Royal Ascot is the jewel in the crown of the British racing calendar and one which is eagerly anticipated each year by trainers, jockeys, owners and fans alike. So with the Royal meeting less than a week away, I thought it might be a good opportunity (and rather fun) to write a little about Andrew Balding’s top hopes for the prestigious meeting. So, what can we expect from Park House Stables’ potential runners at the nearby Berkshire venue?
Here Comes When, the seven-year-old gelding by Danehill Dancer won on his seasonal debut — the Hambleton Listed Handicap at York — in great style. The Royal Hunt Cup at the Royal meeting was identified as the gelding’s next target. He has a strong preference for softer conditions, so wouldn’t want things too quick at Ascot. He will also have to overcome being near the top of the weights in the Heritage, racing off an official rating of 110.
Wednesday, 21 June 5.00 — Royal Hunt Cup (Heritage Handicap)
Horseplay’s last appearance was the dramatic race that was the Investec Oaks and the filly still managed to plug on for fourth as the field finished pretty strung out. Before the fillies Classic she had done little wrong; winning her maiden impressively at Nottingham last season before bravely landing the Pretty Polly at Newmarket on her seasonal debut this term. This gives us all the ingredients of her planned appearance at Royal Ascot a definite air of intrigue.
Thursday, 22 June 3.40 — Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2)
Count Octave, the three-year-old by Frankel, is a colt that holds huge potential this season. Those who watched his run in the Chester Vase last time, will have noted the race for it competitive nature; that race produced this year’s rather surprising Investec Derby winner — Wings Of Eagles (second). At Chester, Andrew Balding’s colt was only three and three-quarter lengths back in fifth, he seemed outpaced two furlongs out, before keeping on in the straight. This all makes positive reading for his expected Royal Ascot appearance.
Friday, 23 June or 24 Saturday — King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2) or Queen’s Vase (Group 2)
Duretto was a little unlucky at Chester in the Ormonde, finishing a staying on three-quarter length third, behind US Army Ranger in second and John Gosden’s eventual winner Western Hymn — not the worst form to have on your racing CV. The Manduro five-year-old is a consistent type and seems to be getting better with age and this season we may see the very best of him as he hits unprecedented new heights.
Saturday, 24 June — Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2)