Photo: Eclipse Spotswire
Entries for the seven Group I races at this year’s Royal Ascot were released today, with no fewer than eleven nations represented in the showpiece races.
Headlined by entries from Hong Kong in the form of the GI Golden Shaheen and GI Al Quoz Sprint victors, Sterling City and Amber Sky, there is a sense of international intrigue in this year’s King’s Stand and Diamond Jubliee Stakes, with an even stronger roll call of international stars than years gone by.
Purchased by Sheikh Farhad Al Thani’s Qatar Racing operation for a sum expected to be around $20m after his breakthrough sprinting season last term, Zoustar is entered in both the King’s Stand Stakes and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, but is expected to begin his British campaign in the latter at Royal Ascot.
From America the initial entries for the Group I races is strong from Kenny McPeek in particular, with Frac Daddy entered for an exciting tilt at the 2m4f Ascot Gold Cup, with Occasional View (Diamond Jubilee Stakes) and Golden Ticket (Queen Anne Stakes) also provisionally entered.
Mark Casse is also represented, with the GI Breeders’ Cup Sprint second placed finisher Laugh Track getting an entry for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
The exciting record breaking Ancil, most recently the track record breaking winner of the Turf Dash at Tampa Bay Downs, could bit to make more history in the King’s Stand Stakes, an entry which would make trainer Joan Scott the first American-based female trainer to send a runner to Royal Ascot.
However, for Ancil to succeed with victory he would have to defeat last season’s first and second placed finishers, Shea Shea and Sole Power, who have again been entred to battle in the Tuesday sprint showpiece.
The Queen Anne Stakes has received its most cosmpolitan entry ever, with eight countries represented in the eight furlong contest with the home team headed by Richard Hannon’s trio of stars - Toronado, Olympic Glory and Sky Lantern.
Australia are again represented in this race with Sacred Falls entered for Chris Waller, who is looking to back up his most recent GI Doncaster Mile victory and strong second placed finish behind It’s A Dundeel in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on the last two weekends.
Able Friend, second in the Hong Kong Derby behind Designs on Rome, is strongly fancied to put up a bold performance in the Champions Mile at Sha Tin in a few weeks time, and his entry in the Queen Anne Stakes is full of intrigue alongside his compatriots Blazing Speed and Gold-Fun.
Trainer Mike de Kock was detailed in his statements whilst in Dubai that Soft Falling Rain would have a strong European campaign this year, and his Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum owned five year old will bid to give jockey Paul Hanagan his first thoroughbred GI success for his retained owner.
Variety Club was a notable absentee from the Queen Anne Stakes entries.
The excitement is also building on where the ex-Todd Pletcher trained Verrazano will begin his European campaign for Aidan O’Brien, and the colt has recevied an entry in the Queen Anne Stakes for his Irish handler.
Kenhope and Indomito, for France and Germany respectively, round out the eight countries entered.
As expected, 2013 Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe heroine Treve has been entered for the Prince of Wales’ Stakes - the feature on day two of Royal Ascot - in which she will almost certainly face a strong contingent from Aidan O’Brien’s base with Cirrus des Aigles, Trading Leather and Mukhadram just a handful of notable entries which she could face off against.
“We are delighted to see so many continents represented and especially pleased with the depth of entries from Hong Kong, after their sprinters stole the show on Dubai World Cup night” said Nick Smith, Head of Communications and International Racing for Ascot, “The entries from North America look high quality this year too and, in additional to the contingent from Kenny McPeek at this stage, we are expecting No Nay Never to try to supplent his Norfolk Stakes win in the Jersey Stakes [7f].”
“Wesley [Ward] reports that he is putting together his usual string of two year olds for the trip and Todd Pletcher has also shown interest in sending juveniles this year.”.