The first day of Royal Ascot, featuring three G1 contests, offers a wonderful curtain-raiser to the prestigious meeting and this year promises some particularly exciting renewals of these coveted races.
The G1 Queen Anne opens the afternoon and Iffraaj’s outstanding son Ribchester is hot favourite to win. Little surprise, as he comes into the race not only as Europe’s highest-rated horse (Timeform 131), but also off the back of a near four-length demolition of the field in last month’s G1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury. Toscanini (Shamardal), a class performer himself, will act as pacemaker for Ribchester, while Ennaadd (King’s Best) is aiming for a big step up in class on his Group-race debut.
Next is the G2 Coventry, where the two-year-old colts will aim to make their mark, and both Darley-sired runners are by first-season sires. Chookie Dunedin (Epaulette) won at the first time of asking at Ayr in May, leading all the way. Haddaf (Dawn Approach) has yet to win, however he has shown plenty of promise in his previous starts including when an unlucky third in the Listed National Stakes at Sandown last time out.
The G1 King’s Stand is the fifth leg of the Global Sprint Challenge and future Darley stallion Profitable will aim to repeat his thrilling victory ahead of Cotai Glory (Exceed And Excel) last year. Cotai Glory lines up again too and will no doubt put up another bold show. Exceed And Excel is also represented by progressive four-year-old filly Priceless, winner of the G2 Temple Stakes on her last start.
Another G1 contest follows straight away, with the clash of the three-year-old colts in the St James’s Palace. Helmet’s son Thunder Snow flies the flag for Godolphin and having run a hugely creditable second in the G1 Irish 2,000 Guineas late last month, will seek to reverse the form with Churchill tomorrow.
The final Stakes race, and indeed the final race, of the day is the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes and there are no fewer than six runners by the Darley stallions. Nootka Sound (Lonhro) travels from the States as part of Wesley Ward’s team and could be an interesting contender, while another who could enter the frame is Sound And Silence (Exceed And Excel). The line-up is completed by City Guest (Epaulette), Excellently Poised (Sepoy), James Garfield (Exceed And Excel) and June Dog (Helmet).