It is going to be a glorious day in London. There was overnight rain on Sunday. On Tuesday, when the Queen Anne Stakes (the first race) is run at 2 30 P M, the going will be officially ‘good.’ A sunny day is forecast for Tuesday. The high, according to the weather bureau, will be in the high 60s.
There are six races on opening day. Following the Queen Anne, the second event will be the King’s Stand, another Group I contest. The third, the St James’s Palace Stakes, will provide triple Group I delight. The fourth race will be the Coventry Stakes for freshmen. Ascot Stakes, over 4000 metres, is the fifth race. The sixth and final race, the (listed) Windsor Castle Stakes, is scheduled at 5 35 PM.
There is group singing at the end of racing every day in the grandstand. Royal Ascot is a great racing event that attracts international attention. It is perhaps the most significant five-day span in the British social calendar. Fashion and pageantry are the order of the day. There is a Royal procession that begins on the right hand side of the straight mile course and ends in front of the Royal box. It begins promptly at 2 P M every day. It is a spectacle. Yes, there is a great deal of drinking. The Royal Enclosure has bookmakers in morning dress (traditional English official garb) and there are dozens of them in the grandstand area in front of the course.
Here is the action that is offered in England on Tuesday. Thirsk, where Silvestre de Sousa makes his home, has eight races with a 2 15 P M start. The last race is at 6 20 P M. Brighton has a six-race card that starts at 6 30 P M and ends at 9 00 P M. Newton Abbot has a jumps program of six races beginning at 6 15 P M and ending at 8 45 P M. There is a Ladbrokes office in the grandstand area (main floor) where you can wager on these tracks. There are also computer-generated races-horses, dogs, automobiles- and the action is non-stop. In England, gambling is taken to art form.
Here are my thoughts on the big races. The Queen Anne is on the straight mile course. Paco Boy and Richard Hughes are back to defend their title. Paco Boy won Newbury’s Lockinge drawing away and checks in absolutely fit. Goldikova, twice victorious in the Breeders’ Cup (turf) mile at Santa Anita, comes off a convincing win in the Prix Isphahan. Rip Van Winkle, no stranger to Group I Success, has not raced since his run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in late October. Dalghar is fresh off a heartening Group III win at Longchamp in early June and will be ridden by Christophe Lemaire. The Queen Anne has 10 runners. Here is one fact you ought to know. The Queen Anne has not been won in 40 years by a girl but I believe that Goldikova’s turn of foot and her heart will give her the edge. The incomparable Olivier Peslier rides the Freddie Head-trained mare.
The King’s Stand, over 1000 metres, has 12 runners. I do not have an opinion.
The St James’s Palace Stakes will be run on the round mile course. Horses run uphill until the final turn. The first three finishers in the English 2000 Guineas are back. Makfi will be handled by Olivier Peslier because jockey Lemaire has an obligation to ride Aga Khan’s Siyouni. Peslier has expressed cautious optimism but that’s his style. Dick Turpin was second at Newmarket and again was the bridesmaid in the French 2000 Guineas at Longchamp. In the French 2000 Guineas, Dick Turpin was beaten by Lope de Vega and the latter, on June 6, was a three-length winner in the French Derby. Ryan Moore, double Classic-winning rider at Epsom, rides the Richard Hannon-trained Dick Turpin. The third big contender in the St James’s Palace is Canford Cliffs, another Richard Hannon pupil. In the hands of Richard Hughes, Canford Cliffs made mincemeat of his rivals in the Coventry States at Royal Ascot last year as a two year-old. . After two losses in 2010, Canford Cliffs taught his foes a stern lesson or two in the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh. Yes, he needs to find more to reverse the placings but he’s capable. His tendency to go to the left was gone in his Irish triumph. A solid pace should be all Canford Cliffs needs to get another win on opening day at Royal Ascot.
Richard Hughes rides Strong Suit, a major fancy, in the Coventry Stakes. There are several winners in this sprint. Zoffany is two for two and represents Ballydoyle and will have the services of John Murtagh. More often than not, the Coventry has been won by strongly fancied ones.
Twenty will run in the 4000-metre Ascot Stakes. It is a great race to watch. The last race is the 1000-metre (15 go to post) Windsor Castle. This is again a race to walk around and soak in the atmosphere.
A note or two about Monday’s races at Longchamp. Olivier Peslier had two winners before going to London from Paris. He won the third with Sir Ector, a 27/10 chance. He won the seventh with Pietra Santra, a 31/5 chance. It was indeed a great warmup for Peslier who rides Goldikova in Tuesday’s Royal Ascot opener.
In the same Monday card at Longchamp, Christophe Soumillion steered the 7/10 Stacelita to an easy win in the Group III La Coupe Stakes, a 2000-metre race. Jean Claude-Rouget trains Stacelita, winner of the 2009 Prix Diane.
Here is news from America. Battle Plan had what looked like an insurmountable lead in Saturday’s Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs. Blame rallied and caught Battle Plan. Todd Pletcher, Battle Plan’s trainer, has revealed that his trainee suffered a soft tissue injury in the right foreleg. There will be an evaluation.
“At the 5/16, Battle Plan took a funny step and the ground seemed to break out from underneath him. Late in the race, he went back to his left lead, “ trainer Pletcher said.
There was an insinuation that jockey Javier Castellano had stopped riding Battle Plan and he was blamed for the loss. I am mentioning this because fans jump to conclusions.
St Trinians is likely to race in the Clement Hirsch, a 1700-metre race at Del Mar on August 7. Trainer Mike Mitchell has said that St Trinians lost her left front shoe in the Vanity on Sunday. He did not offer the shoe loss as an excuse. “My heart almost came out of my chest. It was such a fun race to be in,” Mitchell exclaimed.
Zenyatta’s next start is up in the air. The Clement Hirsch is an option and a decision will be taken very close to race day.
Rachel Alexandra may be sent to Saratoga after her win in the Fleur de Lis on Saturday at Churchill Downs. The options are the Ruffian at Saratoga on August 1 and the Personal Ensign also at Saratoga on August 29.
Doug Fraser is the commentator at Hexham, a jumps track in England. On Sunday, June 6, Fraser did not show up for work. The police were looking. A body has been recovered from a river in Leeds and the news was confirmed by the West Yorkshire police. A positive identification will be made on Wednesday.