April 15, 2024

Palace Pier, Battaash headline Tuesday’s opening day at Royal Ascot

Palace Pier wins at Royal Ascot
Palace Pier wins the St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot June 20, 2020. (Courtesy of Ascot Racecourse)

Royal Ascot’s glittering five-day stand begins Tuesday. Three Group 1s are on tap, beginning with the Queen Anne S. (G1) that serves as a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), and a couple of American sprinters are taking on defending champ Battaash in the King’s Stand S. (G1).

Here are the leading storylines to watch for on opening day.

Day 1 Recap: Palace Pier, Oxted, Poetic Flare kick off Group 1 action

Palace Pier heavily favored in Queen Anne

Star miler Palace Pier is trading as the overwhelming odds-on favorite for the first race of the meet. Trained by John and Thady Gosden, the Kingman colt brings a 7-for-8 lifetime mark, including the St. James’s Palace (G1) here last summer. That was on the round course, and the Queen Anne is down the straight mile, where he suffered his lone loss in the Oct. 17 Queen Elizabeth II S. (G1). But there were extenuating circumstances then, and Palace Pier has returned to conquer this spring’s Sandown Mile (G2) and Lockinge S. (G1).

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile shocker Order of Australia and close third-placer Lope Y Fernandez, both Aidan O’Brien trainees, are among the expected cast. So are two past Queen Anne winners, Lord Glitters (2019) and Accidental Agent (2018), while up-and-coming Tilsit missed by just a head in the Prix d’Ispahan (G1).

Battaash returns from injury in King’s Stand title defense

After playing second fiddle to Blue Point in the 2018 and 2019 runnings, Shadwell’s Battaash finally conquered Ascot’s premier five-furlong dash in 2020. The multiple European champion sprinter went 3-for-3 last season, capturing the King George S. (G2) at Glorious Goodwood for an amazing fourth year in a row and repeating in the Nunthorpe S. (G1). The seven-year-old has not raced since that York feature last August, and he had surgery to repair a small fracture over the winter. Nevertheless, Battaash remains favored as he launches his comeback here for trainer Charlie Hills.

Extravagant Kid and Maven are the American hopes. While Extravagant Kid comes off a major international coup in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on Dubai World Cup night for Brendan Walsh, Maven has something to find on form, but represents Wesley Ward. Other prominent players include July Cup (G1) hero Oxted, last-out Temple S. (G2) victress Liberty Beach, and streaking three-year-old filly Winter Power.

Top sophomore miler to be crowned in St. James’s Palace

The third Group 1 on the card could be the most contentious, with 2000 Guineas (G1) winner Poetic Flare trying to solidify his claims for leadership in the sophomore mile division. Sixth to St Mark’s Basilica in the French equivalent, Poetic Flare was just denied by fellow Jim Bolger homebred Mac Swiney in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1).

Along with several beaten foes aiming to turn the tables – notably Lucky Vega, Chindit, Battleground, Wembley, and Thunder Moon – two newcomers to the top level add intrigue. Mostahdaf, an unbeaten Shadwell homebred for the Gosdens, is coming in for plenty of market support after besting Godolphin’s Highland Avenue in the Heron S.

Ward goes for history in Coventry

No fewer than 29 juveniles were made eligible for the six-furlong Coventry S. (G2), including Ward’s Kaufymaker who aims to become the first filly to win since 1917. The field will be whittled down by the final declarations stage on Sunday, but nine-time Coventry winner O’Brien is likely to enter recent Listowel maiden scorer The Acropolis.

The antepost market suggests that Donnacha O’Brien’s Marble Hill S. (G3) runner-up Masseto will take a hand, as well as Richard Hannon’s Gisburn and Hugo Palmer’s National S. victor Ebro River (who is also in Thursday’s Norfolk S. [G2]). It remains to be seen if the Gosdens will pitch in one of their debut winners, Dhabab or Tolstoy.  

For more analysis and handicapping throughout Royal Ascot, check out the Edge at TwinSpires.com.