For European racing fans, Royal Ascot has always been the premiere meeting, each of the five day’s races steeped in history and filled with the best horses, trainers and jockeys, not to mention fashion, tradition and royal pageantry. Now with the increased participation of more horses from around the globe – especially America – Royal Ascot has arguably never been more popular.
This year, Royal Ascot runs from Tuesday, June 18, through Saturday, June 22. More than 300,000 patrons are expected to attend the races each day, including Queen Elizabeth II, who arrives promptly 30 minutes before the first race every day via horse-drawn carriage. With several members of the royal family and their inner circle in tow, the queen’s procession promenades down the length of the stretch and ends in the track’s paddock. The queen has attended the races every year since 1946 and has been represented by 23 winners she either owned or bred.
Of the 30 races offered over the Royal Ascot meeting, 22 are group (eight Group 1’s) or non-graded stakes. The weather on opening day calls for rain, so a soft course is likely, with highs in the mid-60s. Rain is forecasted again for Wednesday with clearing skies likely each day for the remainder of the meeting.
Beginning Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. ET and running through Friday, NBC Sports will present daily live coverage of Royal Ascot on NBCSN. Coverage on closing day Saturday gets underway at 9 a.m. Racing fans will be treated to 22 hours of live coverage throughout the week.
A dispute between South West Railway (SWR) and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has caught Ascot Racecourse squarely in the middle. During the five-day rail workers walkout, the SWR will only offer skeleton service, rendering rail travel on the line from Waterloo Station in London through to Reading (which services Ascot) paralyzed. Bus service has been arranged from each station, or race-goers can call on car services and ride shares to make it to the track.
Of the six races carded for Tuesday’s opening day, three are Group 1’s and another is a Group 2. The curtain-raiser and co-feature of the day is the Queen Anne Stakes (G1T), which was named in honor of the founder of Ascot Racecourse for its inaugural running in 1840 and boasts an amazing list of winners over the history of the one-mile event. Among them are the legendary Ribchester, Declaration of War, Frankel, Goldikova, Cape Cross, Kalanisi, Intikhab, Barathea and Warning. American and Canadian-based trainer Mark Casse — who won the Preakness (G1) with War of Will and the Belmont Stakes (G1) with Sir Winston — sent champion and Breeders’ Cup heroine Tepin over in 2017 to take the victory.
This year, 16 are set to head to the gate in the Queen Anne, including the favored Le Brivido, making his third start for Irish champion trainer Aidan O’Brien after being purchased privately by his current connections in 2018. La Brivido won the 2017 Jersey Stakes (GIIIT) during the Royal Ascot meeting and is coming off a fifth-place finish at Newbury in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (GIT). A better break from the gate may give him less to do in the lane last out, and jockey Ryan Moore now knows this son of French stallion Siyouni well. He is owned by the partnership of HRH Prince Faisal Bin Khaled and Michael Tabor. O’Brien is looking for his fourth win in this race.
Godolphin, who has won the Queen Anne a record eight times, will be represented by the Charlie Appleby-trained Barney Roy, who won the 2017 St. James Palace Stakes (GIT) at Royal Ascot before spending all of 2018 on the sideline. He has two starts in 2019, including a handicap at Longchamp, and is highly regarded by bookmakers to finish near the top. James Doyle will ride.
Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Stable will send out the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Mustashry off a win in the Lockinge Stakes. The son of Tamayuz is probably best known for being a multiple group winner in Europe and to American fans a the 11th-place finisher in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GIT) back in November. Jim Crowley will be back aboard.
Other notable names to look out for in the Royal Ascot opener are Lockinge Stakes runner-up Laurens and Breeders’ Cup Mile fifth-place finisher One Master,
The one-mile Queen Anne Stakes is set to leave the gate at 9:30 a.m. ET.
King’s Stand Stakes Draws 12
A talent-rich field of 12 is expected in the five-furlong King’s Stand Stakes (GIT), including last year’s winner and runner-up, Blue Point and Battaash. Blue Point spent his winter in Dubai, winning the Al Quoz Sprint (GI) and two other graded events. The Godolphin-owned Charlie Appleby trainee is consistent and has arguably never been in better form for defending his title.
Battaash has one start in 2019, a strong win in the Temple Stakes at Haydock Park three weeks ago. He won off a similar layoff a year ago and was almost too good to lose last year. Jim Crowley will ride for Charlie Hills.
American trainer Joe Orseno shipped in Imprimis to tackle Europe’s top turf sprinters and the gelded son of Broken Vow will get the services of champion jockey Frankie Dettori for the first time. The Breeze Easy Stable-owned 5-year-old has won five of nine career starts – all turf sprints – and rides a two-race win skein, including the Shakertown Stakes (GIIT) at Keeneland 2 ½ months ago.
Like all Royal Ascot stakes events, the King’s Stand is deeply rooted in history and boasts a number of global champions as previous winners since it was first run in 1860, including two-time winner Sole Power, Scenic Blast, Takeover Target, Choisir, Pivotal, Sheikh Albadou, and Last Tycoon. American filly Lady Aurelia was victorious in 2017 for trainer Wesley Ward, who has had the most success of all foreign trainers at Royal Ascot recently having saddled 10 winners since 2009. He will send out a handful later in the week.
Post time for the King’s Stand Stakes has been set for 10:40 p.m. ET.
Best of Europe’s Sophomores Set For St. James’s Palace Stakes
A field of 11 is expected for the day’s co-feature, the St. James’s Palace Stakes (GIT), a one-mile turf run for 3-year-olds. It has been carded as the fourth on the afternoon with a post time of 11:20 a.m. ET.
The event is named after St. James Palace, which used to serve as a royal residence during the Tudor period (1485-1603 in England and Wales). It was run for the first time in 1834 and was graded for the first time in 1971. Big names to be acknowledged as previous winners include Kris, Marju, Kingmambo, Grand Lodge, Dr. Fong, Giant’s Causeway, Black Minnalouche, Shamardal, Henrythenavigator, Frankel, Gleneagles and Without Parole a year ago.
The early favorite is the gray flash Phoenix of Spain, who won the Irish Two Thousand Guineas (GIT) three weeks ago for trainer Charlie Hills. The Irish-bred son of Lope De Vega is owned by Tony Wechsler and Ann Plummer and hasn’t finished worse than second in five starts since his debut at Sandown last July and also has a couple of other group wins on his resume. Jamie Spencer will ride.
Too Darn Hot, who could not catch Phoenix of Spain in the Irish Guineas, is back with his connections – including owner Andrew Lloyd Weber – hoping the son of Dubawi can turn the tables. He won all of his juvenile starts in England, including the Darley Dewhurst Stakes (GIT) and makes his third start of 2019 looking for a win for trainer John Gosden. Frankie Dettori will ride.
Aidan O’Brien, who has three running in this race and also holds the record for number of winners with seven, will saddle Flaxman Holdings, Tabor, Magnier and Smith’s Circus Maximus. The well-bred son of Galileo won a handicap at Chester five weeks ago before faltering to finish sixth in the Investec (Epsom) Derby (GIT) two weeks ago. Ryan Moore will be back aboard.