Royal Ascot 2024 – Pomp, Pageantry, And Racing Excellence

Royal Ascot 2024 – Pomp, Pageantry, and Racing Excellence

There are many signature events on the horse racing calendar, from the National Hunt championships of the Cheltenham Festival to the betting bonanza of the Aintree Grand National and on to the five Classic contests, which significantly influence the future shape of the breed. All of the above have their distinctive selling points, but in terms of pomp, prize money, and relentless Group class action, none can quite match the five days of Royal Ascot.

Kicking off on Tuesday 18 June 2024 (only four days after the start of the European Football Championships), this historic event provides an international gathering of the finest equine talent; the list of previous Royal Ascot winners reading like a who’s who of racing superstars – Frankel, Goldikova, Rock of Gibraltar, Kingman, Ouija Board, and Yeats representing only a small selection of the legends to have strutted their stuff on the lush Berkshire turf in the 21st Century.

35 cracking contests squeeze into the five-day meeting, including no fewer than 19 Group class events – eight of which are top-tier Group 1 affairs. For fans of the flat racing game, it simply doesn’t get any better than this. Mark that date of 18 June in the diary, and get ready to settle in for one of the finest racing shows on the planet. Here, we look at a selection of the standout events on each of the five days.

Day 1: Tuesday 18th June

  • Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1)
  • Coventry Stakes (Group 2)
  • King Charles III Stakes (Group 1)
  • St. James’s Palace Stakes (Group 1)
  • Ascot Stakes (Heritage Handicap)
  • Wolferton Stakes (Listed)
  • Copper Horse Handicap

Royal Ascot exploded out of the starting stalls on the opening Tuesday with a triple salvo of Group 1 contests – if measured solely on the quality of the racing, Day 1 may be the best of the bunch.

With the daily Royal Procession on the track having enthralled the well-dressed masses, the best of the older milers set the ball rolling in the Queen Anne Stakes. The Coventry Stakes for the juveniles comes next, and features a warm early favourite in the shape of Aidan O'Brien Navan scorer Camille Pissaro.

The speedsters keep the Group class ball rolling in the renamed King Charles III Stakes (formerly the King’s Stand Stakes) before possibly the most anticipated contest of the meeting - the St. James's Palace Stakes. Sweeping all before him in his debut campaign, many are hailing City Of Troy as the Ballydoyle version of Frankel – red hot favourite for the 2000 Guineas, he may have this as his next assignment should all go to plan at Newmarket.

Day 1: Tuesday 18th June

Day 2: Wednesday 19th June

  • Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2)
  • Queen’s Vase (Group 2)
  • Duke of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2)
  • Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Group 1)
  • Royal Hunt Cup (Heritage Handicap)
  • Kensington Palace Fillies’ Handicap
  • Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed)

The flying fillies kick off the day two entertainment in the Queen Mary Stakes. US handler Wesley Ward has four previous wins in this event, and his Munnings filly Shoot It True heads the ante-post lists.

Aidan O’Brien’s Auguste Rodin is the biggest potential draw in the feature event of the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes but, having scored at the 2023 Breeder’s Cup meeting, his season may revolve around the major international targets. In his absence, the giant King Of Steel from the Roger Varian operation may be the one to beat. Of those currently available at bigger prices, Passenger looks like a typical Sir Michael Stoute improver likely to step forward this term.

Day 3: Thursday 20th June

  • Norfolk Stakes (Group 2)
  • King George V Stakes (Heritage Handicap)
  • Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2)
  • Gold Cup (Group 1)
  • Britannia Stakes (Heritage Handicap)
  • Hampton Court Stakes (Group 3)
  • Buckingham Palace Stakes (Handicap)

Valiant Force left punters scratching their heads in the 2023 Norfolk Stakes when defying monster odds of 150/1. As a juvenile event, many likely candidates for the 2024 edition have yet to hit the track - with Richard Hannon’s Hawaiian sitting atop the market following an eye-catching debut success at Newbury.

Day 3 is lit up by one of Royal Ascot's most iconic events, as the cream of the staying division lock horns over the 2m4f Gold Cup trip. Courage Mon Ami delivered on his potential when coming home in front for John & Thady Gosden in 2024 and will almost certainly be back to defend his crown. Amongst the opposition, Vauban scored at the meeting last year and will look to put his Melbourne Cup behind him. However, the biggest danger is 2022 champ Kyprios, who hinted at a big season ahead when effortlessly scoring at Listed level on his seasonal comeback.

Day 3: Thursday 20th June

Day 4: Friday 21st June

  • Albany Stakes (Group 3)
  • Commonwealth Cup (Group 1)
  • Coronation Stakes (Group 1)
  • Duke of Edinburgh Stakes (Handicap)
  • Sandringham Stakes (Handicap)
  • King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2)
  • Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes (Handicap)

The past two editions of the opening Albany Stakes have fallen to the O’Brien training dynasty – Aidan winning with Meditate in 2022, and son Donnacha claiming the 2023 edition with Porta Fortuna. Picking out a likely sort from the vast Ballydoyle squadron is no easy task at this stage, with more likely to be revealed in the Maiden and Novice events leading up to the race.

A pair of three-year-old-only events dominate the penultimate day. Vandeek heads the Commonwealth Cup market following a flawless juvenile campaign but will face stiff competition from the likes of Phoenix Stakes champ Bucanero Fuerte and Breeders Cup hero Big Evs.

One of the leading races for the Classic generation of fillies, the Coronation Cup regularly sees a clash between the English and Irish 1000 Guineas winners. Fillies Mile winner Ylang Ylang and Oh So Sharp Stakes heroine Dance Sequence appear to be the leading lights from the powerful Ballydoyle and Godolphin operations, but the best form at this stage belongs to the Karl Burke filly, Fallen Angel.

Day 5: Saturday 22nd June

  • Chesham Stakes (Listed)
  • Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2)
  • Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes (Group 1)
  • Jersey Stakes (Group 3)
  • Wokingham Stakes (Heritage Handicap)
  • Golden Gates Stakes (Listed)
  • Queen Alexandra Stakes (Conditions Race)

Keep an eye on the opening Chesham Stakes, which can often provide a glimpse of an emerging star – future 2000 Guineas champ Churchill and the precariously brilliant Pinatubo being amongst the recent winners. With four wins in the past eight years, anything hailing from the Aidan O’Brien operation is worthy of close consideration.

Sir Michael Stoute may not be quite the force of old but remains a trainer to be feared in the older horse middle-distance division. With an impressive 11 previous wins, the Newmarket maestro is the leading trainer in the history of the Hardwicke Stakes.

The final day feature of the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes is regularly amongst the most cosmopolitan contests of the meeting, with the current century seeing winners from Britain, Ireland, Australia, and the USA. Charles Hill's 80/1 2023 winner Khaadem may return to defend his crown, whilst Australian star Artorius deserves another crack, having finished an admirable fourth last year. Of those stepping up from the three-year-old division, Karl Burke’s Swingalong could be interesting at a big price, having run with credit in Group 1 company last term.