Royal Ascot 2017 is now just days away and the meeting, steeped in racing history, has proved a happy hunting ground for both the Darley stallions themselves and their talented offspring
Dating back to the 1700s, Ascot’s Royal meeting is one of the centrepieces of the summer social calendar and the highlight of the year for the Berkshire racecourse.
The Darley stallions’ association with Royal Ascot began back in 1987 when Mtoto took the G1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, a race he would win again the following year before retiring to a successful 17-year stud career at Aston Upthorpe Stud.
Another horse who was to enjoy a remarkably long stud career following a victory at Royal Ascot was Cape Cross, who triumphed for Godolphin in the Queen Anne in 1999. Also winner of the G1 Lockinge Stakes, Cape Cross went on to become Champion first-season sire.
That first crop included Ouija Board, one of the greatest racemares of her era, whose seven G1 victories included the 2006 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. This year, Ouija Board’s son Frontiersman (Dubawi) will try to emulate the family tradition of winning at Royal Ascot when lining up in the G2 Hardwicke Stakes.
Cape Cross is also sire of outstanding racehorse and young Darley stallion Golden Horn, who became the second Epsom Derby winner for his sire following Sea The Stars’ victory in 2009.
Cape Cross winning the Queen Anne in 1999
The year 2000 provided a particular highlight when, off the back of his sensational victory in the Dubai World Cup, Dubai Millennium (main picture) made every yard of the running to take the G1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes by an astounding eight lengths. Declared by Sheikh Mohammed as the best horse he had ever owned, sadly this was to be his last race as injury prevented him from returning to the racecourse. Having covered just one book of mares upon his retirement to stud, Dubai Millennium tragically died from grass sickness in 2001, leaving his legacy in the hands (or hooves) of his superb stallion son Dubawi.
A year later, Fantastic Light ensured back-to-back victories for Godolphin in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes – one of six victories at the highest level for the horse who was one of only two to ever conquer Galileo. Fantastic Light is now happily living out his retirement at Dalham Hall Stud.
Former Dalham Hall Stud flagbearer Machiavellian was responsible for two Group winners in 2001, courtesy of Medician in the Queen Anne and Storming Home in the King Edward VII Stakes.
Machiavellian added a second consecutive Queen Anne winner in 2002 when No Excuse Needed prevailed in a thrilling finish over Tillerman, by another former Darley stallion, In The Wings.
2004 was a banner year, with no fewer than six Black type winners for future Darley stallions or the offspring of existing stallions. Two of these were G1 winners in Prince Of Wales’s Stakes hero Rakti (Polish Precedent) and Papineau (Singspiel), who won what is for many the feature race of the entire week, the Gold Cup.
Shamardal’s Classic year was in 2005 and having won both the French Guineas and French Derby, he lined up on the Knavesmire, where that year’s Royal meeting took place while Ascot underwent major renovations, as favourite to take the G1 St James’s Palace Stakes. Shamardal certainly didn’t disappoint as he ensured that he was still never headed on the turf, making all to win by three lengths.
Shamardal has gone on to sire two Royal Ascot Group winners to date, with Bailos landing the G2 King Edward VII Stakes in 2015 and Usherette victorious in last year’s G2 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes.
The Prince Of Wales’s Stakes always attracts a superb field (as is demonstrated by the previous winners already mentioned here) and in 2007, Manduro swept past a stellar field to win by a length and a quarter. His victory came exactly a month after he took the G1 Prix d’Ispahan. He then went on to win the G1 Prix Jacques le Marois to ensure he was crowned Timeform World Champion.
Manduro winning the 2007 Prince Of Wales's Stakes
More recently, Dawn Approach headed up a magnificent and, until then, unprecedented trio of Royal Ascot Stakes winners for his first-season sire New Approach, putting up a superb performance to land the G2 Coventry Stakes. He returned to Ascot a year later and in one of the finishes of the week, outbattled Toronado to take the G1 St James’s Palace Stakes – his fourth victory at the highest level.
2014 was another exceptional year, as Iffraaj’s daughter Rizeena triumphed in the G1 Coronation Stakes, the same day as Hartnell (Authorized) took the Queen’s Vase. Hartnell is now based in Australia where he has enjoyed tremendous success including victories in the G1 BMW and G1 Turnbull Stakes.
On the final day of the 2014 meeting, Slade Power became the star sprinter of the week with an impressive win in the G1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Just three weeks later (and by now confirmed as a future Darley stallion), he cemented his position as that year’s Champion sprinter when cruising to the front a furlong out to land the G1 Darley July Cup.
Exceed And Excel is renowned as a sire of exceptional juveniles and in 2015, he added a third two-year-old Stakes winner at Royal Ascot, following Best Terms’s G2 Queen Mary win in 2011 and Flashman’s Papers’ 2008 Windsor Castle Stakes triumph, when Buratino stormed to a two-length victory in the G2 Coventry Stakes.
Last year saw a trio of Group winners for the Darley stallions in the aforementioned Usherette (Shamardal); Jersey Stakes victor Ribchester (Iffraaj) and G2 Hardwicke Stakes winner Dartmouth (Dubawi), who provided a popular Royal winner on the final day.
All three are due to reappear this year, with Ribchester seeking a second consecutive G1 win following his superb victory in last month’s Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, while Usherette could bid for her first G1 win in the Queen Anne Stakes on the opening day. Dartmouth, who took the G2 Yorkshire Cup last time out, lines up once again in the Hardwicke on the Saturday.
The Darley stallions will be well represented throughout the week and with several live chances, this roll of honour could well be extended come 24 June.