John Gosden and Frankie Dettori. The four-year-old is very versatile, winning on a wide range of going. His three victories at Sandown show that he relishes a track with a stiff finish, so the course should be to his liking and he may be able to improve on his two runs behind Profitable this season.
Verdict: Mecca’s Angel is the obvious starting point for this race with her quality form from last season. Profitable has been so progressive this season and could run a big race again. But at a bigger price Waady could cause an upset for a potent trainer/jockey combination.
4.20pm – St James’s Palace Stakes (Group 1)
The final Group 1 contest of the afternoon is the St James’s Palace Stakes which this season features the British, Irish and French 2000 Guineas winners. This is going to be one hell of a race.
The Gurkha represents the Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore team who combined to such devastating effect at Royal Ascot last season. After winning his maiden by nine-lengths at Navan he destroyed a top-class field in the Poule D’essai Des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) running away under Moore to score by five-and-a-half lengths.
That victory catapulted him to the top of the market for this race and he really could be anything.
Awtaad took his career tally to four wins from five starts when he stormed to victory in the Irish 2000 Guineas. Kevin Prendergast’s three-year-old was well backed before the race and delivered a thrilling performance. Reports from the stable suggest he has improved since that run and he won’t mind the softer conditions.
Prendergast said, “Awtaad has won on soft, yielding and good to yielding, so the ground should be perfect for him.
“He’s in good shape. He did his last bit of work on Thursday and came out of it very well. I couldn’t be happier with him and it’s all systems go for Tuesday.”
Galileo Gold was a superb winner of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in April but has some work to do to reverse the form of his defeat by Awtaad in the Irish Guineas. The colt gave Hugo Palmer the biggest day of his training career at Newmarket, but was slightly below his best at the Curragh. While the ground will suit, it remains to be seen if the track at Ascot will be to his liking.
Verdict: What a race we have here with three high-class Group 1 winning performers. Galileo Gold seems to have the most to do in terms of form but shouldn’t be easily discounted. The Gurkha looks to be a potential superstar, but Awtaad looks the most polished of all these; he has great form and possesses a superb turn of foot.
Sit back and enjoy the finest flat racing anywhere on the planet.
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