Royal Ascot 2020 was a year to remember, as well as one to forget. With a spectator-less royal meeting a thing of the past, racing fans around the world as well as 12,000 on-site patrons gear up for 5 days of world class racing. Day 1 features a steady flow of Group 1 action, including the return to Ascot for top miler Palace Pier and star sprinter Battaash. The US will be represented early at the royal meeting with the likes of Wesley Ward’s speedy two year old, Kaufymaker, ridden by John Velazquez, as well as the ultra consistent Extravagant Kid for Brendan Walsh. It will be a Royal Ascot for the ages, so let’s dive right in.
Race 1: GI Queen Anne Stakes – 1 Mile, 4 & Up
6 – Palace Pier – With his only loss coming over the super soft ground on British Champions Day at Ascot, he will be the heavy favorite to open up the Royal Meeting. A deserving favorite, however he hasn’t beat the highest class fields in his first few starts this season and has limited experience on a firm surface.
8 – Prince Eiji – Valiant in defeat in the Queen Anne Trial at the same course and distance, with race winner Oh This Is Us coming back to score in group stakes company on Derby Day at Epsom. If the ground comes up on the firmer side, he is a serious contender.
3 – Lope Y Fernández – If Lope Y Fernández from the US or France shows up, he is up for the challenge. However most of his efforts on either side of the Irish Sea leave a lot to be desired. Impressive but with little opposition in listed company at Leopardstown. A firmer surface will benefit him greatly in this spot.
Sit and Wait: 5 – Order Of Australia – The Breeders’ Cup Mile winner had a long 2020 campaign and the trip to Hong Kong may have been too much for him. At his best he can compete with this field but I think he’s still a long way from his best. A few starts into the season we will see if he was a one hit wonder or if he is for real.
Race 2: GII Coventry Stakes – 6 Furlongs, 2 Year Olds
10 – Masseto – Stayed on extremely well at The Curragh LTO splitting through horses in only his 2nd career start. If he continues to progress at all in his 3rd outing he will be tough to beat.
12 – The Acropolis – 3rd start for the lone runner for Aidan O’Brien in the Coventry, a race he has won 9 times, most recently in 2019 with Arizona. He handled himself well 2nd up at Listowel and is out a mare placed in the GII Queen Mary at Ascot in her lone stakes effort.
1 – Angel Bleu – Improving son of Dark Angel who continues to prove his prowess as a top sire of sprinters. Relished the extra furlong LTO at Pontefract in a competitive class 2 conditions contest.
Race 3: GI King’s Stand Stakes – 5 Furlongs, 3 & Up
15 – Ubettabelieveit – Gets back to his preferred distance and the Prix Sigy in France is a throwout. Displayed his ability at the Breeders’ Cup in November and 2nd up should show a much more improved effort in 2021.
3 – Extravagant Kid – He has been a model of consistency throughout his career and showed the ability to get the job done in the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan. If the ground suits, the 8 year old gelding could take an even bigger step forward.
2 – Battaash – The age old question, will we see the same Battaash again this year? If the 2020 Battaash shows up he could very well be in a race of his own. He faces a competitive field this year, as well as a crowd of 12,000 people in the stands. He is coming off of an injury and has always had his share of Issues with the crowd. That may be a thing of the past for Battaash, but I would watch him in the post parade before making any assumptions.
Race 4: GI St James’s Palace Stakes – 1 Mile, 3 YO Colts
8 – Mostahdaf – 3 for 3 after not racing at 2. Impressive win over Godolphin’s Highland Avenue in the Heron Stakes at Sandown. By the champion Frankel out of the mare Handassa, a winner in listed company at a mile and who produced multiple Group One winning miler, Nazeef. This horse will continue to get better with every start.
12 – Thunder Moon – both he and Wembley have had disappointing starts to their 3 year old campaigns, especially as the runner-up to now duel french classic winner St. Mark’s Basilica in the Dewhurst last October. Both are set to improve and get back to their top form, however I see the conditions suiting Thunder Moon much more in this spot.
1 – Battleground – The high hopes for the royally bred son of War Front will not be tampered by his lackluster placing in the Guineas. Expectations are still high for the son of the great mare Found and getting back to Royal Ascot, where he took out the Chesham Stakes last year will only play to his benefit.
Race 5: Ascot Stakes (Handicap) – 2 1/2 Miles, 4 & Up
11 – Lostwithiel – This son of Camelot has stayed on well in back to back handicap contests. Has done little wrong in his short career. Choosing to go to the Ascot Stakes over the Copper Horse Stakes, should be the right spot for the red hot George Boughey.
12 – Untold Story – Big jump from several good performances at a mile and three quarters, however breeding suggests that jump in distance could be a non issue. We continue to see the progeny of Teofilo produce in long distance handicaps such as the Melbourne Cup, won’t be surprised to see this fresh four year old bolt up in this spot.
15 – Postelio – The son of Galileo has shown good efforts recently at class 2 company. Will need to get the distance, ground was not suitable for him in his last few starts, should improve going forward.
Race 6: Wolferton Stakes – 1 1/4 Miles, 4 & Up
9 – Felix – Was a big fan of this horse during the All-Weather season and he backed up that form in a big way on the turf at Meydan. Following a late closing third behind Prince of Wales’s favorite Lord North in the Dubai Turf, he gets back to listed company and to his preferred distance. Should be a major player in this spot.
4 – Solid Stone – Scored his first stakes triumph as the only horse taking the inside path at Windsor back in May. That win was at a mile, but he has form in handicap company that proves the mile and a quarter won’t be an issue.
13 – Patrick Sarsfield – Stayed on well LTO and got nailed on the line in the Orby Stakes at The Curragh. Should come into the race as the horse to beat based on several top class efforts last season, including a close 2nd on Arc Day to recent Group One winner, Skalleti.
Race 7: Copper Horse Stakes (Handicap) – 1 3/4 Miles, 4 & Up
1 – On To Victory – 2nd start on the flat after several good efforts over hurdles. Game effort in the Tapster Stakes LTO and now extends closer to his hurdle distances. The mile and three quarters will suit and Tom Marquand taking the ride is a plus.
2 – Saldier – Competed at the top level during the jumps season and showed a strong effort in an amateur event at Listowel on the flat. Soft ground didn’t suit this one during the hurdle season, firm going on the flat could be just what he needs for a big effort.
11 – Hochfeld – Consistent efforts in class 2 handicap company over the spring. Has a win over this distance at Nottingham on firm ground, conditions should suit. Breeding suggests the distance should be right up his alley.