Get ready, everyone! The most prestigious race meet in England is set to begin on June 16th, that being the eagerly-anticipated Royal Ascot meet at Ascot Racecourse. The second racecard of the meet, scheduled for June 17th, features six exceptional races full of talented horses and competitive fields, and there are even a couple of U.S.-based runners expected to compete. Here are some thoughts on each race!
Race 1: Jersey Stakes (Eng-III)
7 furlongs for 3yos
U.S. racing fans will have a rooting interest in Wesley Ward’s Luck of the Kitten, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I) last year. The son of Kitten’s Joy has started twice this season, finishing a close second in the Transylvania Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland and fourth in the American Turf Stakes (gr. II) behind the very-talented colt Divisidero. The seven-furlong distance should be perfect for Luck of the Kitten, who possesses plenty of early speed, but the quality of his fifteen rivals is strong, and he is expected to be a bit of a longshot in the wagering.
The favorite to win is Ivawood, who finished third behind the top 3yo miler Gleneagles in both the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas (Eng-I) and the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas (Ire-I). He’s cracked the trifecta in all seven of his races and takes a drop in class today, which should make him difficult to beat. However, Bossy Guest could be a live longshot after finishing ust a half-length behind Ivawood in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas. He’s another colt that has been very consistent and should have every chance to be in the mix at a nice price.
Race 2: Queen Mary Stakes (Eng-II)
5 furlongs for 2yo fillies
With twenty-three entries in this race, finding the winner will not be easy! Among the favorites are the unbeaten fillies Besharah, Easton Angel, and Rah Rah, each having gone 2-for-2 thus far in their careers, but I’ll take a chance with Wesley Ward’s maiden Acapulco. The filly finished third by 7 3/4 lengths in her only start to date, but she flashed plenty of speed that day and the final time was a quick :51.50 seconds. According to reports, she is much, much better on turf than on dirt, and should relish the switch in surfaces at Ascot. She will also have the services of top European jockey Ryan Moore, which is a positive.
Race 3: Duke of Cambridge Stakes (Eng-II)
8 furlongs for 4yo+ fillies and mares
Integral is heavily favored at just over even-money, and deservedly so — she is a two-time group I winner and won this race last year. In her seasonal debut, she finished fourth by just 1 1/4 lengths behind the talented colts Night of Thunder and Toormore in the Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I), and with that prep under her belt, she should be ready to roll in this race.
That said, Rizeena warrants strong consideration as well. Although she lost the Falmouth Stakes (Eng-I) last July by two lengths to Integral, and enters the Duke of Cambridge off a seventh-place finish in the Dahlia Stakes (Eng-II), it’s worth noting that she’s 3-for-3 at Ascot, and as a mild longshot in the wagering, she could be worth a win bet.
U.S. racing fans can look forward to seeing Euro Charline, who won the Beverly D. Stakes (gr. I) at Arlington last year. In her lone start since then, she finished a good fourth in the Dubai Turf (UAE-I) at Meydan on March 28th, beaten just 5 1/2 lengths by Solow and only 1 1/4 lengths by The Grey Gatsby. Euro Charline is another filly that should have every chance at victory on Wednesday.
Race 4: Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Eng-I)
10 furlongs for 4yo+
This race lost a great deal of its excitement when it was announced that 2014 U.S. Horse of the Year California Chrome is likely to miss the race with a foot bruise, but the field that remains is still very strong and intriguing.
The lightly-raced Free Eagle is favored off a strong third-place finish in the 2014 QIPCO Champion Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot, but that race was in October, and he hasn’t run since. With that in mind, he could be vulnerable to an upset, with The Grey Gatsby looming as his main challenger. The four-year-old colt scored a terrific victory in the Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) last September and returned to finish second in the Dubai Turf (UAE-I) on March 28th. His most recent race saw him finishing fourth by two lengths in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Ire-I) on May 24th, but that was his first start in two months, and he should improve with that run under his belt.
Other big-name runners include Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I) winner Criterion, four-time group stakes winner Ectot, Prix d’Ispahan (Fr-I) runner-up Gailo Chop, and Tenno Sho (Jpn-I) winner Spielberg. What a race!
Race 5: Royal Hunt Cup
8 furlongs for 3yo+
Thirty-three horses–yes, thirty-three!–are set to start in this one-mile handicap, and none are listed at less than 10-1 by the prominent British bookmaker William Hill. Finding the winner is probably akin to finding a winner in a haystack, but at first glance, Ayaar looks like a solid contender. The five-year-old son of Rock of Gibraltar won a one-mile handicap race at Newbury last time out, and will have the services of Frankie Dettori on Saturday. Additionally, he will receive a nine-pound weight break from highweight Dark Emerald, which is a positive.
Race 6: Sandringham Handicap
8 furlongs for 3yo fillies
The finale of the Wednesday card at Royal Ascot will feature seventeen three-year-old fillies competing in a one-mile handicap. U.S. racing fans might be familiar with Osaila, who finished third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) behind Lady Eli. Osaila returned to the races on April 15th to win the Nell Gwyn Stakes (Eng-III) at Newmarket, and after finishing seventh in the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas Stakes (Eng-I), she is taking a step down in class and should be ready for a strong effort.