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Dublin: 10°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

Mark Your Card: Royal Ascot Day One

The five-day Royal Ascot festival is almost upon us. We take a look at the runners and riders for Day One.

Image: John Walton/EMPICS Sport

THE DAY’S FIRST race, the Queen Anne Stakes (14:30) over one mile, is arguably the most intriguing prospect on the card with little to choose between the top two in the betting. Canford Cliffs sparkled on his seasonal return in the Lockinge last month, looking to have plenty in the tank as he cruised past Worthadd in the final furlong.

On any other day in any other field, Richard Hughes’ mount would be the prohibitive favourite. But up against Freddy Head’s superstar and last year’s winner, Goldikova, matters will not be so straightforward. With thirteen Group One successes already to her name, the French-trained mare has proven herself time and again in fields of this calibre, though she did have to battle gamely to hang on at Longchamp last month.

There really is nothing between the two and, although Canford Cliffs is likely to go off as favourite, small factors such as the entry of Flash Dance as a pace-setter for Goldikova could ultimately make all the difference. Looking outside of these two, Cape Blanco also demands respect though he is yet to really hit his stride this year.

The day’s other talking point is the return of Frankel in the St. James’ Palace Stakes (15:45) , his first outing since his blistering victory in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Unbeaten in six starts, he will go off at a prohibitively short price and, though only rated four pounds more than Dream Ahead, should comfortably be the best horse in the field.

Dubawi Gold, runner up in both the Irish and English Guineas, and Excelebration, second to Frankel on their first seasonal appearance in the Greenham, are both worthy of mentions. If Frankel’s on form, however, we could be in for another Guineas-esque procession.

Elsewhere on the card, the five-furlong King’s Stand Stakes (15:05) sees Australian sprinter Star Witness heading up the betting with most firms this morning. Danny O’Brien’s horse has settled well since arriving in England and should improve on his early season form. Sir Michael Stoute’s Kingsgate Native shouldn’t be overlooked, though he will need to reverse placings with today’s other main contender, Sole Power, who beat him by three-quarters of a length in the Temple Stakes last month.

National Hunt fans might well recognise the name Junior, who coasted to a 24-length victory in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham in March. He goes in the Ascot Stakes (17:00), a race which he won last year.

Nap of the Day

Looking beyond the dead-cert that is Frankel for a moment, preference in the Queen Anne Stakes has to be for Canford Cliffs. A horse that typically improves as the season progresses, his assured victory in the Lockinge gives us confidence that he will have just enough to hold off the ageing star that is Goldikova.


If anything is going to beat Frankel in the St. James’ Palace Stakes, there is a good chance that it will be Dubawi Gold. There are doubts about his ability to thrive over a stiff mile, but with 14/1 available in the shops and over 25/1 available on the exchanges, he’s worthy of a small each-way punt.

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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