Day One – Spectators at Royal Ascot But No Royal Procession
It seems unbelievable that the Royal Meeting at Ascot has come round again. At least, this year, owners and some spectators are allowed to attend the Royal Meeting, although sadly at nothing like full capacity. And again in 2021, Her Majesty The Queen will not be having the Royal procession, so much part of each day at the meeting as was the case in 2020.
The first day dawned and although there was no Royal procession, The Prince of Wales with The Duchess of Cornwall did attend by car. Each day this week, 12,000 race-goers were allowed under Covid protocol to attend. The normal attendance each day for the meeting is nearer 60,000. Also attending in a private capacity was Prince Edward and Princess Anne, The Princess Royal. It is hope that The Queen will hopefully make a private visit to the course later in the week.
There were three Group 1 races, including the King Stand Stakes, the 5 furlong sprint, and yes The Queen had a runner in this. While talking about this race, the king of sprint, Bataash once again came to parade his credentials for the fourth time. Last year, he ran away with it, and was expected to do the same again this? The opening race by tradition is the Queen Anne Stakes, a Group 1 over the mile straight course. Palace Pier was the excitement in this one, having already won this term. The final Group 1 of the day was The Prince of Wales Stakes, a mile for 3 year olds only. Before the meeting, even John Gosden said that he thought this year’s 3 year olds were not up to much! However, the 2021 2000 Guineas winner of Newmarket, Poetic Flare was in the line-up – so would he be able to further stamp his authority on this year’s meagre bunch of 3 year olds – quite possibly? Finally, looking through the runners for the whole week, the racing should be really competitive as there seem to be more runners declared for the week than is normal for the Royal Meeting – more trainers chancing their arms perhaps?
The Queen Anne Stakes
In the first of three Group 1 races we concentrate on today we look at the Queen Anne Stakes, the traditional opening race for the meeting. The race honours and remembers the monarch who started the Royal Ascot meeting iin 1711, and this race if you like is a tribute to Her. The going was given as good to firm, but with an excellent covering of grass, perfect racing ground. The Queen Anne Stakes saw 11 runners going to post. Among them was the very decent colt, the John and Thady Gosden trained Palace Pier by Kingman. He was sent off as the hot favourite, particularly following his recent victory in the Lockinge Stakes, the only Group 1 race run at Newbury last month. Order of Australia, one of two trained by Aidan O’Brien in the race was also thought to have a slip of a chance, as he is the winner of the Breeders Cup Mile previously, but the others were all rather discounted. Lope y Fernandez was Aiden’s second runner with others from plethora of good trainers trying their luck.
The race started at a slow pace with Pogo and Order of Australia taking them along. As they hit the 2 furlong marker, Frankie Dettori, jockey on Palace Pier kicked the horse in the belly and he cruised into the lead which was never to be relinquished. After the race, John Gosden said that “Palace Pier was a very laid back horse and those who may have doubted his ability to run on firmer ground have certainly been proved wrong today, after all, his sire Kingman won the Sussex Stakes on firm ground” The second home was Lope y Fernandez with Busker third.
The King Stand Stakes
The second Group 1 of the day was The King Stand Stakes, a sprint of 5 furlongs. We’ve already mentioned the seven year old quirky Bataash trained by Charlie Hills. He was going for a six out of six for his first time out for the season. Sixteen runners went to post. Others of note were Extravagant Kid, trained by Brendon Walsh from The USA; Roger Teal’s Oxted, who is the current July Cup winner of 2020, and Winter Power trained by Tim Easterby. There was never any doubt that this would be a very fast renewal as several of the runners like to lead from pillar to post.
This race had the winners of 96 individual races in the line-up. As the race started, they all broke out of the stalls to a very level break. Bataash was near the front as was stateside trained Extravagant Kid and Winter Power, but they all ran out of petrol; in the last furlong allowing Oxted, who was held up at the rear by jockey Cieren Fallon along with Arecibo with Jamie Spencer riding. The two came through with Oxted being far the stronger and winning quite comfortably. Arecibo was second and Frankie Dettori piloted the American trained Extravagant Kid into third. This win was a double first for both jockey and trainer, as neither had won a race at the Royal meeting. Roger Teal does not have many horses to train, and as trainer his wife looked after Oxted with son Harry doing all the lead up work at the races. A real family affair and a well-deserved victory for a small yard with just a few people who work round the clock in search of their dream.
The St James Palace Stakes
The third Group 1 of the day was The St James Palace Stakes, one of the feature races of the whole meeting and is for 3 year olds only and usually sees the various European Guineas winners take on each other. Poetic Flare was thought to be the one to beat in this 13 runner 1 mile contest over the round mile. He has already run four times this year including three Guineas, place in two and won one. Also well thought of was the Jessica Harrington trained Lucky Vega. Even before the race, it was announced that this would be Lucky Vega’s last race before going to stud at Yulong Stud in Australia. Aidan O’Brien accounted for three of the runners, all well touted before various Guineas races, but none delivered; Wembley, Battleground and Ontario. Charlie Appleby presented Highland Avenue for Godolphin and Richard Hannon’s Chindit was touted heavily as he had apparently been working very well at home and the ground was thought to suit the horse, maybe better than any of his rivals. Finally, no Group 1 at Ascot would be complete without a John and Thady Gosden runner, and his Mostahdaf for Shadwell was his quite well thought of runner. However, the 3 year old colts this year have not provided any standout individual as we have said in recent articles, so this race had no ‘hot favourites’.
Poetic Flare started well and tracked the leaders throughout the race, along with Ontario who took a keen hold to lead and at one stage before the turn went well clear. Another who took a keen hold was the other O’Brien runner Battleground. In the last furlong, Poetic Flare started his final run and cruised past all his rivals with the sir of a decent horse. At last, the Jim Bolger bred, owned and trained horse gives all of us something to shout about for this year’s 3 year olds. The winning jockey, Kevin Manning kept the whole thing a Bolger family event as he is the son in law of the great trainer. Lucky Vega came second again as his last start with Shane Foley on board with Battleground in third ridden by Ryan Moore.
Some Other Highlights
In the other races, the Group 2 Coventry Stakes over six furlongs for two year olds only saw the Weslie Ward trained Kaufymaker from the USA as a real possible winner which would make the filly the first to win this race in 105 years. Seventeen runners went to post. As expected, the American runner took the lead and took the field along at break neck speed. In the last furlong, Kaufymaker ran out of petrol which allowed Berkshire Shadow trained by Andrew Balding to come through with Oisin Murphy on board to win by a length. This was the first Balding trained winner for any Balding since Mill Reef won for Andrew’s father Ian in 1970. The winner was brought as a yearling for 40,000 and is by Dark Angel. He is an immature looking colt today, so it looks as though Berkshire Shadow may have a big future ahead of him.
In the Ascot Stales Handicap, the 2 ½ mile race entered by national hunt trainers, the race did end in an exciting contest between Reshoun and MC Muldoon with a win for Reshoun by a nose. The winner is trained by Ian Williams, ridden by William Buick and was a 66/1 outsider. There were 19 runners. Willie Mullins was responsible for MC Muldoon and third home was Elysian Flame.
In the Wolferton Stakes, a list race for 1 mile 2 furlongs, there were a couple or so standouts. The first from Joseph O’Brien and Patrick Sarsfield, and the second from the Gosden stable, Forest of Dean and third was the Sir Michael Stoute trained Solid Stone. In the final two furlongs, Sarsfield was coming to give Joseph O’Brien his first Royal Ascot winner as a trainer, but it was not to be. Juan Elcano, trained by Kevin Ryan took the honours with Andrea Atzeni riding.