It’s more than likely that the usual suspects will be celebrating another successful Royal Ascot.
And that’s to be expected, at a meeting where major players send their ‘big guns’. For sure, the best from Ireland and the UK will be in attendance. There’ll be a scattering of French flair, and add to that a dash of American and Australian power to maximise the international flavour.
Charlie Appleby and John Gosden appear the form duo from the home nation. The former can do no wrong, with Godolphin reaping the benefits. John Gosden has suffered an early season blow, with Enable currently on the sidelines. Nevertheless, he has a powerful team primed to inflict maximum mayhem, aided by a cocky Italian with a perfect sense of occasion.
Aidan O’Brien is sure to hold a strong hand and regularly leaves the Royal meeting as the leading trainer, though punters should resist the temptation of blindly following Ballydoyle contenders. This gathering isn’t like Cheltenham or Punchestown, where following Willie Mullins automatically leads to winners. Aidan and the boys are the dominant force on the flat, but opposition at Royal Ascot is exceptionally strong.
Andre Fabre and Jean-Claude Rouget tend to send a handful of challengers across the Channel, with a certain amount of success. Le Brivido landed the Jersey Stakes for Fabre 12 months ago, whilst Rouget’s Qemah took the Duke Of Cambridge.
Wes Ward will again lead an American assault, hoping that Lady Aurelia can achieve a trio of Royal Ascot victories. Whilst Redkirk Warrior arrives from Australia with the Diamond Jubilee Stakes the likely target.
So just who are the leading contenders from the sports elite?
Ballydoyle appear to have a hugely talented contingent, with serious challengers in numerous events. Rhododendron landed the Lockinge last time and is the current favourite for the opening race of the meeting, the Queen Anne Stakes. She’s a class act and looks sure to go close. O’Brien has had plenty of success in the Gold Cup over recent years and will have Order Of St George primed for another crack at the prize. He won the race in 2016 and went down by just a short-head to Big Orange 12 months ago.
O’Brien’s youngsters tend to make their mark at the Royal Meeting and this year’s crop look a talented bunch. Sergei Prokofiev is favourite for the Coventry Stakes following a stunning victory at Naas last time. This son of Scat Daddy is thought to be an outstanding prospect. Also renowned for producing high class fillies, O’Brien appears to have another classy duo in Fairyland and Just Wonderful. Both could line up in the Queen Mary Stakes.
Returning three-year-olds Clemmie and Sioux Nation are also expected to go well. The former was one of the yard’s best juveniles and would have needed the run when beaten in the Irish Guineas recently. The latter is a speedy son of Scat Daddy out of an Oasis Dream mare. He’s one of the best looking colts in training, and is currently favourite for the Commonwealth Cup.
John Gosden has some of the greatest flat racing talent in his Newmarket stable. His Arc heroine, Enable, is currently out of action, but he has a sensational replacement in Cracksman. The Champion Stakes winner will be lining up in the Group One Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and is rated 7lb higher than his only serious rival, Godolphin’s Benbatl.
Gosden also has Without Parole heading the market for the St James’s Palace Stakes. I must confess that I’m not a fan. He beat a handicapper at Yarmouth in April and barely scraped home in a listed event at Sandown last time. Though this looks quite a weak renewal, I’d still fancy something from the English or Irish Guineas to have a little more class than Gosden’s fella.
The trainer does have a huge chance of lifting the Gold Cup, thanks to the talented and gutsy four-year-old Stradivarius. He has Order Of St George to beat, and one can envisage a pulsating finish with little to choose between the pair.
Lah Ti Dar missed the Oaks at Epsom but is expected to make the start for the Ribblesdale. She’ll likely have Oaks runner-up Wild Illusion to beat, though quick ground would certainly help her cause. She’s looked talented thus far, though this is a far tougher assignment.
Gosden also has a couple of classy juveniles in the yard in Calyx and Legends Of War. It seems that only the former will now be taking on Ballydoyle’s Sergei Prokofiev in the Coventry Stakes, though the clash remains a mouth-watering one.
The Andre Fabre-trained Wind Chimes is set to take her chance in the Group One Coronation Stakes. Just touched off in the French 1000 Guineas by David Simcock’s Teppal, she was possibly a little unlucky that day, and there’s every chance she’ll reverse that form. She ought to go very close.
Along with Lady Aurelia, Wes Ward is likely to send Moonlight Romance and Shang Shang Shang for the juvenile events. Bound For Nowhere looks a live contender for the Diamond Jubilee having finished fourth in the Commonwealth Cup last year. And Undrafted looks an interesting entrant in the Wokingham Stakes. He took the Group One Diamond Jubilee back in 2015 and was only a couple of lengths back in sixth a year later. Though now an eight-year-old, he remains a classy type and will run off a mark of 103.
Expect thrilling clashes between some of flat racing’s most powerful yards, at the sports most prestigious event. Jump racing has Cheltenham, whilst the Flat has Royal Ascot. It’s as simple as that.