AFTER a year of no crowds followed by reduced numbers last year and fewer international travellers for the past two years, Royal Ascot throws out the carpet this week and welcomes a larger number than ever before to the royal meeting with Group 1 runners coming from America, Australia and Japan.
The Group 1 King’s Stand at 3.40pm on Tuesday is simply heaven for fans of international competition with the fastest horses from the US and Australia taking on the best sprinters in Britain and Ireland.
WESLEY Ward is now a regular at the royal meeting and is confident his American speedball Golden Pal will show British racegoers his true colours in the King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday.
Golden Pal is no stranger to European racegoers having run at Royal Ascot once before and in the Nunthorpe last year.
There is a case for making the four-year-old the best sprinter in the world judged on his two stunning victories at the Breeders’ Cup, but he has yet to produce that sort of form in Britain.
He was mowed down late by The Lir Jet on his first visit to Royal Ascot in the 2020 Norfolk Stakes, while having missed the showpiece meeting last season, he disappointed in the Nunthorpe at York. Golden Pal is unbeaten in three starts on home turf since.
Ward said: “I’m so excited for this horse I can’t even tell you. He’s the best I’ve ever brought to Ascot in all these years, and I’ve brought some good ones, but this guy is the fastest of the fast.
“He’s really matured from last year to this year mentally and physically he’s gotten bigger and stronger, as any horse would from three to four, but he’s just a pure athlete and this is his year.”
Golden Pal is one of a small but select team of five horses Ward sent this year as he bids to add to his 12 previous Royal Ascot victories. Last year’s eventual King’s Stand winner Campanelle runs in the Platinum Jubilee, with two-year-olds Love Reigns (Queen Mary) and Seismic Spirit (Windsor Castle) backed up by Ruthin (Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes).
When asked what he felt his best chance of a winner was, Ward is in no doubt. He said: “I don’t think I have to answer that one. Golden Pal is the best I’ve ever had, that’s for sure, and he’s coming into the race just like you’d like to see.”
Graham Motion sends his unbeaten three-year-old filly Spendarella to a high-class renewal of the Coronation Stakes which may feature the winners of the British, Irish and French 1000 Guineas along with the 2021 top two-year-old filly, Inspiral.
Speaking on the Nick Luck podcast earlier in the week, Motion gave an upbeat report on his filly, describing her as “very classy and untested” and she will be the mount of William Buick. Motion sent Sharing to be second to Alpine Star in the race in 2020.
The US challenge is backed up by Christophe Clement’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf winner, Pizza Bianca, though she was beaten in her Aqueduct reappearance in April.
Colin Keane has picked up the ride in the Coventry Stakes for Kentucky trainer George “Rusty” Arnold on the Munnings colt Late September, a Churchill Downs maiden winner, and Grand Oak in the Queen Mary. The US challenge is completed by the sprinter Slipstream in the Commonwealth Cup.
LAST year’s Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winner Shahryar is the big attraction in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday.
The four-year-old Deep Impact colt has only seven runs to his name, he just got the verdict by a nose over Efforia in that race last May and the second went on to boost the form with two Group 1 wins in the Tenno Sho and Arima Kinen, beating all the best horses at home.
Shahryar improved on his third in the Japan Cup behind Contrail to beat Yibir in the Dubai Sheema Classic in Meydan. Japan’s second contender is Grenadier Guards in the Platinum Jubilee on Saturday as they look to build on their Breeders’ Cup successes last season. It will be fascinating to see how Shahrayr measures up against Bay Bridge and State Of Rest.
IT was the Australians who first made Royal Ascot a truly international meeting of the highest order when Choisir came and took the two big sprint back in 2003.
He was followed by the hugely popular Takeover Target who won the King’s Stand in 2006 and ran in six times in the big sprints before the brilliant Black Caviar came and conquered the Diamond Jubilee back in 2012.
Their top sprinter Nature Trail has captured all the big prizes in his home country and now tries for the King’s Stand on Tuesday.
He travelled with a stable companion, the Coolmore-owned, dual Group 1 winner Home Affairs who short-headed Nature Strip in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes back in April and hopes to follow the path successfully taken by his connections with Merchant Navy in 2018.
Speaking on the Nick Luck podcast earlier in the week, Australian racing expert Jason Richardson said: “If Nature Strip produces 90% of his best, he will absolutely hose up.”
Arriving in Britain, trainer Chris Waller looked pleased with the condition of his two runners on twitter footage from their training base on Wednesday. There were also rumour that Jamie Kah might team up with Nature Strip if he backs up in the Platinum Jubilee on Saturday.
Richardson also reminded listeners not to disrespect the Anthony & Sam Freedman-trained Artorius in the Platinum Jubilee. A Group 1 winner last year as a two-year-old, the China Horse Club-owned-colt has not won since and has raced up to a mile. “You will hear a lot about the two big guns, if there is speed on, watch his last 400 metres, no horse will run a faster last 400 than him, if he is right, he will absolutely fly,” the Aussie said.