June Highlights

Tuesday 20 June

Royal Ascot (20-24)

Royal Ascot, with its history and tradition, is one of the true highlights of the global racing calendar.

The meeting sets out to start with a bang as three Group One events kick off the action, starting with the Queen Anne Stakes for older horses over 1600m, before it’s later the turn of the King’s Stand Stakes over 1000m, and the St James’s Palace Stakes over 1600m for three-year-olds. International runners are this year set to be represented in all three contests, along with the Coventry Stakes, a Group Two contest for two-year-olds over 1200m.

Last year the amazing American mare Tepin defied every disadvantage to land an inspiring victory in the first of those contests and her success has helped to encourage a number of other international raiders to throw their hat into the ring for this year’s meeting.

 On Wednesday, the main event is the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes over 2000m with an appealing £750,000 up for grabs. Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor won the prize four times in five years at the turn of the century and would surely love to have another contender this time around. However, should Aidan O’Brien’s team elect to send star filly Minding into action, she looks sure to take some beating in a contest in which stablemate Found was just edged out by My Dream Boat 12 months ago.

Among the supporting action is the 1000m Queen Mary Stakes for juvenile fillies which produced arguably the performance of the whole meeting last year when American raider Lady Aurelia simply blew her rivals aside under Frankie Dettori.

 Stamina is the required asset in Thursday’s feature on Ladies Day, the Gold Cup over 4000m. First run in 1807, the marathon event has witnessed some fantastic finishes over the years and the 2013 renewal saw Estimate win the race for The Queen amidst euphoric scenes. The race’s unique demands have tended to lend themselves to multiple winners – Sagaro’s three wins in the 1970s saw him set a record – but none has etched themselves into the race’s history quite like Yeats. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, the son of Sadler’s Wells proved himself a true giant of the staying ranks, winning the race for four successive years between 2006 and 2009 and O’Brien has already won it thrice more since. His Order of St George is again a leading player this year, having scored easily in last year’s contest.

Since its introduction in 2014, the Group One Commonwealth Cup, Friday’s highlight as a 1200m event for three-year-olds, has proved a smash hit and this year’s renewal is hotly anticipated with an old-school Ballydoyle v Godolphin clash on the cards as the O’Brien-trained Caravaggio takes on Charlie Appleby’s Blue Point.

The second Group One on the afternoon is the Coronation Stakes, a 1600m race for three-year-old fillies, which often sees a clash between the principals from the QIPCO 1000 Guineas and the French and Irish equivalents.

 It wasn’t that long ago that Royal Ascot was a four-day meeting with the Saturday known as Ascot Heath day, but the five-day Royal meeting was born in 2002 and its highlight is now the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, one of the best sprint contests of the whole season. Henry Candy’s Limato, winner of the July Cup last season, looks a very obvious contender as long as he can avoid the rain-softened conditions that clearly reduce his effectiveness. French-trained Signs Of Blessing, who ran such a fine race here 12 months ago, is another leading player.