As Royal Ascot kicks off (June 18-22) there will be an understandable nostalgia in the air. After all, last year saw Frankel and Black Caviar grace the Ascot turf and it’s hard to imagine any thoroughbred rising to those heights in 2013.
However, it looks as though the hugely talented Camelot will be in attendance and the crowd will be delighted to greet the colt who almost clinched the first British Triple Crown since Nijinsky in 1970. As well, Frankel’s little sister, Joyeuse, is running in the Albany Stakes. Trained by Sir Henry Cecil for Khalid Abdullah, her appearance will bring with it a huge range of emotions. And Dawn Approach, who was to skip Royal Ascot altogether, is set to go in the St. James Palace Stakes if he turns in a good work on Thursday, June 13th.
And then there’s the Queen Anne Stakes, where Dubai World Cup winner, Animal Kingdom, makes his final start before heading off to stud duty in Australia.
There have also been some notable defections, among them Snow Fairy, Black Caviar’s little (half-) brother, All Too Hard (who was retired), as well as Soft Falling Rain, Shea Shea, Farrh and the world’s highest-rated turf horse, Cirrus des Aigles. And don’t expect to see Ballydoyle’s Derby winner, Ruler of the World. He will be aimed at the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes which run at Ascot in July. Nor does it look as though champion St. Nicholas Abbey will put in an appearance following his historic win at Ascot last month in the Coronation Cup.
But make no mistake about it: Royal Ascot is the most glittering 5-day event of the British flat racing season, a place where legends are crowned and rising stars are anointed.
In the midst of preparing this article, news arrived that Sir Henry Cecil had died.
This article is dedicated to a man who was undoubtedly one of the finest trainers ever and begins, fittingly, with Frankel’s romp in last year’s Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. Despite his battle with a horrible disease, Sir Henry Cecil said, “…I had to be there, for Frankel.”
And, indeed, he was.
This review is Part I of a two-part feature.
Part II, a review of the top races between June 20 & 21 will be posted on THE VAULT on Wednesday, June 19.
The following races are reviewed in this article:
Opening Day, JUNE 18 — The Queen Anne Stakes (featuring Animal Kingdom), The King’s Stand (featuring Reckless Abandon and Shamexpress), The St. James Palace Stakes (sure to be a thriller, with Dawn Approach taking on Magician, Toronado and Dundonnell), The Coventry Stakes (2 year-old colts) and The Windsor Castle Stakes (featuring the promising daughter of British legend, Attraction).
Day Two, June 19, The Prince of Wales Stakes (featuring Camelot, Al Kazeem, The Fugue and Red Cadeaux).
WHERE TO WATCH: HRTV is covering the key Royal Ascot races, beginning at 9:00 A.M. (approx.) over each of the 5 days.
FOR RACE CARDS and COMPLETE RACE SCHEDULE, please visit LET’S GO TO THE RACES at http://www.letsgototheraces.blogspot.ca
AT THE RACES at http://www.attheraces.com/ascot/list.aspx?lid=pa+news also offers complete Royal Ascot coverage and will post all races on its YouTube channel by the end of each day.
Tuesday, JUNE 18
* Please note that all entries are accurate as of 13-06-2013
THE QUEEN ANNE STAKES (Grade 1, part of the British Champions series. Distance: 1 mile)
No question: at Royal Ascot 2013, THE race is the Queen Anne and THE horse is Animal Kingdom (2008). At least, that’s how many Brits see it.
Fresh off his impressive win in the Dubai Gold Cup, the son of Lesroidesanimaux brings a presence to UK racing that fans across the pond are lapping up. British papers have featured articles on the elegant Animal Kingdom and his under-stated trainer, Graham Motion, weekly. And racing sites like At The Races and Racing Post have posted an array of videos, of which this is one:
Of course, all of this excitement is old news for North American racing fans, who fell in love with the strapping chestnut when he won the 2011 Kentucky Derby. Not that they’ll be any less thrilled this coming Tuesday. The colt already sits in the betting at the very top of the heap and it must be said that the Queen Anne is Animal Kingdom’s to lose. What Graham Motion has been teaching the champ since he arrived in April in the UK is how the Brits do things — notably, the demand of the Ascot turf, that features ups and downs rather than a straight, flat surface. However, after a number of very strong works, it’s fair to assume that Animal Kingdom knows what to expect.
Although entries have yet to be finalized, Aidan O’Brien will likely run at least 2 horses against the Dubai World Cup winner, the best of these being Declaration of War (2009). The 4 year-old son of War Front(2002) last raced in May at Newberry, where he finished 5th in a field of 12. However, he has won 5 of his 7 career starts and is likely to be partnered by Joseph O’Brien, a decided advantage. Trainer John Gosden is likely to run the mare, Elusive Kate (2009) who last raced in October 2012 against the colts at Ascot and finished in 3rd place against the likes of Excelebration. The daughter of Elusive Quality(1993) will need to show that she has the will to compete. A more important competitor, running in the colours of HRH Princess Haya of Jordan and also trained by Goseden is Gregorian (2009). This colt has finished either first or second in his last 4 races and is likely the one who will give Animal Kingdom the most trouble, if he fires. And fire he must, since Graham Motion’s superstar is by far the very best in the field.
KING’S STAND STAKES (Grade 1, part of the British Champions series. Distance: 5 furlongs)
UPDATE (June 16) : Mick de Kock’s SHEA SHEA (South Africa) is now confirmed for this race.
This race is a sprint for 3 year-olds and up and promises to be hotly contested, despite the possible defection of Mike de Kock’s Shea Shea. If he doesn’t run, the favourite will be 3 year-old Reckless Abandon (2010), a son of Exchange Rate (1997) trained by Clive Cox, who has only lost once in a total of 6 starts. Last year’s Prix Morny and Middle Park winner was third in the five-furlong Temple Stakes at Haydock last time out and is an honest type who can be counted on to try his very best.
But Reckless Abandon is unlikely to get off easy. He will be facing the Australian Shamexpress (2009) who has won 2 of his 3 starts this year and, according to trainer Danny O’Brien, the colt is coming up to the race in fighting form. Shamexpress won the Newmarket Handicap (AUS) last time out and finished going away. Also fancied are Richard Lynam’s Sole Power (2007) who enters with a track record of 34-6-6-5 and John Gosden’s Swiss Spirit (2009), a son of super sire, Invincible Spirit (1997). Cheveley Park Stud’s Kingsgate Native (2005) may be a veteran, but he has already beaten Swiss Native and lost by only a length to Sole Power recently, making him a serious contender. Also re-appearing is the veteran Medicean Man (2007) who won last time out at Haydock on June 7. Pearl Secret (2009) lost last time out, but this was his very first defeat in 5 career starts.
ST. JAMES PALACE STAKES (GROUP 1 for 3 year-old colts, part of the British Champions series. Geldings barred. Distance: 1 mile)
This is one of England’s most prestigious races for 3 year-olds. First run in 1834, its initial running turned out to be a walkover for a great British thoroughbred called Plenipotentiary (1831). It has been won by a veritable who’s who of champions since then, including the mare Sceptre, Rock Sand, the much-loved Captain Cuttle, the fabulous Brigadier Gerard, Kris, Kingmambo, Giant’s Causeway and Frankel in 2011.
This year, the drama is shaping up to lie principally between Dawn Approach, Dundonnell and Toronado. The Jim Bolger-trained Dawn Approach is seeking to regain some respect, having run a very rank race in the recent Investic Derby. Bolger believes the colt’s uncharacteristic effort in the Derby — he finished last — was caused by a smack in the ribs that he sustained leaving the gate, causing him to never really settle.
Dundonnell is owned by Khalid Abdullah, Frankel’s owner-breeder, and trained by Roger Charlton. This colt has been in the money 6 times in his 7 starts and won at Newmarket his last time out. Toronado is a son of High Chaparral. Trained by Richard Hannon, the colt has only ever lost once in 5 starts. This will be the third time that Toronado and Dundonnell face-off against one another. Here’s a sample of what we can expect from these two:
Aidan O’Brien was able to confirm that Magician will definitely start in the St. James Palace and it is on this son of the mighty Galileo that O’Brien will pin his hopes for victory. Coolmore-Ballydoyle will also run Gale Force Ten, George Vancouver and Mars, although it seems unlikely that any of these will better either Dawn Approach (unless he runs another stinker) or favourites like Toronado. Magician comes to the St. James Palace with a record of 6-3-1-0 and has won his last 2 races, including the Irish 2000 Guineas (below).
Coming in undefeated is the lightly raced Mutin(2010) from the stable of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum. A son of the multi-millionaire Kentucky Dynamite (2003), who hails from the Mr. Prospector line through his sire, Kingmambo, this colt will like the distance and, if the course is fast, should excel.
Trainer George Margarson’s Jammy Guest is by the very talented Duke of Marmalade; although the colt has only been out of the money once in 3 starts, the St. James Palace is a huge step-up in class for him. A 5-time Group One winning son of Danehill, Duke Of Marmalade comes from a family that includes the likes of A.P. Indy, Lemon Drop Kid and the former Classic winner Summer Squall, sire of Horse of the Year Charismatic. The family has met with great success in the southern hemisphere, through stallions like Bite The Bullet, Spectacular Spy, Honor Grades and the red-hot Statue Of Liberty. All to say that Jammy Guest just might well be ready to take a really good run at Dawn Approach, Magician or Toronado.
COVENTRY STAKES (Group 2 for 2 year-olds. Distance: 6 furlongs)
Information about entries in this coveted event for the youngest thoroughbred remain sketchy at the time of this writing. However, there is a strong possibility that three of Coolmore-Ballydoyle’s most promising babies will be entered. Stubbs (2011), by Danehill Dancer, has only lost once in his 3 starts, coming in third on his very first attempt. Sir John Hawkins (2011), a son of Henrythenavigator, makes only his second career start after winning his maiden but is already considered one of the best of the Ballydoyle juveniles. Last, but hardly least, is Coach House (2011). The son of Oasis Dream(2000) has already won 2 of his 3 starts and is another rising star.
WINDSOR CASTLE STAKES (A listed race for 2 yr. old colts and fillies. Distance: 5f)
The story of this race regardless of its outcome has to be Fountain of Youth. Every British racing fan will be watching to see if he has the talent of his dam, the great Attraction (2001), whose story and achievements made her a heroine of the turf.
Attraction was born with crooked forelegs and her owner, the Duke of Roxburghe, knew there was no point sending her into the sales ring. So he sent her off to his trainer and the rest, as they say, is history. And what a history: with her front legs rotating like egg-beaters, Attraction became the only filly (until 2007, when she was ousted by Finsceal Beo) to won both the English and Irish Guineas. Nor did it end there. Unbeaten in 7 starts, Attraction annexed the Coronation, Sun Chariot and Cherry Hinton Stakes as well. In 2003, Attraction was rated at 118, making her the third best 3 year-old in the world.
Wednesday, June 19
* Please note that all entries are accurate as of 13-06-2013.
THE PRINCE OF WALES STAKES (GROUP 1 for 4 year-olds and up, part of the British Champions series. Distance: 1 mile, 2f)
This race is shaping up to be a smallish, selective field with horses like Camelot (2009), Al Kazeem (2008), The Fugue (2009) and Red Cadeaux (2006) set to do battle. Of these 4, arguably the least known to racing fans outside of the UK is trainer Roger Charlton’s Al Kazeem. But the son of Dubawi has already beaten Camelot once, in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, which was his last outing, and is not to be overlooked. Not only did he take down Coolmore-Ballydoyle’s golden boy, but Al Kazeem has come back after an injury that put an end to his 2012 season to win his last 3 races, improving his track record to 10-5-4-0. Below is the running of the Gold Cup (May 26, 2013):
Windsor Palace (2005) will again serve to keep the pace honest for Camelot, who will have Joseph O’Brien in the irons. The veteran campaigner, Red Cadeaux (2006) last ran second to Animal Kingdom in the Dubai World Cup and can also be counted on to run a good race. A multi-millionaire with earnings of 3, 275, 933 BPS in 36 starts, the gelded son of the late Cadeaux Genereux (1985) is a stalker who comes from off the pace, like Al Kazeem.
The Fugue(2009) is the only lady in this heady field and, before we count her out, it should be said that she is also the best rested of all the entries, having made her last run in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup, where she finished 3rd to Zagora after a less-than-ideal trip. In fact, bad trips have plagued this feisty daughter of Dansili, who is owned by Andrew Lloyd-Weber and trained by the great John Gosden. Despite not always getting the best of chances, The Fugue has only been out of the money once in 8 career starts. And….not only is she one gorgeous gal, but her BM sire is Sadler’s Wells.
Here’s The Fugue, who gets hopelessly stuck behind horses, rallying to take third in a race she should have won — the BC Filly & Mare Turf (2012):