John Gosden and Frankie Dettori were off to an explosive start to the Royal meeting with a day one treble and it's short odds they'll keep up the momentum on the second day.
They have the favourite, Chelsea Cloisters, in the first race, the G2 Queen Mary Stakes, and the fancied Stream Of Stars in the second, the G2 Queen's Vase, but it is their three-time G1 winner Cracksman who takes centre stage when he lines up for the day two highlight, the £425,325 G1 Prince of Wales's Stakes.
Despite a glittering seven-horse field featuring multiple G1 winners, Cracksman, the highest-rated horse in Europe, is expected to start odds-on for this afternoon's contest, which is a 'Win and You're In' qualifier for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs in November.
Victory will be a second G1 of the week for his sire, Frankel, whose son Without Parole won the St James's Palace Stakes for Gosden and Dettori on day one. Without Parole is owned and bred by John Gunther and daughter Tanya, who bred American Triple Crown winner Justify at Glennwood Farm in Kentucky.
John Gunther said at Ascot after the race: "It is a dream come true. In all the 20 years I have been coming to Royal Ascot, my dream was just to have a horse run at Royal Ascot. Then we start in a Group 1 and do it; I don't know what to say.
"This does mean more [than breeding Justify] and always will. This was the most important and means everything to me. To be able to mate the mare [Without You Babe] to Frankel and Juddmonte giving me that nomination even though the mare was unproven. To go through all that and then watch Without Parole being raised as a yearling was so special.
"The mare had not proven herself but, after we bred her to Frankel, she got her G1 winner [Tamarkuz] and proved herself. Juddmonte allowing me to bred that mare to Frankel meant everything, believe me, because I love Frankel so much.
"John Gosden and Frankie. What a team! They are unbelievable."
Cracksman posted a career best performance in the G1 Champion Stakes at Ascot last October, when he obliterated rivals by seven lengths. He is yet to hit such rating heights in his two outings this term – a perfunctory victory in the G1 Prix Ganay at the end of April and an admirable, gutsy triumph the G1 Coronation Cup at Epsom at the start of this month.
Gosden was bullish about his stable-star’s chances at the royal meeting when speaking with Racing UK, citing the horse’s dislike for the undulations of Epsom along with his perception that Cracksman is “the type of horse who'll do better later in the year” as reasons for optimism.
“He is fine," said the Newmarket handler. “It was a bit of a muddle at Epsom, but he got the job done. He seems happy at the moment. He has breezed since Epsom and Frankie [Dettori] has ridden him. He is pleased with the horse going into the race. The ground rode very soft on Champions Day and this is a different ball game. This is summer racing on fast summer ground, so it is a different ball game.”
Cracksman will once again be partnered by the evergreen Dettori, the 47-year old was forced to call upon his wealth of experience to prevail when driving the Anthony Oppenheimer homebred to the post to beat outsider Salouen in the Coronation Cup by the merest of margins.
Dettori, who has forced to miss riding at Royal Ascot 2017 because of a shoulder injury sustained just before the fixture, has a book of rides that is the envy of the weighing room and the Italian expects Cracksman to add to his Royal Ascot triumphs, which currently stands at 59.
"It's obvious to everyone he doesn't like the hills at Epsom," said Dettori. "I hope that the beast turns up, like [at] the Champion Stakes, and we'll have some fun."
Derby-winning trainer Charlie Appleby saddles Hawkbill, who was a fine winner of the 2016 Coral-Eclipse but finished well behind Cracksman at Epsom earlier in the month. Although Appleby was “slightly disappointed” by the 5-year old’s abject performance, he said that the improving ground should have the desired effect.
Another horse who will enjoy the quicker going, which was upgraded to good to firm after Tuesday’s opening race, is Martyn Meade’s popular 4-year old Eminent, owned by renowned New Zealand breeder Sir Peter Vela.
“I think he’s better on fast ground, so I think the ground will suit him, it was quick in France when he won and [it was] in the Craven,” said Meade.
Cliffs Of Moher is Aidan O’Brien’s sole entry. While the colt has not been as progressive as connections had hoped, there was not much between him and Cracksman in the Investec Derby last year.
The Prince of Wales Stakes is, for the first time in its short history, included in the Breeders’ Cup challenge series. The winner will receive an automatic berth in $4 million Longines Turf, $100,000 in entry fees paid, a $10,000 Nominator award and and a travel allowance of $40,000 for an international winner or $10,000 should the victor come from America.