LONDON (AFP) –
A pair of banner horses will bookend the five-day meeting at Royal Ascot, which gets underway on Tuesday, when Frankel bids to extend his unbeaten sequence to 11 in the Queen Anne Stakes over 1,600 metres.
Frankel arrives at Ascot with official endorsement as the world’s best racehorse.
He faces 10 opponents, among them his pacemaker Bullet Train, most of which he has repeatedly put to the sword.
For many, however, the Royal Ascot highlight will be Black Caviar’s appearance in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on Saturday.
Black Caviar is unbeaten after 21 lifetime starts, each of them gained in Australia. But connections are anxious for her to show her mettle on foreign fields even though the six-year-old mare has become a national icon at home.
“A lot of great horses have done it on their own shores,” said Black Caviar’s trainer, Peter Moody.
“Her owners should be congratulated for travelling her so far. It is certainly not a (prize-money) thing. Her owners said that one meeting they would like to run her at is Royal Ascot, so here we are.”
Black Caviar’s appearance in the 1,200-metre Diamond Jubilee Stakes — renamed to commemorate Her Majesty the Queen’s 60 years on the British throne — has connections of several seasoned sprinters running for cover.
Another Australian challenger, Ortensia, tackles the 1,000-metre King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday — as do Joy And Fun and Little Bridge, the brace of challengers from Hong Kong.
The Queen herself will have up to four runners throughout the week.
Her Carlton House, which finished third in last year’s Derby, has prospects in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday, when the four-year-old colt is aligned against last year’s winner, So You Think.
There is a strong international flavour to the week.
In addition to those from Australia and Hong Kong, runners from Bahrain, France, Germany, Ireland and the US will lock horns with Britain’s finest racehorses.
Nick Smith, head of comunications and international racing at Ascot, said of their collective presence: “Black Caviar is a ground-breaker, the highest profile horse ever to come to the UK. Having her here is obviously great news, and the supporting cast is very satisfactory.
“Against that, it is disappointing that the intended US runners are not here in the anticipated numbers because of all the rain we have had, but there wasn’t much we could have done about that.”
Frankel apart, Britain’s trainers will struggle to keep any of the seven championship races at home.
Frankel is trained by Sir Henry Cecil in Newmarket and he should ensure an explosive start to a meeting where the Queen is expected to attend every day, as is her custom.
Beyond that, Ireland’s perennial champion trainer Aidan O’Brien bids to win the week’s feature race, the Ascot Gold Cup, with Fame And Glory for the third consecutive year.
Fame And Glory is a warm favourite ahead of Opinion Poll, whom Fame And Glory has beaten in the last two renewals of Europe’s premier race for stayers.
O’Brien will saddle a raft of fancied runners throughout the week, among them classic winners Power and Homecoming Queen in the St James’s Palace Stakes and Coronation Stakes respectively.
The trainer’s son, 19-year-old Joseph, is a unanimous favourite with bookmakers to close the week as the meeting’s leading jockey.