Royal Ascot swings right into action Tuesday with three Group 1 races featuring a cast of world-class runners.
The King's Stand Stakes is the first of two sprints gracing the Royal meeting. Run at 5 furlongs, the dash attracted the likes of globetrotting international stars Sole Power and Shea Shea, first and second in this race last year. Shea Shea also won the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on World Cup night last year and was third in that race this March. Pearl Secret and Jack Dexter, third and fourth in the 2013 King's Stand, also are back for another try. Interestingly, Ryan Moore takes off Sole Power to ride Guerre, a 3-year-old War Front colt trained by Aidan O'Brien. Guerre makes just his fourth career start. In from the United States is Ancil, who comes off an eighth-place finish in the Grade III Twin Spires Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs and appears significantly outclassed.
The race is a leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, which needs someone to step up soon if the US$1 million bonus is not to go unclaimed for yet another year.
The St James's Palace Stakes is at 1 mile for 3-year-old colts and continues a nice rivalry between Night of Thunder and Kingman. Night of Thunder bested Kingman in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, reversing the order of finish in their previous meeting in a Group 3 at Newbury.
Godolphin is represented here by Outstrip, who looked like the real thing while winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last fall at Santa Anita but then finished 14th in the 2,000 Guineas in his seasonal debut. He had an excuse for that, scoping "dirty" when back at trainer Charlie Appleby's yard. War Command was going well for the Aidan O'Brien crowd with four wins from five starts when he came a cropper in the 2,000 Guineas, finishing ninth behind Night of Thunder. This race should sort out this bunch.
The older crowd tackles 1 mile in the Queen Anne Stakes and several of these have something to prove and amends to make. Toronado has five wins from eight starts but the 4-year-old High Chaparral colt finished sixth last time out in the Juddmonte International at York. "Sometimes he throws in a bad one," said trainer Richard Hannon. "I'm hoping that is what it is." Soft Falling Rain finished 11th in the QE II at Ascot last fall and then second to Variety Club in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on World Cup night. Side Glance won the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington in Australia last fall but since then has finished up the track in Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore. Mull of Killough is back from Kranji, where he ran out of the money for the second straight year in the Singapore Airlines International Cup.
Many eyes and more than a few quid will be on Verrazano, last year's failed Kentucky Derby hopeful now under the care of the O'Brien barn. He makes his second U.K. start after a respectable third last month. He has not won since last July's Grade I Haskell at Monmouth.