Royal Ascot: We preview the main race on each day of the festival
There’s a bumper 36-race card to enjoy at Royal Ascot in 2020, and with the five-day extravaganza just around the corner, we decided to take a look at a major race from each day of the meeting.
The action gets underway with the Buckingham Palace Handicap at 13:15 on Monday, but it’s the Group 1 Queen Anne 35 minutes later which gets our lookahead underway.
Day 1 – Queen Anne Stakes – 13:50
Ordinarily we might take a look at the King’s Stand Stakes on Day 1. But with no Blue Point to put it up to Battaash like last year, we’re casting admiring glances at the first Group 1 of the meeting instead.
The Queen Anne has produced some big price winners in the last couple of years, with Accidental Agent triumphing at 33/1 in 2018 and Lord Glitters following up at 14/1 12 months ago.
Circus Maximus will be hoping to end that run and give Aidan O’Brien a first win in the race since 2013. The one-time Derby hope failed to live up to the hype at Epsom but has since flourished back down at 1m.
Group 1 victories in the St James’s Palace last year and the Prix du Moulin mark him out as the one to beat, although the progressive Terebellum, Fox Chairman and Mustashry may have something to say about that.
Remember to keep an eye out for the bigger prices too. None of the first four home in each of the last two years have returned a price shorter than 10/1, making Billesdon Brook et al interesting here.
Day 2 – Prince of Wales’s Stakes – 15:00
The Prince of Wales’s Stakes has a much better record of returning short-price winners, with each of the last three who were first past the post coming from the front two in the betting.
Multiple Group 1 winner Japan heads the market this time, and after victories in the Grand Prix de Paris and the Juddmonte International to go alongside a fourth-place finish in the Arc last term, he’s hard to argue with.
Aidan O’Brien’s inmate also won at Royal Ascot last year and can handle all grounds, which means more is required from the likes of Headman and Barney Roy, both of whom don’t seem to be up to Japan’s level.
Fellow Ballydoyle inmate Magical finished out of the places just once in a four-year-old season which saw the Galileo mare compete in some of the best races around, while Addeybb also warrants respect.
Day 3 – Ascot Gold Cup – 15:00
Super stayer Stradivarius is bidding to become the first horse since the legendary Yeats to win a hat-trick of Gold Cups, and up against a field that is without Kew Gardens, it’s difficult to oppose the five-year-old.
John Gosden’s star holds a number of these on previous form, while a recent prep-run at Newmarket should leave him bang-on as he goes in search of a third consecutive Stayers’ Million.
Nayef Road and Prince of Arran, both of whom ran well on their respective comebacks at Newcastle, could attract each-way attention, with the foremost of the pair unexposed over the extreme 2m 4f distance.
Day 4 – Commonwealth Cup – 15:35
The Commonwealth Cup has only been a part of the Royal Ascot programme for the last three years, producing two successful favourites and three winners at a price of 8/1 or greater.
This year’s renewal is equally as interesting, with Pierre Lapin and Earthlight heading the market. Both remain unbeaten, although the latter does boast more experience with back-to-back Group 1 successes to his name.
They set the standard, but with a high-quality field including runaway York winner Mums Tipple back at his optimum trip, and 2019 Queen Mary runner-up Kimari for Wesley Ward, it should be an intriguing battle.
The impressive Wooded, who sauntered to victory over a reduced 6f on reappearance at Chantilly, also makes for an interesting contender as he comes to Britain for the first time in the hands Francis-Henri Graffard.
Day 5 – St James’s Palace – 15:00
It’s been little over a week since the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and already the second and third from that day will do battle once more, with Wichita and Pinatubo set to reoppose each other here.
Aidan O’Brien’s charge narrowly missed out on the main prize but did manage to hold off Charlie Appleby’s hopeful, who lost his unbeaten record on the Rowley Mile after an astonishing two-year-old season.
Now the question is whether he has the capability to bounce back at Ascot, or can Wichita confirm his superiority and give the Master of Ballydoyle a record ninth win in the St James’s Palace?
Palace Pier, who looked mightily impressive for John Gosden on reappearance up at Newcastle and Threat, who performed will for Richard Hannon last season, will also hope to have a say at the winning post.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication