Before racing on each of the five days of Royal Ascot the Queen of England rides in a carriage with dignitaries down the track. This year an American trainer could be the king of the best Flat meeting in the world because Wesley Ward is bringing a team of up to 11 horses from the States. California Chrome is also representing America at a glorified garden party which is the highlight of the summer social season for a privileged few in Britain.
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History of The Meeting
Royal Ascot dates back to 1711 and is usually attended by the British monarch. It helps that Queen Elizabeth 11 is a huge racing fan so it’s not a chore but a treat to get dressed up and mix with her people for the five days of the meeting. It is a major event in the social calendar as much for the fashion as the horses taking part. Royal Ascot is Europe’s best-attended meeting with crowds attracted by the occasion and the 16 Group races over five days that includes at least one Group 1 race each day.
Ascot Gold Cup
The Gold Cup is the highlight of the third day and is the most prestigious stayer’s race in the world. It is run over two miles four furlongs so there are few legitimate trials. The race was won in by Estimate owned by the Queen in 2013 so she became the first reigning monarch to win the race. The second favourite this year is Brown Panther who is co-owned by Michael Owen who scored 40 goals for the England soccer team. Owen scored goals in two World Cups including one of the best ever against Argentina in 1998 but Brown panther is giving him even better sporting thrills.
Wesley Ward’s Horses
Undrafted is scheduled to run at Royal Ascot which provides a neat link to Brown Panther. The horse is owned by NFL star Wes Welker who was not selected for the 2004 draft, hence the name. Undrafted was fourth in the July Cup at Newmarket last year and is a possible for the King’s Stand or Diamond Jubilee races. Ward has increased his party this year and has a team that could fill a football (or soccer) team sheet. He understands the prestige of the meeting despite the prize money not being huge in the context of other international races.
The horses are stabled at Manton where the finishing touches will be put to the biggest long distance raids the royal meeting has seen. Six of the group are two-year-old fillies who have a number of engagements and whose targets have not been decided. The team also includes Hootenanny, the Windsor Castle winner from last year who won the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile and is the favourite for the Commonwealth Cup. Ward has a great chance to add to his tally of four Royal Ascot winners.
Luck Of The Kitten is a three-year-old colt set to clash with Gleneagles in the St James’s Palace Stakes. It is a big ask to beat a horse that has won two Classics this season and is a contender for the racehorse of the year prize in Britain this year. Big Macher is an older horse, a top-level winner for the trainer and a leading contender in the Diamond Jubilee race. The Ascot management is impressed with Ward’s commitment to having more winners at Royal Ascot but his horses could be overshadowed by another visitor from the States who has divided opinion amongst the owners. However, the partner that wants to see the horse race around the world and not just at home has won the day.
The connections of California Chrome are approaching Royal Ascot with trepidation as the dress code for men includes a top hat in the Royal Enclosure. One partner is looking at the significance of creating some history at the royal meeting while the other is rueing the lucrative lost opportunities in the horse’s own back yard. California Chrome finished second in the Dubai World Cup in March but received more prize money than is on offer for his preferred engagement at Ascot, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday.
He was the 2014 horse of the year, winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown but coming up short in the Belmont Stakes. California Chrome was trying to become the first horse to win each three-year-old Classic in the same season since Affirmed in 1978. His achievements in winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness were matched and then bettered by American Pharoah who won the Triple Crown this season. A Royal Ascot win for California Chrome would be some compensation for missing out on the Triple Crown back home. In any other era that did not have American Pharoah on the scene California Chrome would be lauded as a superstar.
For five days people from all walks of life in England from the Queen to the man on the street wear their finest clothes and enjoy a wonderful race meeting. The occasion caters for the full spectrum of racegoers, from those that like to be seen at the big summer events to those that enjoy the thrill of watching some of the best thoroughbreds in the world. Anyone visiting from the States may enjoy both elements especially if the sun shines and some Wesley horses or California Chrome win their races. Backing winners and drinking champagne would be the order of the day.
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