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Can Godolphin celebrate Sheikh Mohammed’s landmark in style?

15/06/2017
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Arguably Europe’s most eagerly anticipated and prestigious five days of racing annually, Royal Ascot never fails to disappoint and, as always, there is plenty to look forward to next week. Racing was first staged at Ascot in August 1711 after the ruling monarch, Queen Anne, out riding through the area, known as East Cote at the time, identified the site as a perfect area for ‘horses to gallop at full stretch’. Now a five day meeting with 30 races and over £6.58 million in prize money to be won, eight of the 30 races carry Group One status.

The meeting is not all about Stakes races though, with several competitive, valuable and ultra prestigious handicaps, including the 6f Wokingham Handicap and the Royal Hunt Cup over the straight mile. Fittingly, the meeting opens with the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, named after the monarch credited with the birth of what we now know as Ascot Racecourse, and over the straight mile. It went to America last year and the mighty Tepin, but this year Godolphin’s Ribchester looks certain to start a hot favourite after his impressive victory in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

Sheikh Mohammed will be celebrating his 40th anniversary as a winning racehorse owner on the day so a Group One success would be very appropriate! See pages 4-6 for more details of this notable landmark The Queen Anne is immediately followed by the week’s main juvenile contest, the 6f Group 2 Coventry Stakes, which looks wide open and a perfect hors d’oeuvre for the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes. This 5f dash is set to feature a fascinating clash between American raider Lady Aurelia and last year’s winner, Profitable, who was subsequently purchased by Godolphin.

Back over a mile, but on the round course, we then move on to the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes, restricted to 3yos and a rematch from the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Godolphin’s Barney Roy, absent since, will seek revenge on Churchill, subsequent winner of the Irish equivalent for O’Brien. The only other day with more than one Group One is Friday when all eyes will be on Caravaggio, another for the O’Brien juggernaut, who will put his unbeaten record on the line in the 3yos only 6f Commonwealth Cup.

Again Godolphin appear to provide the main opposition with recent recruit Harry Angel and Blue Point who actually beat him, over Friday’s course and distance, at the beginning of May. On the same card, the Coronation Stakes is the 3yo fillies’ equivalent of the St James’s Palace Stakes and again an O’Brien hotpot looks the one to beat; his dual 1000 Guineas heroine Winter. Back to Wednesday which is highlighted by the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes and Godolphin’s Sheema Classic hero, Jack Hobbs, missed the Coronation Cup at Epsom to arrive here fresh.

He is trained by John Gosden whose patience could well be rewarded; especially after the same owner’s Cloth Of Stars, sadly ruled out of contention by trainer Andre Fabre to become another major hope from France not to take their chance. The week’s official feature is Thursday’s Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup and last year’s winner, Order Of St George, is going to be hard to beat. Another winner for O’Brien looks more likely after the defection of France’s dual Dubai Gold Cup winner, Vazirabad.

The sprinters return to the limelight on the final day, Saturday, with Limato looking to bounce back from a lacklustre display in the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan in the 6f Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes. As long as conditions remain dry and given a nice break since Dubai, he looks sure to go close. An exciting five days are in store with the might of Godolphin, set to be represented by at least six trainers, seemingly due to lock horns with the Ballydoyle battalion of Aidan O’Brien.

Fittingly, it was announced on Monday that a Royal Ascot Leading Owner Trophy will be awarded, to run alongside the established equivalents for jockeys and trainers. Thus, the Champion Owner over the week will be decided on straight wins, with seconds, thirds and fourths only coming into play in the event of a tie for wins. For the purposes of the award, horses reprenting Ballydoyle and Coolmore will be regarded as one entity, regardless of the precise syndicate for whom they run.

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