As the UK’s most lucrative racing meeting, with a total kitty of a cool £6.5 million up for grabs, it’s perhaps no wonder that horses are driven, shipped and flown to Berkshire for Royal Ascot each year.
There’s a blue-blooded connection here as the name suggests, and once again Queen Elizabeth is expected to attend. Putting on a good show is a prerequisite then.
There are eighteen races across five races, and nine of those have been awarded Group One status, so needless to say the very finest sprinters and stayers will be in town from June20-24.
All will be looking to emulate the heroics of the legendary Frankel, one of the most decorated horses in Ascot history, and Yeats; the incredible steed who won the Gold Cup four years in a row.
As for punters and tipsters, like any multi-day festival there is an opportunity to accumulate some handsome profits; and lose them almost immediately.
Let’s hope that doesn’t happen though as we take a look through each day of Royal Ascot, and pick out a few key runners to keep an eye on.
A Royal Seal of Approval
Proceedings kick off on Tuesday June 20 with a cracking card that features a trio of Group One contests.
The royal connection starts with the Queen Anne Stakes, and the festival’s first odds-on favourite – Ribchester – will be hoping to strike a blow for punters early on. He returned to form with a bang at the end of May with victory in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, and at around the 4/5 mark will be hoping that the bookies take a battering very early on in the meeting.
Blink and you’ll miss the Kings Stand Stakes; the first leg of the British Sprint Challenge. Lady Aurelia and Marsha will vie for favouritism in the market and a firm case can be made for either.
Declarations are yet to be confirmed for the St James Palace Stakes, but Churchill – the outstanding 2000 Guineas winner – looks certain to start. He would be one of the shortest-priced favourites of the whole festival.
Calm Before the Storm
Wednesday is a sort of cool down day at Royal Ascot. You have to start one of the biggest flat racing festivals on the planet with a bang, and ahead of a high-octane weekend this is a much-needed lull.
But that’s not to say it is a day for punters to swerve completely. The Prince of Wales Stakes is one of the most prestigious renewals of the whole week, and the 2017 edition looks set to do that status justice.
Jack Hobbs, Ulysses, Highland Reel….this is a racecard packed with quality. The former hasn’t won on UK soil since 2015, while Ulysses flies into the festival on the back of an impressive triumph in the Gordon Richards Stakes. Expect most money to go on Sir Michael Stoute’s steed.
By George: It’s the Gold Cup
Thursday offers a packed card too, but really all attention is on the flagship race of the meeting: the Ascot Gold Cup.
Some of the most famous stayers in the business are former Gold Cup champions, and the riches on offer for winning owners ensures a star-studded renewal each year.
Unusually, there is a standout favourite in 2017. Order of St George will go off at an odds-on price – as he did 12 months ago in winning this race by three lengths from Mizzou.
If we have rain between now and race day and conditions soften, the Aiden O’Brien powerhouse will be worth every penny at the bookies.
There’s a pair of crackers to enjoy on Friday, with two races that celebrate the United Kingdom’s heritage.
The Coronation Stakes was supposed to be Rhododendron’s for the taking, but after he was humbled by six lengths in the Oaks it is his conqueror in the 1000 Guineas, Winter, who has become a firm favourite with the sportsbooks.
The Commonwealth Cup is another renewal that will ensure a packed crowd on Friday. The favourite, Caravaggio, caught the eye at last year’s festival with a spectacular victory in the Coventry Stakes, but the three-year-old does seem to favour softer ground.
If the sunshine keeps his metaphorical hat on for the next few days, perhaps Harry Angel – a firm ground specialist – will rise to prominence.
The fat lady is clearing her throat ahead of Saturday’s curtain call at the festival, but what a way to end the perfect week of flat racing.
The Diamond Jubilee Stakes is the second leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, and as such it is one that all trainers want to win.
With the field all priced at 5/1 or greater in the ante post market, you get a flavour of just how competitive this 2017 renewal is going to be.
Limato is the bookies favourite but has finished sixth and tenth in his last pair of starts, hence the pondering odds-making. So how about Tasleet, the surprise winner of the Group 2 Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes, who bested the fancied Tin Man by some six lengths. At 10/1, you’ll get a fantastic run for your money.