U.S. set for a strong Royal Ascot challenge as Casse, Mott, Pletcher and Ward all make entries

Historic victory: Tepin (right) winning the G1 Queen Anne Stakes on the opening day at Royal Ascot in 2016. Photo: ascot.co.uk

There’s certainly no occasion in Britain to touch it when it comes to the number of TRC Global Ranking points up for grabs. Indeed possibly Royal Ascot’s only rival worldwide on that score is the Breeders’ Cup. So there’s inevitable excitement when the entries for the biggest races are unveiled - as they were today for the meeting’s eight Group 1s

Although there are no entries from Australia this time (for the first time in 14 years) there is the very real prospect of a particularly strong challenge from the United States.

Royal Ascot takes place from Tuesday, June 20, through to Saturday, June 24. All eight Group 1s are part of the QIPCO British Champions Series, with the King’s Stand Stakes and Diamond Jubilee Stakes also involved in the Global Sprint Challenge.

Queen Anne Stakes

One mile straight, Tuesday, June 20 (2.30pm) - 33 entries (4yo+) (£600,000)

The entries include leading European lights Minding (Aidan O’Brien Ireland), who capped a superb 2016 by taking the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes sponsored by QIPCO at Ascot on QIPCO British Champions Day in October, and last year’s QIPCO 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes hero Galileo Gold (Hugo Palmer).

An American challenge could come from 4-year-old War Front colt American Patriot (Todd Pletcher), who put up a career-best effort last time out when winning the G1 Maker’s 46 Mile on turf at Keeneland on April 14, and three-time G1 scorer Miss Temple City (Graham Motion), who may line up at her third Royal Ascot following fourth in the G1 Coronation Stakes in 2015 and the same finishing position in last year’s G2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes. The 5-year-old mare was last seen out when taking the G1 Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar in December, while she won the G1 Maker’s 46 Mile in 2016.

King’s Stand Stakes

Five furlongs, Tuesday, June 20 (3.40pm) - 53 entries (3yo+) (£400,000)

The entries include the last two winners - 2016 scorer Profitable (Clive Cox) and Goldream (Robert Cowell), who was successful in 2015.

There are three possible U.S. starters, headed by the 3-year-old Scat Daddy filly Lady Aurelia (Wesley Ward), who triumphed by a breathtaking seven lengths in the G2 Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot last year before annexing the G1 Prix Morny at Deauville in France.

She returned to action at Keeneland on April 15 with an impressive success in the listed Giant’s Causeway Stakes over five and a half furlongs.

Ward reported: “Lady Aurelia is doing fantastic. She had a real good rest after her unfortunate defeat at Newmarket at the end of last season and ran a very exciting comeback race at Keeneland. I am excited to get back over to Royal Ascot with her.

“We are leaning towards the King’s Stand Stakes (Lady Aurelia also has a Commonwealth Cup entry), as she is most effective at five furlongs. She ran lights out the other day in her race at Keeneland.

“I also have the colt Bound For Nowhere, who is nominated for the Commonwealth Cup. He is undefeated and I am excited about him.

“The 2-year-olds are also looking good. We have had a couple of winners and we are heading in the right direction.

“We also had a really, really nice comeback with Undrafted [the 2015 G1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes winner, who won an allowance race at Keeneland on April 21] and we could look at trying to get him into the Wokingham [Handicap] this year. He is a 7-year-old now but his comeback win at Keeneland was good and the Wokingham could be a possibility for him.”

Ward has saddled seven winners at Royal Ascot since Strike The Tiger got the ball rolling in the 2009 Windsor Castle Stakes.

Reflecting on his success, Ward said: “Royal Ascot has been so kind to me. It is a point in the calendar that I aim at every year and have been lucky enough to have had some success. Everyone in Britain has always been so kind to us.

“My son was a little tiny guy when we first came over and is heading into the University of Miami this year! He was a tiny guy with his top hat over his ears back in 2009 and is now going to college. It is great looking at all the photos of Royal Ascot we have and at how the timeline has developed.”  

Richard’s Boy (Peter Miller) and Why Two (Mike Machowsky) are the other possible starters from across the Atlantic. Richard’s Boy ran well in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint when fifth to The Right Man at Meydan on March 25, while Why Two defeated Richard’s Boy in the Green Flash Handicap at Del Mar last summer.

St James’s Palace Stakes

One mile round, Tuesday, June 20 (4.20pm) - 46 entries (3yo) (£400,000)

The picture for the race will be become clear after the QIPCO 2000 Guineas in Britain and its equivalent mile classics for 3-year-old colts in Ireland and France. The entries are headed by last season’s European champion 2-year-old, Churchill (Aidan O'Brien), successful in the listed Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2016, and his stablemate Caravaggio, who was undefeated in four starts last year including the G2 Coventry Stakes, also at Royal Ascot.

Prince of Wales’s Stakes

Ten furlongs, Wednesday, June 21 (4.20pm) - 41 entries  (4yo+) (£750,000)

This could see a brilliant clash between several of 2016’s G1-winning 3-year-olds, headed by French superstar Almanzor (Jean-Claude Rouget), who was successful in four G1s last year culminating in his decisive QIPCO Champion Stakes victory at Ascot in October, and Minding, plus Galileo Gold, Hawkbill (Charlie Appleby), Queen's Trust (Sir Michael Stoute) and Seventh Heaven (Aidan O'Brien).

With last year’s winner, My Dream Boat (Clive Cox), Dubai Sheema Classic victor Jack Hobbs (John Gosden) and globetrotting G1 superstar Highland Reel (Aidan O'Brien) also engaged, it looks a race to savour.

Gold Cup

Two and a half miles, Thursday, June 22 (4.20pm) - 48 entries (4yo+) (£400,000)

The 2016 Gold Cup winner Order Of St George (Aidan O'Brien) and top French stayer Vazirabad (Alain de Royer-Dupre) head the entries, which include the last two winners of the British St Leger, Harbour Law (Laura Mongan) and Simple Verse (Ralph Beckett).

Also engaged are Sheikhzayedroad (David Simcock) and Quest For More (Roger Charlton), who were first and second in the G2 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot in October.

Commonwealth Cup

Six furlongs, Friday, June 23 (3.40pm) - 60 entries (3yo) (£400,000)

Unbeaten Caravaggio (Aidan O'Brien), successful in last year’s G2 Coventry Stakes, heads the entries. Lady Aurelia, Bound For Nowhere and once-raced Saratoga scorer Berks County (Carlos Martin USA) are the three U.S.-trained entries.

Coronation Stakes

One Mile round, Friday, June 23 (4.20pm) - 50 entries (3yo fillies) (£400,000)

North American handler Mark Casse, who struck with star mare Tepin in last year’s Queen Anne, is eyeing another G1 Royal Ascot success with La Coronel in the Coronation Stakes.

La Coronel has won three of her five career starts on turf and produced an impressive display last time out in the G3 Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland on April 13, staying on strongly to win by three and a quarter lengths.

Casse commented: “La Coronel is doing great and we currently plan on running her against colts on Derby Day at Churchill Downs in the American Turf (G2, 1m 110y, turf).

“I’ve been very happy with both of her races this year. Her last start at Keeneland was a very tough race including a Breeders’ Cup winner and runner-up and she won it easily. She will need to run well at Churchill in the American Turf and, if she does, there is a very good chance she will come to Royal Ascot.

“She enjoys a little give in the ground and is a very smart filly, I think she will handle Ascot fine. Tepin’s success at Ascot has definitely given us more confidence and a better understanding of the English racing.”

The Coronation Stakes entries also feature G1 Fillies’ Mile winner Rhododendron (Aidan O'Brien), recent G3 scorer Senga (Pascal Bary, France), one of 11 contenders trained in France, and unbeaten German filly Delectation (Andreas Wohler).

Diamond Jubilee Stakes

Six furlongs, Saturday, June 24 (4.20pm) - 40 entries (4yo+) (£600,000)

The Right Man (Didier Guillemin, France) and U.S. challenger Long On Value (Bill Mott) are on course for an exciting rematch. The pair were separated by a nose in the six-furlong G1 Al Quoz Sprint on turf at Meydan on March 25.

The Right Man will be bidding for a second victory of a necessary three Global Sprint Challenge wins required to win the $1-million bonus, having won the Al Quoz.

U.S. Hall of Fame trainer Mott, 63, most famous for his handling of the incomparable Cigar, is yet to saddle a runner at Royal Ascot. He said: “Long On Value travelled very well from Dubai and is back in training. We haven’t given him a breeze yet, but he is cantering. He looks like he held his weight well and seems to be doing good after his trip.

“He has been nominated for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and it is very exciting as I have never been to Royal Ascot before.

“Long On Value has held his form for a long time and has been a very useful horse. He is an interesting horse as he has won at multiple distances - from five furlongs to nine furlongs. He has done all his winning in decent company and some of his very best performances have come at sprint distances. We are excited just to be able to participate.”

Aidan O'Brien has U.S. import Acapulco, who captured the 2015 G2 Queen Mary Stakes when trained by Wesley Ward, among his three entries, while the home challenge includes 2016 Commonwealth Cup heroine Quiet Reflection (Karl Burke) and the popular Limato (Henry Candy).

Nick Smith, Director of Racing and Communications, Ascot Racecourse, commented: “We are pleased with the strong entries for the eight Group 1 contests at Royal Ascot this year, including a high-quality U.S. contingent.

“Tepin's win last year was a significant moment and has clearly opened up options for Mark Casse and other leading U.S. trainers, some of whom have not had runners with us before.

“The strength in depth in Australia isn’t as evident as usual and, with Jameka having suffered travel sickness during her preparation to travel, we will turn our attention to 2018 and hopefully see Winx's participation.

Sixties Song, for Argentina, is on course for the King George [over a mile and a half at Ascot at the end of July], which would be exciting and break new ground. South America is very much an emerging force in world racing and it is testament to what has been achieved there that he gained a rating of 120 for winning the Granpremio Latinoamericano.”

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