Gold Cup, Norfolk Highlight Royal Ascot Thursday

Of the seven races set for Royal Ascot on Thursday, the 2 ½-mile Gold Cup (G1) is the main attraction and the lone group 1 on the day. The race, which used to be known as the “Ascot Gold Cup” but was renamed to just “Gold Cup” in honor of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday in 2016, is probably Europe’s most prestigious event for “stayers” or horses who like to run the marathon distances. Since U.S. racing doesn’t support distance races like the Gold Cup outside of steeplechasing, it’s every bit a foreign event and a rare treat for American racing fans.

Ascot Racecourse (Photo Courtesy of Ascot Racecourse)

Ascot Racecourse (Photo Courtesy of Ascot Racecourse)

The beautiful and warm weather in Berkshire is expected to continue on Thursday and the afternoon is expected to be dry, with highs hovering around 70 ensuring firm going.

Norfolk Highlights Juvenile Talent

The first race — and though only a Group 2 — can be argued as a co-feature on the day. The Norfolk Stakes (G2T) is the first major race for juveniles on the European racing card and a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win & You’re In” event, which earns the winner a spot in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1T) at Santa Anita in November.

Wesley Ward. Coady Photo.

Some well-known names globally have visited the Royal Ascot winner’s circle after a Norfolk Score since the race was first run in 1843 as the New Stakes. It was renamed in 1973 in honor of the Duke of Norfolk and has been a third-day staple for the meeting since. A long list of standout names grace the record books as winners of the five-furlong dash, including Turtle Creek, Lucky Lionel, No Nay Never and Johannesburg.

A field of 13 promising juveniles — after the withdrawal of Evening Saigon earlier this week — including Keeneland debut winner Saturday Flirt, will run in the £100,000 dash. Wesley Ward, who sent out No Nay Never to win in 2013 and Shang Shang Shang in 2015, will tighten the girth on Saturday Flirt, who will be ridden by Hall of Fame inductee Joel Rosario.

The bookmakers have made  First Flyer S. winner Whistlejacket, a son of No Nay Never, the early favorite. Aidan O’Brien trains for the Coolmore partnership and Peter Brant.

Familiar Names Return in Gold Cup

In the Gold Cup, which is the afternoon’s fourth, 2022 Gold Cup and Qatar Prix du Cadran (G1T) winner Kyprios, who is trained by Aidan O’Brien, returns and is the early favorite with two stakes wins so far this year under his belt.

Last year’s Queen’s Vase (G2T) winner Gregory, will also line up, as will Longines Sagaro Stakes (G3T) winner Coltrane. He was second in this event last year to Courage Mon Ami.

Post time for the Gold Cup will be 4:45 p.m. local time.

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