After the masterclass provided by Frankel (by Galileo) in the Queen Anne Stakes, widely regarded as the best performance ever by a thoroughbred, one might be tempted to think the rest of the 2012 Royal Ascot meeting will come as an anticlimax. More so as Cirrus des Aigles (by Even Top) misses his engagement today in favour of a tilt in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud this coming weekend. Actually, for fans of the horses, the remaining three days have plenty to offer, not least the famed Ascot Gold Cup on Thursday followed on Saturday by the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
For those who regard this merely as a social occasion, there may be something in the complaint that Royal Ascot has been "reduced to a tawdry annual spectacle of questionable taste, conspicuous consumption and quite extraordinary excess". Apparently, according to The Daily Mail "an authentic view of shallow, celebrity-obsessed, uncouth, inebriated and boorish Britain will be on full gruesome and garish show". Whew! Who knew? Actually, this cannot be the whole story, as The Queen has been present – as indeed on every single day at Royal Ascot since 1945, according to a report – and a classier monarch we have never seen.
Thursday's 3:05 race, the Ribblesdale Stakes (12 fur.), sees several participants from the Investec Oaks, run earlier this month, facing off once again. The betting market feels that The Fugue (by Dansili), third in that classic, will overcome the half-length deficit and turn the tables on Oaks runner-up Shirocco Star (by Shirocco). There is also a lot of support for Vow (by Motivator), another emerging from an on-the-board finish at Epsom – she has an additional length to make up. Kailani (by Monsun) ran an uncharacteristically poor race in the Oaks and deserves another chance. Shirocco Star appeals as an "each-way" prospect.
One has to commend the connections of Fame And Glory (by Montjeu) for forsaking commercial considerations and moulding their six-year-old into a stayer. Ill-founded prejudice against long-distance horses is damaging the thoroughbred breed and any move which claws back some esteem for the stamina-oriented brigade is to be appreciated. After all, did not great racehorses like Bayardo, Gainsborough, Isonomy and Touchstone score in this race and go on to become leading sires?
Fame And Glory has morphed from a mile-and-a-half horse, which he was when annexing the 2009 Irish Derby and the 2010 Coronation Cup, into a true stayer – he won the Ascot Gold Cup (20 fur.) last year and bids to join the likes of Ardross, Le Moss, Sagaro and Yeats as a multiple winner of the race, the 2012 renewal of which is worth almost £200,000 (Rs.1.76 crores) to the winner this year. Although the entire hails from the yard of Aidan O'Brien, whose current # 1 jockey is his son, Joseph, it won’t be the rising 19-year-old in the saddle. Instead, due to the composition of the ownership group, Jamie Spencer gets the call to continue his association with Fame And Glory in the 3:45.
He won't necessarily have it easy. Opposing him in the line-up is a formidable trio: the other Irish challenger, Saddler's Rock (by Sadler's Wells), with Johnny Murtagh doing duty for trainer John Oxx, and Godolphin's pair, Colour Vision (by Rainbow Quest), with Frankie Dettori up, and Opinion Poll (by Halling), with Mikael Barzalona up. These days it is hard to tell which is Godolphin's first choice and in any case the team is striking at a mere 13% in Britain this term (vs. 36% for Aidan O'Brien in the same country – the master of Ballydoyle is firing at the more modest rate of 16% at home in Ireland). However, Opinion Poll, winner of the Dubai Gold Cup, is a good prospect for place.
Friday's 3:05 event, the King Edward VII Stakes (12 fur.), sometimes called the "Ascot Derby", provides an opportunity for Astrology (by Galileo) to earn the glory he was denied at Epsom where the focus was on his top-class stablemate, Camelot (by Montjeu). Nevertheless the game colt ran a blinder, just being pipped for second by Main Sequence on that occasion. He ought to hold off Thought Worthy (by Dynaformer), as he had done at Epsom, while Imperial Monarch (by Galileo), if he runs, and the progressive Juddmonte pair of Model Pupil (by Sinndar) and Frankel's full-brother, Noble Mission (by Galileo), might make the finish interesting.
Forty minutes later, it is the turn of three-year-old filly milers to take centre-stage in the Coronation Stakes (8 fur.). At the time of writing, the 20 acceptors include half a dozen from Ballydoyle, all of which will not run. Qipco 1000 Guineas victress Homecoming Queen (by Holy Roman Emperor) might try and restore her reputation, slightly tarnished by her failure in the Irish equivalent, as might Maybe (by Galileo) who has yet to show 2012 form at a level comparable with that she displayed last year.
Not seen in public since her two-year-old days, Elusive Kate (by Elusive Quality) will try and get her sophomore campaign off on a winning note under the orchestration of Olivier Peslier, while the much-improved Laugh Out Loud (by Clodovil) will be making her seventh start of the year, this time with Frankie Dettori up. Also in the reckoning are the Etihad Airways Irish 1000 Guineas heroine, Samitar (by Rock Of Gibraltar) and the unbeaten Sentaril (by Danehill Dancer).
Saturday, the concluding afternoon of the meet, finds about a dozen of the best older middle distance runners squaring off at 3:05 in the Hardwicke Stakes (12 fur.). Juddmonte's Sea Moon (by Beat Hollow) is in fine fettle and is the most likely of all Sir Michael Stoute's carnival runners to get him back on the roll call of winning trainers at Royal Ascot. Amongst others, the four-year-old faces Ladbrokes St. Leger winner Masked Marvel (by Montjeu), Emirates Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden (by Nicobar) and the exciting Aiken (by Selkirk), who brings a skein of six consecutive wins into the shake-up
Without a doubt, Australia's pride and joy Black Caviar (by Bel Esprit) will be the cynosure of all eyes at 3:45 on Saturday when she steps on to a foreign racecourse for the first time. It would be absurd to oppose her in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (6 fur.), even though this is her maiden appearance outside her native land, where her record stands at 21-from-21. Amongst those aiming to reiterate that nothing is "over till the fat lady sings" (presumably a reference to the buxom Brünnhilde's aria at the conclusion of Wagner's Götterdämmerung) is Freddie Head, who sends over Moonlight Cloud (by Invincible Spirit) from France. Some of the beaten brigade from Tuesday's King's Stand Stakes may also return at short notice – Bated Breath (by Dansili), Wizz Kid (by Whipper) and Ortensia (by Testa Rossa) being possibles – while the Bahrain-trained Krypton Factor (by Kyllachy) adds a touch of Eastern mystique.