Royal Ascot is the greatest Flat meeting in the world and the best trainer and jockey have dominated more than most in recent years. Apart from the five English and Irish Classics the Group contests at the meeting are amongst the most prestigious in the sport. When the money is down and reputations are at stake Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore deliver and Royal Ascot is the meeting that matters most.
It is the most lucrative meeting in Britain and attracts the biggest crowd. For some it is a social occasion but racing professionals understand the importance of having runners. The racing is broadcast in over 200 countries as much as for the tradition as the quality of the sport. When the Queen discusses her engagements at the start of the year the first dates that are set in stone are the five days at her course.
The equivalent over jumps is the Cheltenham Festival but that is more a championship meeting. The whole National Hunt season is centred on the four days at Cheltenham and even the Grand National meeting at Aintree is somewhat secondary. The Flat has Champions Day in October so Ascot is a mid-season event and the races standalone rather then be the culmination of months of racing.
Ascot employs an individual whose job it is to attract international runners. Australia has become a target for entries and in the past Black Caviar has raced at the royal meeting. The big target this time was Winx but connections decided there was not a great deal to be gained from a long trip to Britain. A summer campaign in Europe was mooted but in the best interests of the horse Winz will not be at Royal Ascot.
Royal Ascot has become an annual port of call for the US trainer, Wesley Ward and his sprinters have become competitive. Lady Aurelia will take some beating in the King’s Stand Stakes and the horse will be assisted by Frankie Dettori on board. Ward usually has several runners at the Royal meeting and often has winners but Lady Aurelia is his best chance. Frankie loves Ascot and he has a good book of rides.
If O’Brien and Moore are not the leading trainer and jockey John Gosden and Dettori could take the titles. Cracksman and Stradivarius are leading fancies for their races and Gosden has leading contenders in other races. In 1996 Dettori went through the card at a regular meeting at Ascot and he became famous for the magnificent seven winners he rode. We should see several flying dismounts at his favourite track.
There are eight Group 1 races at Royal Ascot and 18 in total. There are 30 races over five days are all covered live on ITV. Bookmakers will be offering concessions and odds boosts for new and existing customers. Only the Classics on the Flat generate more betting interest than the feature races. The time of the year and good ground mean the top races often go to form and you rarely get shock winners. Very few outsiders make the frame or win Group 1 races.
The World Cup dominates the media but racing has its week in the sun. Royal Ascot is the best Flat racing occasion and this year it could be especially rewarding for Gosden and Dettori.