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Top Hats and Tails: A Preview of the Royal Ascot Racing Festival by Hector Steiff

Tuesday marks the first day of the 2021 Royal Ascot Festival. After last year’s event had to be held behind closed doors, it will be a welcome sight to see 12,000 racegoers dressed up in traditional top hats, tails and summer dresses

At the smartest and most traditional of meetings, usually under the watchful eye of Her Majesty, even fascinators have been outlawed in an attempt to maintain the high standards of this globally renowned Festival. One thing remains a constant here, though, and that is the quality of the racing for the premier flat racing festival, anywhere in the world

Ascot - Club Sports and Events
Neil Tingle/Alamy Stock Photo

The opening day includes three Group One races, starting with the Queen Anne Stakes where Palace Pier has to be one the meeting’s bankers. With Mr Ascot himself, Frankie Dettori, in the saddle, the bookmakers will be resigned to taking a hit from the very first race

Top Rank, running out of James Tate’s Newmarket base has improved the most of this field this season, but still has seven lengths to find on Palace Pier from their last clash in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury

The Aidan O’Brien trained Order Of Australia could prove the main threat to Palace Pier with David O’Meara’s ever youthful grey, Lord Glitters, capable of making his habitual late burst onto the scene

There will be plenty of pace on show in the King’s Stand Stakes later on the card as Brendan Walsh brings over Extravagant Kid from the United States. He won the Group One Al Quoz Sprint Stakes in Meydan back in March and will ensure there’s plenty of pace out of the stalls

Last year’s winner, Battaash, who has reportedly pleased trainer Charlie Hills after a winter setback has to be the most feared on his seasonal reappearance. With an unblemished three from three last year that include the King George Stakes at Goodwood, the Nunthorpe at York and this race, Battaash is sure to get plenty of market support

Winter Power is the young pretender to the sprinting crown and is most likely to make a race of it with Battaash, with John Quinn’s Liberty Beach another to enter calculations

Ascot - Club Sports and Events
Neil Tingle/Alamy Stock Photo

On day two of the Festival, Aidan O’Brien looks to hold the ace in the pack with Wordsworth in the Queen’s Vase. A full brother to St Leger winner, Kew Gardens, the step up to this trip should suit and he’ll strip fitter for the outing over 1m5f in the Yeats Stakes at Navan last month

Joseph O’Brien takes on his father with Ruling, running in the Qatar Racing silks and with retained jockey Oisin Murphy in the saddle. This son of Camelot looks progressive and may rate the main threat alongside John & Thady Gosden’s Stowell who impressed on this track last month

The Prince Of Wales’s Stakes should be a showdown between Aidan O’Brien’s Love and John & Thady Gosden’s Lord North. A case can be made for both. Love was unbeaten in her Classic year, taking the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket before landing The Oaks at Epsom and the Yorkshire Oaks at York, but with unsuitable ground earlier this season has yet to appear trackside

Lord North won this race last year and has returned in even better form than ever, taking the Dubai Turf at Meydan in March and has surely been kept just under the boil since then for this assignment. Aidan O’Brien is double-handed in this race with Love’s stablemate, Armory fresh from a win in the Huxley Stakes at Chester and these three are the main players for this Group 1 prize

Royal Ascot 2020 highlights: Stradivarius and Frankie Dettori make history  in racing restart | TechRadar
Frankie Dettori & Stradivarius 2020
TechRadar@Getty Images

Thursday’s feature is the Gold Cup, and what can be said about Stradivarius that has not been said already. A winner of sixteen of his twenty-six starts on turf, he is reportedly as frisky as ever in John Gosden’s yard and warmed up for this term with a convincing enough win under a hands and heels ride here in the Sagaro Stakes back in April

Main rival Trueshan from Alan King’s Barbury Castle yard and Mark Johnston’s Subjectivist are quality opponents but both have small negative points in their final appraisals. Trueshan would probably prefer more cut in the ground, though that may well be the case after predictions of thunderstorms lurking in the long range forecasts, while Subjectivist had a slip on the gallops last week so it has to be taken on trust that he is fully race fit. Stradivarius has to be a banker for many once again

Friday sees Wesley Ward run Campanelle in the Commonwealth Cup. Armed as ever with a small but select squad of sprinters, the likeable American could taste success before getting to this race with Ruthin and Twilight Gleaming appearing on Wednesday’s card. Campanelle, however, is the stable star of the travelling team, having landed the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at this meeting last year under one Frankie Dettori

Returning to Royal Ascot, and with Frankie once more booked for the trip, Campanelle has to be the one to beat in this Group 1 contest. She’ll get a 3lb sex allowance from her main rivals, Archie Watson’s Dragon Symbol and Clive Cox’s Diligent Harry. Both arrive in good form though the same cannot be said of Clive Cox’s first string, Supremacy who finished last of eight in the trial for this race on this track in April

Royal Ascot preview: 12,000 spectators each day set to attend - BBC Sport
Royal Ascot Parade Ring@BBC

The final day of the Festival has the Diamond Jubilee Stakes over six furlongs which can go to Ed Walker’s Starman, who won by a neck in the Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes on the Knavesmire and can go in again. He’ll face up to William Haggas’ Nahaarr once more, but if the threatened rain does arrive, it will be Sir Michael Stoute’s Dream Of Dreams that the pair will have worry about. Fresh from a Listed win on soft ground at Windsor, Dream Of Dreams will relish some ease underfoot and can have a say in matters

Charlie Appleby could be rounding off a good week with a win in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes earlier on the card. Creative Force bids for a four-timer here after wins at Newmarket (twice) and Newbury, in the Carnarvon Stakes, and has moved into prime spot in the ante-post markets ahead of stablemate Naval Crown. There’s little to choose between the two but Naval Crown was fourth in the 2,000 Guineas, so has to carry respect dropped to this grade and back in trip

As always, Royal Ascot will be the very best of flat racing, and, with owners and partial crowds back at the famous venue, some sense of a return to normality in these strange times. There will be no Royal Procession, and the Queen herself will not be seen on every day or with her usual entourage, but the racing, as ever, will be thoroughly top class, as befits the best flat racing Festival in the world

This preview has been brought to you by our regular correspondent, Hector Steiff

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