BROWSING through the hefty Royal Ascot 2015 media guide, a few things struck me. The meeting’s traditions are kind of nice and comforting but I’m only really interested in the thoroughbreds on show, and the only fillies of any real interest are the four-legged variety. Having very little fashion sense I couldn’t care a jot about the hats and fascinators. But the racing always gets the juices flowing, whether it’s the stamina grind of the Ascot Gold Cup or the speed machines in the three Group One sprints. One thing I do love is the fact there are six races each day. This gives the meeting a touch of quality and it cannot, like other racing festivals, be accused of dumbing down.
There are eight Group One races, including the new Commonwealth Cup for three-year-olds over six furlongs, and a devilishly difficult handicap each day as the fifth race on the card.
However, the two-year-old races at Royal Ascot 2015 come plenty early enough in the season to catch the very best juveniles.
Here are some horses to follow for the royal meeting.
WESTERN HYMN (Prince of Wales’s Stakes): Seems to have grown up a lot from three to four and has won both his races this term. Frankie Dettori is claimed to ride him, which means he cannot get the leg-up on one of the meeting’s most fascinating runners, California Chrome, winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. CC has never raced around a right hand bend so that will be interesting to watch. Western Hymn won’t want the ground as hard as a road but he is progressing nicely and this could be his time to step up to the Group One plate.
BESHARAH (Queen Mary Stakes): Few juveniles have made as big an impression as Besharah did on her Ascot debut when she beat a decent field in striking style. She followed up comfortably at Windsor and will probably line up as one of the favourites. The 4/1 still available in the Royal Ascot betting market is sorely tempting.
BROWN PANTHER (Ascot Gold Cup): I love this fellow. He is a throwback to some of the famous old stayers of yesteryear who seemed to be around for ever: Persian Punch, Le Moss et al. I got the impression at York that he really wants an extreme test of stamina these days rather than a 1m 6f trip. Ideally, he would benefit from some rain but he won the Irish St Leger on fast ground and he might get away with good to firm ground.
LIMATO (Commonwealth Cup): Forget Limato’s last run at Haydock when he didn’t like the ground. That was his first defeat but, granted fast ground, I think he’s a good thing in the inaugural Commonwealth Cup on Friday. It looks a warm race with Tiggy Wiggy in opposition but Henry Candy is a dab hand with sprinters and oh how we need a sprinting superstar in the mould of Habibti, Marwell or Moorestyle (yup, I am showing my age).
SHAMAL WIND (King’s Stand Stakes): This jet-hooved Australian mare will have the services of Ryan Moore at Royal Ascot 2015 and she looks good value at around 9/1 to at least pinch a place. I suspect she will start shorter. G Force, Sole Power and Muthmir provide a stern European challenge but Shamal Wind can continue Australia’s good record in this race.
ILLUMINATE (Albany Stakes): Was Richard Hannon’s unfancied second string on her debut but left an indelible impression with the way she disposed of better fancied stablemate Great Page. That filly has since franked the form with victory in Ireland in a Listed race and Illuminate has had the Albany as her Royal Ascot 2015 target since that debut success.
SPERRY (Coronation Stakes): She may not appear an obvious choice for the Group One Coronation Stakes based on what she has achieved but she is improving fast and her win at Ascot in April was visually impressive and in a good time. Lucida and Found are formidable opponents but Sperry, at around 14/1, offers a value alternative and some each-way value.
TELESCOPE (Hardwicke Stakes): Sir Michael Stoute’s five-year-old won this last year in a canter and can repeat the dose at Royal Ascot 2015 granted his favoured fast ground. He will be a warm order and the ante-post price you’ll get now is probably as big as you’ll find.
LOUIS THE PIOUS (Wokingham): Last year’s winner of the now defunct Buckingham Palace Stakes is one of 116 still entered in the Wokingham. But he is a dangerous horse at Ascot and loves the stiff 6f. He was given a fairly quiet ride last time at York and is now on 108, just 4lb higher than when he emphatically won the Ayr Gold Cup last year. Not quite a Group horse, but more than capable of winning one of the big summer handicaps, especially if he gets his favoured fast ground.
ROYAL ASCOT 2015 – ORDER OF RUNNING
Day 1 – Tuesday, June 16
2.30 Queen Anne Stakes (British Champions Series) (Group 1) 1m str £375,000
3.05 Coventry Stakes (Group 2) 6f £120,000
3.40 King’s Stand Stakes (Group 1) 5f £375,000 3+
(British Champions Series & Global Sprint Challenge)
4.20 St James’s Palace Stakes (British Champions Series) (Group 1) 1m rnd £375,000
5.00 Ascot Stakes (Handicap) (0-95) 2m 4f £60,000
5.35 Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed Race) 5f £60,000
Day 2 – Wednesday, June 17
2.30 Jersey Stakes (Group 3) 7f £75,000
3.05 Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2) 5f £100,000
3.40 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2) 1m str £135,000
4.20 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (British Champions Series) (Group 1) 1m 2f £525,000
5.00 Royal Hunt Cup (Heritage Handicap) 1m str £175,000
5.35 Sandringham Handicap (Listed Race) (96-110) 1m str £70,000
Day 3 – Thursday, June 18
2.30 Norfolk Stakes (Group 2) 5f £80,000
3.05 Tercentenary Stakes (Group 3) 1m 2f £75,000
3.45 Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2) 1m 4f £160,000
4.20 Gold Cup (British Champions Series) (Group 1) 2m 4f £375,000
5.00 Britannia Stakes (Heritage Handicap) (0-105) 1m str £120,000
5.35 King George V Stakes (Handicap) (0-105) 1m 4f £75,000
Day 4 – Friday, June 19
2.30 Albany Stakes (Group 3) 6f £70,000
3.05 King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2) 1m 4f £185,000
3.40 Commonwealth Cup (Group 1) 6f £375,000
4.20 Coronation Stakes (British Champions Series) (Group 1) 1m rnd £375,000
5.00 Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (Handicap) (0-105) 1m 4f
5.35 Queen’s Vase (Listed Race) 2m £85,000
Day 5 – Saturday, June 20
2.30 Chesham Stakes (Listed Race) 7f £60,000
3.05 Wolferton Handicap Stakes (Listed Race) (96-110)1m 2f £70,000
3.45 Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2) 1m 4f £200,000
4.20 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group 1) 6f £525,000 3+(British Champions Series & Global Sprint Challenge)
5.00 Wokingham Stakes (Heritage Handicap) (0-110) 6f £175,000
5.35 Queen Alexandra Stakes (Conditions Race) 2m 5f 15 9y £60,000
STATS AND FACTS
WINNERS OF QIPCO ROYAL ASCOT TOP JOCKEY AWARD
2014 Ryan Moore 6
2013 Johnny Murtagh 4
2012 Ryan Moore 5
2011 Ryan Moore 3
2010 Ryan Moore 4
2009 Johnny Murtagh 4
2008 Johnny Murtagh 6
2007 Jimmy Fortune 5
2006 Jamie Spencer 4
2005 Michael Kinane 6
2004 Frankie Dettori 6
2003 Frankie Dettori 3
2002 Johnny Murtagh 4
2001 Johnny Murtagh 5
2000 Kieren Fallon 4
TOP CURRENT JOCKEYS AT THE ROYAL MEETING
Name Total number of winners
Frankie Dettori 49
Kieren Fallon 30
Richard Hughes 29
Ryan Moore 27
Jamie Spencer 20
Jimmy Fortune 15
Olivier Peslier 14
William Buick 12
Steve Drowne 11