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The ultimate Australian guide to Royal Ascot (including Black Caviar)

June 18, 2012

Royal Ascot is here again for another year!

The world’s biggest race meeting is back, only this year it has captured the Australian imagination like never before, thanks to the presence of one horse – the world’s best sprinter, Black Caviar. She has everyone mesmerised – the Australian public, the British press, the international racing community – everyone wants to see her do well here in England.

However, Black Caviar’s race is 27th this week – there are 26 races to be run and won before she competes for glory. And there is a lot of Australian interest prior to her race, with the likes of Ortensia, Helmet, So You Think, Dysphonia and Dunaden set to run first.

Here, Just Horse Racing’s Andrew Hawkins has compiled this comprehensive guide to all 30 races at Royal Ascot. This will give you some history behind the races, as well as inform you of some of the likely runners.

Andrew will be at Royal Ascot, and can be contacted for any queries via Twitter at @AndrewNJHawkins.

Here is Andrew’s preview of Royal Ascot for 2012:

TUESDAY (19 JUNE)

Queen Anne Stakes (1m/a1600m) – 4yo+

Last five winners

2007 – Ramonti
2008 – Haradasun
2009 – Paco Boy
2010 – Goldikova
2011 – Canford Cliffs

Champion miler FRANKEL gets the carnival off to a mighty start here. The unbeaten son of Galileo is currently 6/1 on, or $1.16, to win the Queen Anne Stakes. He is set to come up against the likes of EXCELEBRATION – who finished a distant second to Frankel in the Lockinge Stakes last time out – the promising STRONG SUIT, and his full brother BULLET TRAIN – a potential pacemaker. There is an Australian link to the race – Caulfield Guineas winner HELMET, now with Godolphin, is a runner. He will be out to emulate the deeds of Haradasun, who won the Queen Anne Stakes as a three year old (by Australian time) in 2008. But he needs to improve significantly on his last run – a very poor second last in the Group 2 UAE Derby (1900m) on the Tapeta surface. Nevertheless, six time Group 1 winner Frankel should win here in what will be a stellar start to the world’s most famous race meeting.

King’s Stand Stakes (5f/a1000m) – 3yo+

Last five winners

2007 – Miss Andretti
2008 – Equiano
2009 – Scenic Blast
2010 – Equiano
2011 – Prohibit

This race, more than any other, has opened up the Royal Ascot carnival to Australian minds. The win of Choisir in 2003 gave the British public an appreciation for Australia’s sprinters, but it was the rags to riches win of Takeover Target in 2006 which cemented the importance of this race and of the carnival. Since then, Australia has been represented every year in the King’s Stand Stakes – winning in 2007 with Miss Andretti and with Scenic Blast in 2009. We’ve also been among the placegetters in 2008 (Takeover Target) and 2011 (Star Witness), while Nicconi was fourth in 2010. Therefore, a bold showing is expected in 2012. Our sole representative is ORTENSIA, who has won two Group 1s at her last two outings, those being the Winterbottom Stakes in Perth and the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai. She is contesting early favouritism in the large field of 24, with Temple Stakes winner BATED BREATH and emerging French sprinter WIZZ KID. Local SOLE POWER, who finished second to Ortensia in Dubai, has been well supported in the last week and is expected to be the subject of support. Hong Kong sprinters LITTLE BRIDGE and JOY AND FUN are the biggest queries. But Australia will be cheering home the mare in a prelude to Saturday’s sprint.

St James’s Palace Stakes (1m/a1600m) – 3yo

Last five winners

2007 – Excellent Art
2008 – Henrythenavigator
2009 – Mastercraftsman
2010 – Canford Cliffs
2011 – Frankel

Not quite as fascinating an edition as last year when Frankel came out and defeated Zoffany – by a much smaller margin than expected. Still, it has been the race for a horse that goes on to a successful career at stud. The likes of Kingmambo, Grand Lodge, Giant’s Causeway, Rock of Gibraltar and Shamardal have won this race. Irish 2000 Guineas winner POWER is easily the favourite for Coolmore, although many of these horses have a stud career at stake here. Take a horse like BORN TO SEA, one of the best bred horses in racing as a half-brother to Epsom Derby winners Sea The Stars and Galileo. He was a credible fifth in Ireland and could be expected to improve here. French colt LUCAYAN won the Poule D’Essai Des Poulains, the French 2000 Guineas, at 33-1. He’ll start shorter here. Other interesting runners include English 2000 Guineas placegetter HERMIVAL, Dewhurst Stakes placegetter MOST IMPROVED, Racing Post Trophy placegetter FENCING and Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf winner WROTE. It definitely looks an open race of interest.

Also on Tuesday…

The Group 2 Coventry Stakes (6f/a1200m) for the juveniles has been won by the likes of Verglas, Fasliyev, Statue of Liberty, Henrythenavigator, Art Connoisseur, Canford Cliffs, Strong Suit and Power over the last 20 years. It is a good launching pad for horses looking to the classics next year. Coolmore’s Cristoforo Colombo looks a nice type, while Dawn Approach is unbeaten from three starts. Sir Prancealot, Englishman, Lines of Battle and The Taj look other nice chances in what is a typically open affair.

The Listed Windsor Castle Stakes (5f/a1000m) is also for juveniles, but it doesn’t tend to produce the same form as the Coventry Stakes. It also has the ability to throw up a long priced winner, with the 2008 and 2009 winners both starting at greater than 33-1. Horses like Alhebayeb, Cosmic Chatter, Lyric Ace and Pay Freeze are expected to be fancied, while the queries come from the unraced starters.

The Ascot Stakes (2m 4f/a4000m) is a heritage handicap for the extreme stayers, with many of these horses actually jumpers tackling this flat event. Last year’s winner Veiled is back to defend his title. He meets the likes of Simenon, a last start 15 length winner over two miles at Cork, and Al Khawaneej, a winner of his last three. A few of these will probably go around in the Queen Alexandra Stakes over a4350m on Saturday.

WEDNESDAY (20 JUNE)

Prince of Wales’s Stakes (1m 2f/a2000m) – 4yo+

Last five winners

2007 – Manduro
2008 – Duke of Marmalade
2009 – Vision d’Etat
2010 – Byword
2011 – Rewilding

Which Australian racing fan could forget the nightmare that was last year’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes? Our dual Cox Plate winner SO YOU THINK was the hot favourite and led until the shadows of the post, when he was nabbed by Godolphin’s Rewilding. This year, he looks for redemption as he prepares for his stud career. He’s the favourite once again, although he’s not as short as he was last year. This could change though, depending on whether Champion Stakes and Sheema Classic winner CIRRUS DES AIGLES runs. His trainer Corine Barande-Barbe has still not decided if he’ll run here or in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud over in France next Sunday. His presence would make for a terrific race, so here’s hoping the French star runs at Royal Ascot. Also of interest is CARLTON HOUSE, owned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It would be a great story if the Queen could win her son’s race in the year of her Diamond Jubilee, and he is sure to get plenty of support. He was last year’s Epsom Derby favourite, who is probably better over 10 furlongs. He was good first up, and he could prove hard to beat. The top three make this an outstanding race, but behind that there is good depth with the likes of Dubai World Cup third PLANTEUR, last year’s French Derby winner RELIABLE MAN and Canadian International winner WIGMORE HALL all entered. And Godolphin is not without chances, with the unbeaten FARHH and Singapore International Cup late scratching CITY STYLE entered. It looks a great race.

Also on Wednesday…

One of the newer additions to the card is the Group 2 Windsor Forest Stakes (1m/a1600m), introduced in 2004 to encourage older mares to race on. It looks a potential match race between Emulous and Nahrain. Dermot Weld’s mare Emulous has only been beaten once since August 2010, winning six of her last seven races. She has raced almost exclusively in Ireland, and makes her first trip to Ascot. Nahrain won her first four starts before finishing second in last year’s Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf to Perfect Shirl. Of interest to Australians is former Darley mare Dysphonia, who is now with Godolphin. The Group 1 placed mare won her last start in much weaker company and will find this tough.

The juvenile fillies get their chance for glory in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes (5f/a1000m). Many of the winners of this race have not gone on as they progress throughout their career. There are many unraced fillies entered, but the winner usually has raced. Nevertheless, it is a lottery.

The Group 3 Jersey Stakes (7f/a1400m) is normally contested by horses just below the level required for the classics – or by horses who cannot get a strong mile. This is not always the case – last year’s winner Strong Suit is tackling Frankel this year in the Queen Anne Stakes. But on the whole, that is the calibre of the field each year. Ballydoyle looks to have a strong hand with the likes of Reply and Ishvana likely runners. However, it could also be the domain of an emerging horse like Valbchek. A tough race to examine without final fields.

Another race for the fillies (this time the three year olds) is the Listed Sandringham Handicap (1m/a1600m). Many of these fillies have also been entered for the much more prestigious Coronation Stakes on Friday. The fillies are examined in greater detail under that race.

The Royal Hunt Cup (1m/a1600m) is probably the most renowned handicap of the carnival. It is known for its large field and its uncertainty. Last year’s winner Julienas is now in the stables of Gai Waterhouse, one of the many imports brought to Australia. The winner two years ago, Invisible Man, heads the handicaps. James Fanshawe’s two runners, Dimension and Primaeval, head the betting this far out. Once the final field is declared, the picture will become clearer.

THURSDAY (21 JUNE)

Ascot Gold Cup (2m 4f/a4000m) – 4yo+

Last five winners

2007 – Yeats
2008 – Yeats
2009 – Yeats
2010 – Rite of Passage
2011 – Fame and Glory

The Ascot Gold Cup is England’s most prestigious staying contest. It is a test of class and endurance, although the British seem to be facing the same problem afflicting racing industries worldwide – stayers are thin on the ground. Yeats was a very good horse, but the fact he was able to win four Gold Cups is as much a pointer to the dearth of stayers as it is a testament to his class. When internationals first tackled the Melbourne Cup in the 1990s, it was thought an Ascot Gold Cup winner would be a shoo-in for a handicap like the Melbourne Cup. But horses require different attributes to win this race – more stamina, less of a turn of foot. The field will not be determined until Tuesday night Australian time, but there is a fair indication of the likely field. Coolmore’s FAME AND GLORY, who won so impressively last year, is back again. He’s by far the classiest horse in the race, and it is difficult to see him being beaten here now that he cannot be considered suspect at the trip. The main danger might come from the horse who was runner up 12 months ago – Godolphin’s OPINION POLL. He’s won numerous Cup races since then, including the Goodwood Cup and the Dubai Gold Cup. He won impressively last start and it would not surprise to see the same quinella as last year. But as Coolmore and Godolphin battle for supremacy, they both have strong support teams. Coolmore has MEMPHIS TENNESSEE, third in last year’s Irish Derby and fourth in the Epsom Derby, prepared to step up to the marathon trip. He has a very similar story to Fame and Glory, in that he was just off the class of the classics, yet he is classy enough to be a dominant Cups horse. Godolphin, on the other hand, have the emerging COLOUR VISION – placed in last year’s Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket, he has gone to another level at his two starts since. He ran Fame and Glory to a length and a quarter on Champions Day in October, before defeating Melbourne Cup runner-up (and subsequent Coronation Cup second) Red Cadeaux at Kempton. It does look a race between the two powerhouse stables. If there is to be any surprise, it could come from SADDLER’S ROCK – who defeated Opinion Poll convincingly in the Doncaster Cup last year. He’s only had seven starts and so has the scope to improve. From an Australian point of view, IBICENCO will be the most fascinating. Owned by Simon O’Donnell and Terry Henderson’s OTI Racing, he is likely to represent Luca Cumani in Melbourne come the spring.

Also on Thursday…

The Group 2 Norfolk Stakes (5f/a1000m) for the two year olds has been known to throw up a decent sprinter, with Johannesburg and Radiohead the most notable two. The makeup of the field will be fascinating, although the wraps are huge on Richard Hannon’s colt Sir Prancealot.

It is an effective re-running of the Epsom Oaks in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes (1m 4f/a2400m) for the three year old fillies. Shirocco Star (2nd), The Fugue (3rd), Vow (4th) and Kailani (7th) will lock horns once again. However, the most fascinating runner is Momentary for Her Majesty The Queen. She was impressive in an Oaks trial last start, and she has been set for this race. Trends suggest this is a positive.

The Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes (1m 2f/a2000m) for three year olds is a fascinating race for Australian racing fans, as we may potentially see horses who will end up down under. Mackinnon Stakes winner Glass Harmonium won the race before coming to Australia, while Marksmanship – who is now owned by Lloyd Williams – ran midfield last year. Hong Kong Derby winner Collection also won this race in 2008. Ballydoyle’s Imperial Monarch was unlucky in the Prix du Jockey Club in France last start, and he would be hard to beat if he lines up here. However, he is also entered for the King Edward VII Stakes on Friday.

The Britannia Stakes (1m/a1600m) is a Heritage Handicap for the three year olds. Many of these will be seen in the Royal Hunt Cup next year. It is another race which will depend on the final makeup of the field.

Interestingly, it is the King George V Stakes (1m 4f/a2400m), also for the three year olds, which has produced more horses to have run in Australia in the last 10 years than any other race – including the feature sprints. Godolphin started the trend, bringing two winners of this race to Melbourne – Beekeeper, who ran third in the 2002 Melbourne Cup, and Fantastic Love, who won the 2003 Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Munsef, who was well beaten in the 2009 Melbourne Cup, won this race in 2005. From 2008 onwards, horses who have finished midfield have come to Australia with varying success. The Ball and Chain Syndicate bought Savarain and Trenchtown, who ran in this race in 2008. Savarain was injury prone but looked like he could have measured up in Australia, while Trenchtown disappointed. From the race in 2009 came Adelaide Cup winner Muir and Moonee Valley Cup runner up Above Average. The 2010 race produced London Stripe, Contract Caterer and Bright Horizon, who all disappointed in Australia, while Picture Editor ran fourth at Bendigo recently for Mike Moroney. So who from the race this year will we see in Australia this time next year? No one knows now. However, it is possible it could be one of Aidan O’Brien’s runners. Nevertheless, it will be followed with much interest.

FRIDAY (22 JUNE)

Coronation Stakes (1m/a1600m) – 3yo fillies

Last five winners

2007 – Indian Ink
2008 – Lush Lashes
2009 – Ghanaati
2010 – Lillie Langtry
2011 – Immortal Verse

I’ve never been too much of a fan of the division of three year old fillies in England. Perhaps it is because we see these fillies a handful of times before they are rushed off to stud. With the exception of Immortal Verse last year, I’ve found it hard to get excited about the Coronation Stakes in the past. I find the Ribblesdale Stakes more fascinating. This year looks to be no exception, although it should provide some short-term excitement with MAYBE coming back from the mile and a half to a distance more to her liking. She comes up against the stablemate HOMECOMING QUEEN, a dominant winner of the English 1000 Guineas but disappointing in the Irish equivalent. Ballydoyle also have four other entries, so look to have a strong hand for the race. Irish 1000 Guineas winner SAMITAR and world traveller ELUSIVE KATE – who raced in three countries (the UK, France and the US) as a juvenile – look to provide extra interest. But it is probably the feature of the least interest to Australian punters.

Also on Friday…

The Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes (1m 4f/a2400m) is the top race over the classic distance for three year olds at Royal Ascot. Many times, it will produce a horse who competes successfully as an older horse, as opposed to the Epsom Derby where the winner is usually stud-bound at the end of the season. Last year’s winner Nathaniel took England’s premier all-age 2400m contest, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, at his next start. The previous year’s winner, Monterosso, won this year’s Dubai World Cup. Other notable winners in the last 20 years include Pentire, Royal Anthem, Mutafaweq, Storming Home, Papal Bull and Campanologist. This year sees Epsom Derby third Astrology and fourth Thought Worthy take on emerging types like Initiator and Michelangelo. Not sure we will see another Nathaniel though.

Another race for the two year old fillies – the Group 3 Albany Stakes (6f/a1200m). This tends to be the best pointer to the classics, although it is only a relatively new race. The most prominent winners were Habaayib and Memory in 2009 and 2010. It is too tough to assess at this stage.

At one stage the Group 3 Queen’s Vase (2m/a3200m) looked like becoming an increasingly important Melbourne Cup trial. 1998 winner Maridpour was imported to Australia in 1999 while 2002 winner Mamool contested the 2003 and 2004 Melbourne Cups. But when Mahler won in 2007, and then came out to Melbourne the same year and finished a game third to Efficient, it was thought the winner may come out every year as a lightweight Cups chance. None has made the trip since in the same year, although Holberg did come out a year later and finished sixth to Americain. It would be interesting to see Ballydoyle’s Offer contest the race, as he looks like he would be the type of horse Aidan O’Brien would bring to Melbourne. And The Queen has the chance to win her own race with Estimate. Should be a noteworthy contest.

The Listed Wolferton Handicap (1m 2f/a2000m) is always a competitive affair. In fact, last year’s runner up should have finished in the placings in the Melbourne Cup – that being Lost In The Moment. Other winners of note to Australians include In Time’s Eye and Imperial Stride, while My Kingdom of Fife ran third in 2010. It appears to be a good stepping stone to an Australian campaign. This year’s renewal is likely to feature a former Australian horse – Group 1 placegetter Retrieve is likely to run for Godolphin. Of the others, the most likely to be seen in Australia would be high raters like last year’s winner Beachfire, the other Godolphin entries Hunter’s Light and French Navy, and the lightly raced Mijhaar. Who knows? We might see Retrieve back here later this year.

The Buckingham Palace Stakes (7f/1400m), a handicap, ends the fourth day, and it usually features a big field with many chances. 85 horses remain in the running at the time of writing (Monday morning) and so not much can be said until fields are finalised.

SATURDAY (23 JUNE)

Diamond Jubilee Stakes (6f/a1200m) – 3yo+

Last five winners

2007 – Soldier’s Tale
2008 – Kingsgate Native
2009 – Art Connoisseur
2010 – Starspangledbanner
2011 – Society Rock

While Friday may see interest dwindle, Saturday will see interest unlike that ever seen before in Australia. People who watch one horse race a year – the Melbourne Cup – are likely to make it two races in 2012 when they stay up to watch BLACK CAVIAR tackle the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. If you ever wanted proof that Australians still loved to get one up on the mother country, look at the reaction to the wonder mare taking on the British sprinters. She is front page news. Every Aussie news company is represented there. It is massive. Racing only usually sees this much interest three days of the year – the Sunday and Monday before the Melbourne Cup, and Melbourne Cup day itself. This is the biggest racing news away from the Melbourne Cup since Phar Lap took on the world in Mexico in 1932. It should be straightforward, and on Saturday night (or on Sunday morning in Australia) we will be celebrating her 22nd win. However, it is never completely simple, especially in horse racing. There is a query over how she’ll handle the track, if it is wet. She should be fine, but it is a niggling query. She seems to be at her best down the straight, so the Ascot track – even with its undulations – should be fine for her. The 1200m at Ascot is always compared to a 1400m race anywhere else, and her ability to run a strong 1400m is still questionable. Yes, she won the Orr Stakes over 1400m, but it was not a solid 1400m. She’ll need to be able to run a strong 1400m to salute here. Can she do that? In my opinion, she’ll win easily. There is nothing to beat her. The biggest concern – which is fairly minor anyway – is the record of Australian horses in this race. Choisir won in 2003 and Starspangledbanner (when trained in Ireland by Aidan O’Brien) won in 2010. But the locals have had more luck repelling the Australians in this race. Takeover Target was narrowly beaten twice, but horses like Miss Andretti and Black Caviar’s close relation Magnus have been disappointing. Hopefully, Black Caviar can hold off the locals. The biggest challenge looks to come from France, where boom filly MOONLIGHT CLOUD is being touted as a worthy competitor to the unbeaten mare. The English have adopted Moonlight Cloud as one of their own in the hope she can beat Black Caviar. Bahrain’s KRYPTON FACTOR, a winner of the Golden Shaheen in Dubai, is another likely starter, as is last year’s winner of this race SOCIETY ROCK. The picture will become clearer after the King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday, with BATED BREATH, ORTENSIA and WIZZ KID under consideration to back up. However, they will all need to be at their best to beat what the British press have labelled “the wonder from Down Under” – go Black Caviar!!!

Also on Saturday…

The Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (1m 4f/a2400m) is for the older horses, a logical progression from the Coronation Cup a few weeks ago. It leads into the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, or for some, a drop back to the Eclipse Stakes. It was one of the earliest litmus tests for a horse to be sent to Australia – Cox Plate winner Almaarad and Melbourne Cup winner Jeune both won this race before they were sent to Australia, while Sandmason was another winner who ended up down under. The most notable winner of recent times was Harbinger, who had one more start before he was retired – when he romped home in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. This year’s edition is likely to include Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden, with this race set to determine his plans for later in the year – either an Australian return or a tilt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. He will face the likes of Dandino, Sea Moon, and potentially Coronation Cup winner St Nicholas Abbey. It’s a great support act for the main affair.

The Listed Chesham Stakes (7f/1400m) is the final event for juveniles on the card. Strangely, it is restricted to horses who are sired by stallions who won at 1900m or beyond. Weird!!! 1000 Guineas winner (and potential Coronation Stakes favourite) Maybe won this race last year. Entries are not out yet, so it is tough to assess who may be heading here.

The Wokingham Stakes (6f/1200m) is one of England’s premier handicap sprints. It was won last year by Deacon Blues, who the English were quick to espouse could defeat Black Caviar. Sadly, he is injured this year and so we won’t see him in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. It may still hold interest for Australians though – the ghostly grey Scarf, who used to race for Darley in Australia, has been entered for Godolphin.

Royal Ascot even has its Caulfield Cup equivalent – the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes (1m 4f/a2400m), a handicap. Won last year by Melbourne Cup seventh, the late Fox Hunt, it is another stepping stone to an Australian campaign. Godolphin’s Modun started favourite last year before coming to Australia. It will be interesting to see if this year’s winner comes to Australia!

The final race of the carnival, the Queen Alexandra Stakes (2m 5f 159y/a4350m) is also the longest race of the carnival. It is usually a field mixed of flat horses and jumpers, and can attract quite a quirky line up. Only one winner has come to Australia to contest the Melbourne Cup – Honolulu in 2008. He finished tailed off.

——————————————————————————————–

And so there you have it – your guide to Royal Ascot 2012! Make sure to follow Just Horse Racing’s coverage of the five days at Royal Ascot, including Saturday’s big race, at www.justhorseracing.com.au!

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