Royal Ascot is one of highlights of Britain’s sporting summer with five days of top quality racing from 19th to the 23rd June. The event is also high on the social calendar with the pomp and ceremony of the Royal Procession kicking off proceedings each day.
The fashion scene is almost as competitive as the racing but, with over £7million in prize money on offer, the horses are the real stars on show. The finest thoroughbreds from England, Ireland, France, America and Australia will compete in 30 races, 19 of which carry Group status.
Ascot racecourse was founded by Queen Anne in 1711 and the first race of the Royal meeting is named in her honour. Frankel won this race by a remarkable 11 lengths in 2012 and favourites have an excellent record. Aidan O’Brien’s Rhododendron is set to renew rivalry with Lightning Spear who nearly caused an upset in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.
Another mouth-watering clash on Tuesday sees Battaash go head-to-head with American ace Lady Aurelia in The King’s Stand Stakes. The third Group 1 race on the opening day is the St James’s Palace Stakes, featuring Irish 2000 Guineas winner Romanised and English 2000 Guineas runner-up Tip Two Win. Wootton looked unlucky when fourth in the French Guineas and he could be the surprise package.
The feature race on the second day is the Prince of Wales’s Stakes where all eyes will be on Cracksman. He is one of the highest rated racehorses in training but only scrambled home at Epsom in the Coronation Cup. It was later revealed that he had banged his head leaving the stalls and trainer John Gosden is confident that he will return to his best at Royal Ascot.
The racing shares centre stage with fashion on Thursday, traditionally known as Ladies Day. The Ascot Gold Cup dates back to 1807 and is the oldest race of the meeting. The Queen’s Estimate won the Gold Cup in 2012, the first time the race had been won by a reigning monarch. Aidan O’Brien will be seeking a record eighth victory in the race with Order of St George, the winner in 2016 but only second last year. He faces a tough opponent in Stradivarius, a very impressive winner of the Yorkshire Cup last time.
The Coronation Stakes on Friday could see 66-1 English 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook supplemented. She will be out to prove that there was no fluke about her Newmarket victory but faces a strong challenge from Ireland including their own Guineas winner Alpha Centauri.
The highlight of the closing day on Saturday is the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes over six furlongs. Black Caviar gave her supporters a fright before winning as the 1-6 favourite in 2012 and this race has also produced some big priced winners. This race is shaping up to be a truly International affair with Harry Angel (England), Merchant Navy (Ireland) and Redkirk Warrior (Australia) all strongly fancied by betting tipster services.
The latest weather forecasts suggest a mixed bag for the Royal meeting, nothing like last year’s record 34 degree temperatures. Hopefully there won’t be sufficient rain to dampen the spirits as an expected 300,000 people pass through the gates. If you are unable to attend, all thirty races are being screened live on ITV/ITV4 this year with coverage from 1.30pm each day.