Overseas stars on target for Royal Ascot
Entries from across the globe have been received for the eight Group One races at Royal Ascot, including stars from Australia, Hong Kong and the USA.
King’s Stand Stakes contender Coolangatta heads a strong Australian contingent after securing her second G1 victory for Ciaron Maher & David Eustace in the Lightning Stakes at Flemington in February.
The Lightning Stakes has proved a key stepping stone for Australia’s six Royal Ascot winners, with Choisir, Takeover Target, Miss Andretti, Scenic Blast, Black Caviar and Nature Strip all winning the five-furlong highlight.
David Eustace said: “Coolangatta galloped yesterday and will have her first proper workout next week. She has improved again physically from the Lightning Stakes and we feel we are ahead of the game in terms of her preparation.
“We are stepping into the unknown when it comes to international travel but Coolangatta has done a lot of travelling around Australia and is used to being in unfamiliar places. We are hopeful that she will handle that side of things well but you never know until you do it.
“The history books tell you that Lightning Stakes winners have a pretty formidable record at Royal Ascot and we are happy to side with them. We think the 1,000 metres of the King’s Stand, with the uphill finish, looks ideal and genuine fast ground will be to her advantage as well.”
There will be Australian representation in the Platinum Jubilee Stakes, courtesy of Artorius for Anthony & Sam Freedman and The Astrologist for Leon & Troy Corstens.
Artorius, who was third in the six-furlong showpiece last year, looks an improved performer this year with two excellent efforts, including a comeback victory in the G1 Canterbury Stakes at Randwick in early March.
Sam Freedman said: “Artorius had his first improving gallop the other day, having come off a bit of a fresh. He seems to be shaping up really well and will have a couple of trials over here before we put him on the plane.
“I think he is definitely hitting Royal Ascot this year in better form than he was 12 months ago. He is not far off the likes of Anamoe and his win in the Canterbury has worked out, with the runner-up Imperatriz going on to win another Group One.
“His form lines are strong and I think you guys over there will see a more tactically versatile horse. He will be able to sit a lot closer, which will be important, whereas last year he was rattling home.
“There are a few Aussies coming over again this year. I think you will see a decent filly in the King’s Stand in Coolangatta and then you have an older horse in The Astrologist who is right around the mark. Our horse proved last year that he is up to competing over there and, provided a few things go his way, we would be very hopeful of another big performance.”
The Astrologist proved himself on the international stage when going down by a head in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup Night. He arrived in the UK in early April to begin his preparation for Royal Ascot.
Troy Corstens said: “We were delighted with The Astrologist’s effort in Dubai. He ran to expectations and came very close, which gave us the confidence to continue the journey with him.
“He has settled beautifully in Newmarket – he is a very adaptable horse and enjoys the travel. The plan is for him to have a racecourse gallop this week on the Rowley Mile in preparation for the 1895 Duke Of York Stakes.
“He will then head to Royal Ascot for the Platinum Jubilee. We feel that this will be the perfect race for him. He is a renowned straight-track horse in Australia and we feel the testing course of Ascot will suit him immensely.”
The potential raiding party from the USA includes Brad Cox’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint heroine Caravel and the Wesley Ward-trained duo of Love Reigns and Twilight Gleaming. All three made winning returns at Keeneland last month.
Ward said: “Love Reigns and Twilight Gleaming are doing great. They are both coming off nice comeback wins and their owner Barbara Banke [of Stonestreet Stables] is really looking forward to getting them over there. She loves Ascot as much as me and we are all excited.
“I was really happy with Love Reigns in the Limestone Stakes. She had to switch a couple of times in the run but showed a great attitude to get up on the line, while Twilight Gleaming showed a lot of speed in her comeback race.
“Twilight Gleaming will definitely go for the King’s Stand Stakes, whereas Love Reigns will have an entry there and in the Commonwealth Cup.”
Eight of Ward’s 12 Royal Ascot winners have come in two-year-old races and his team of juveniles this year will be led by runaway debut winner American Rascal in the G2 Norfolk Stakes. The Curlin colt is the first foal out of G2 Queen Mary Stakes and G1 King’s Stand Stakes winner Lady Aurelia.
Ward added: “American Rascal has come out of his first race in super shape. The team at Stonestreet really liked him and it was exciting to see him produce a performance like that.
“Fandom looks another good prospect after his debut win on the grass and we also have some nice two-year-olds to run at Belmont, so we will see what else unfolds in the coming days.
“Bledsoe has already travelled over to England and will run in a novice race at Ascot on 13th May. He won America’s first two-year-old race of the year on the dirt at Keeneland but his mother Shrinking Violet was a multiple stakes winner of the turf, so we are looking forward to getting him on the grass.”
Classic Causeway could be a rare US-trained runner in the 10-furlong Prince of Wales’s Stakes. The son of Giant’s Causeway has proved an able campaigner on both turf and dirt for Kenny McPeek, with his most notable success coming at the expense of Nations Pride in the G1 Belmont Derby last summer.
McPeek said: “Classic Causeway had a nice run first time up this year on the dirt at Oaklawn. Then we came back for the Oaklawn Handicap and he was off the board, so we have decided to switch back to the turf.
“He is going for a prep race in Kentucky on 3rd June in the Arlington Stakes and, if he runs well there, we will point him towards the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
“I think the turf is his preferred surface but equally he is a horse who has to have the tactics his own way. If he has time to breathe on the front, he can be very tough to catch, as he showed in the Belmont Derby last year.”
Another USA entry to note in the Commonwealth Cup is the Jorge Delgado-trained New York Thunder, who made it three wins from as many starts with an impressive display at Woodbine last weekend.
Top-class sprinter Wellington is set to be Hong Kong’s first runner at Royal Ascot since 2016. Richard Gibson’s four-time G1 winner holds entries in both the Platinum Jubilee Stakes and King’s Stand Stakes.
Nick Smith, Director of Racing and Public Affairs at Ascot Racecourse, said:
“We are very pleased to see entries for Royal Ascot 2023 from across the world including Group One winners from Britain, Ireland, France, the USA, Australia and Hong Kong.
“It is particularly exciting to see so many strong entries from Australia, including the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes winner Coolangatta, who looks set to try and follow Nature Strip’s victory in the King’s Stand Stakes. It’s also exciting to see Artorius is on track to try and go two better than when third in the Platinum Jubilee Stakes last year.
“Wesley Ward again has a strong team headed by Love Reigns and Twilight Gleaming along with the two-year-olds while it will also be great to see Breeders’ Cup winner Caravel represent America.”
Since 2003, 202 runners from outside Europe have competed at Royal Ascot from nine different jurisdictions; the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa, Bahrain and the UAE.
All eight Group One races at Royal Ascot are part of the QPICO British Champions Series. Four Royal Ascot contests are part of the Breeders’ Cup Win & You’re In Programme – the King’s Stand Stakes, Queen Anne Stakes, Prince of Wales’s Stakes and Norfolk Stakes.