Click above to watch Aidan O’Brien discussing his runners for Royal Ascot 2011
(Image and Footage : At The Races UK)
Tuesday 14th to Saturday 18th June 2011
There are few sporting venues that can match the rich heritage and history of Ascot Racecourse. For almost 250 years, Royal Ascot has established itself as a national institution and the centrepiece of the British social calendar as well as being the ultimate stage for the best racehorses in the world.
Tradition, pageantry, fashion and style all meet in a glorious setting at one of the most beautiful racecourses in the country. The quality of the horseracing at Royal Ascot is simply outstanding, with nearly £4million in prize money on offer and a total of eighteen ‘Group’ races over the five days.
With the country still reeling from a dramatic Epsom Derby, where Carlton House (Street Cry) went so near to providing a victory in the Queen’s silks, it will be a case of the famous British stiff upper lip for the royalists this week as the action switches to the hallowed Berkshire site.
Now in its Tercentenary year, which is celebrated by the re-naming of Thursday’s upgraded Hampton Court Stakes, the fixture continues to dominate the summer of the international season.
There is no commanding equine presence running for the monarch over the next five days, but if the Derby was all about the Queen, this illustrious week in the racing calendar is all about Henry Cecil. Or Sir Henry, as he is now to be addressed after the monarch finally announced the bestowal of the award the British public yearned for.
Fittingly, the icon from Warren Place fills centre stage on day one with the meeting’s most important turn Frankel (Galileo), who looks to take his stable’s tally here to 73. This freakish product of Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte breeding operation won by 10 lengths over this track and trip in the G2 Royal Lodge Stakes in September, where a certain Treasure Beach (Galileo) was made to look ordinary prior to his close second in Epsom’s blue riband.
Cecil is aware of the public expectation surrounding his colt and, despite feeling the nerves, is happy to be in the position of handling the colt at the eye of the storm. “He’s obviously a very good and exciting horse, and I’d love him to continue being a champion, because it’s so good for racing,” Cecil said. “Racing needs a Sea The Stars, a Mill Reef, or an Arkle over jumps - it lifts the whole industry up and people who are not really involved in racing catch on and show an interest. When you have a horse of this caliber, it’s a case of keeping him right and dreading something happening every day, but he’s a lovely horse to train and, so far, everything is going well. I just hope he continues doing what he has been doing. There is no such thing as a certainty, and we’ll do our best.
Sticking to the royal theme, racing’s own queen Goldikova (Anabaa) follows the traditional procession with her own version in the curtain-raising G1 Queen Anne Stakes.
Bidding to become the first dual winner of this race in over 100 years, Gerard and Alain Wertheimer’s 6-year-old shows no sign of stopping if her 13th Group 1 win in Longchamp’s Prix d’Ispahan is anything to go by. Whether she can master Canford Cliffs (Tagula), the colt that Richard Hannon claims is the best he has trained and who faces his biggest test since being acquired by Coolmore, remains to be seen.
While there will be inevitable disappointment if Goldikova is dethroned, few would harbor any resentment for Hannon, whose tenure in the British training ranks has also seen him taken to the hearts of the public.
ROYAL ASCOT 2011
Tuesday 14th June
The opening day of what is sure to be a spectacular Royal Meeting gets off to a flying start with three Group 1 races (i.e. the very best in the world); the Queen Anne Stakes, the King’s Stand Stakes - the first British leg of the Global Sprint Challenge – and the St James’s Palace Stakes.
As the first day of Royal Ascot, the fashion stakes are high but the atmosphere is relaxed which allows racegoers the chance to enjoy a glass of Champagne between races or explore the racecourse at their leisure.
The highlight of the second day is the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes, arguably the most important race at the Royal Meeting in the modern era with £400,000 prize money on offer.
Also on the card are the Group 2 Windsor Forest Stakes, for older female milers and the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes, for the best up and coming two year old fillies (females).
Wednesday is perfect for groups of friends to enjoy the Royal Ascot experience at a slightly more gentle pace.
Thursday’s highlight is the Group 1 Gold Cup, a battle of stamina and determination over two miles and four furlongs - this undisputed long distance world championship is not for the faint hearted!
Style, elegance and the height of the summer social calendar all combine on Gold Cup Day, colloquially known as ‘Ladies’ Day’. Although the whole week of Royal Ascot is a fashion show like no other, it is Thursday when the designer creations and millinery masterpieces reach new heights.
To commemorate 300 years of racing, the Hampton Court Stakes has been renamed the Tercentenary Stakes.
Friday 17th June
The feature race on Friday is the Coronation Stakes, which traditionally brings together the leading three-year-old fillies in Europe.
Also on the card is the King Edward VII Stakes, colloquially called the Ascot Derby, as its conditions mirror those of the Epsom Classic.
This is the perfect way to start the weekend with friends and work colleagues.
Saturday 18th June
The final day of the Royal Meeting always provides a dramatic climax and features one of the world’s most important and international races, the Golden Jubilee Stakes, - the second British leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.
Saturday is a relatively new addition to the Royal Meeting, having been introduced as recently as 2002. Although the fashions are as elaborate as they are during the week, there is a pronounced, relaxed family feel as many people who are unable to attend until the weekend come to enjoy the experience of the greatest race meeting in the world.
Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News and Royal Ascot