With the 2023 flat season now in full swing, attentions begin to turn to Royal Ascot and Wednesday’s Trials Day meeting, all live on Sky Sports Racing, could offer plenty of clues for the big week in June.
Most flat trainers and owners will have aspirations of a Royal winner or two, and those dreams could be fired up (and equally dampened) depending on performances in Berkshire this week.
The meeting has been used in recent years as a springboard to bigger things by the likes of Chipotle, Rohaan and the great Estimate, while this year’s renewal includes the return of familiar favourites Trueshan, Coltrane and Bradsell.
Key Trial races
Coventry Stakes and Windsor Castle Stakes
Having seen Chipotle take this race before Windsor Castle glory at Royal Ascot in 2021, trainer Eve Johnson Houghton attempted to repeat the feat last year with Whistle And Flute for the same owner.
But, having found Bakeel (fifth in the Norfolk) too good on Trials Day, Whistle And Flute went on to disappoint in the Windsor Castle, finishing at the rear of the 24-runner field.
Defeat in this does not neccessarily mean an end to any Royal Ascot hopes, however, as proved in 2015 by Buratino, who improved from a third-placed finish to take the Coventry Stakes.
Fillies’ Novice Stakes
Ribblesdale and Sandringham Handicap
The front three home in last year’s race went on to different targets at Royal Ascot, with winner Grande Dame handed a tough task in the Group One Coronation Stakes (11th), while Mukaddamah did well to be fourth in the Ribblesdale.
Kings Joy – third on Trials Day – followed a tried and tested route to the Sandringham Handicap (ninth), a race won by Agrotera after she came home second here back in 2018.
Ascot Gold Cup
The Ascot Gold Cup is one of the most eagerly-anticipated races of Royal Ascot week and attracts the best stayers from across Europe each year. For that reason, it takes a standout Sagaro Stakes winner to make a significant impact on the Royal Ascot market.
Last year saw a brilliant four-way finish to the two-mile stamina test as Princess Zoe (sixth in the Gold Cup) got the better of Quickthorn, Enemy and Wordsworth.
The last name to complete the Sagaro-Gold Cup double was Estimate in 2013, providing those unforgettable images of the horse’s owner, Queen Elizabeth II, celebrating in the Royal box.
Commonwealth Cup Trial Stakes (Pavilion)
All four of last year’s field went on from this to feature in the Commonwealth Cup itself, as winner Go Bears Go finished in 10th ahead of Wings Of War (12th) and Hierarchy (19th).
The cup is not the only path to follow, however, with Rohaan taking this trial two years ago before following up with victory in the Wokingham.
Queen Anne Stakes, Wolferton and Hunt Cup
The 2022 Paradise Stakes produced three nice Royal Ascot performers with New Mandate (10th in the Wolferton), Sir Busker (fifth in the Queen Anne) and Intellogent (second in the Hunt Cup) all running well.
Accidental Agent is the last Royal Ascot winner to come out of the race, finishing third here before going on to Queen Anne success in 2018.
Ones to watch and ante-post angles
As is always the way with two-year-olds at this time of year, form lines are few and far between but the excitement levels are high for some nice-bred types among the five-runner field this year.
Alice Haynes’ Maximum Impact, who runs in the colours of Amo Racing for football agent Kia Joorabchian, is the shortest of the two with previous experience in the ante-post markets for the Coventry (25/1) and the Windsor Castle (20/1) after winning by 12 lengths on debut in heavy ground at Leicester last month.
No matter what else Action Point does or doesn’t go on to acheive, he will always hold the title of the first winner for new sire Blue Point – himself a two-time Royal Ascot champion.
That Kempton victory was visually less impressive than that of Maximum Impact, but he promises plenty of improvement and is in safe hands with Hollie Doyle and Archie Watson.
Course experience could prove vital for these youngsters come the hustle and bustle of Royal Ascot’s bigger fields, so you can do worse than backing those who impress here, but it is early days in the two-year-old markets for June’s big ones.
Champion trainer Charlie Appleby looks to hold the key to this year’s renewal with two of the seven-strong field, headed by Dancing Goddess under champion jockey William Buick.
The Ribblesdale has thus far eluded Appleby but this Kempton winner could well develop into a classy filly, while stablemate Veil Of Shadows can build on her own Kempton success from February on her second start.
John Gosden has won four of the last six runnings of the Ribblesdale and throws debutant Queen For You – a full sister to the talented Love Is You – in at the deep end.
We are in for a cracking Sagaro this year as Long Distance Cup front two Trueshan and Coltrane prepare for a rematch over the two miles.
Alan King’s star stayer Trueshan needs conditions to fall in his favour if he is to finally line up in the Gold Cup next month, but offers good value on the best of his form at 5/1.
The ever consistent Coltrane could still have some improvement left in the tank at six years old and is currently 8/1 to land the big one for Andrew Balding.
The Commonwealth Cup picture is likely to become a lot clearer after this, with a high-class field of nine going to post.
Appleby’s Mischief Magic heads them on his first start of the season, having signed off in November with victory at the Breeders’ Cup. His current price of 12/1 could look rather silly should Buick steer him to success here.
Bradsell was a Royal Ascot hero last year in the Coventry for Archie Watson and Hollie Doyle and the pair reunite for the first time since August last year. He might be in need of the run after that lengthy absence, but connections will surely be aiming everything towards a return to the Royal meeting and he is 14/1 for the Commonwealth Cup.
William Haggas’ My Prospero is the class horse in this year’s line-up of six and should take all the beating under Tom Marquand having chased home Bay Bridge in the Champion Stakes at Ascot to end last season. He is 14/1 for the Queen Anne Stakes.
Chindit has run well at the last two Royal Ascot meetings – fifth in the St James’s Palace Stakes and fourth in the Queen Anne – and could be decent each-way value for the latter once more this year at 33/1.
Watch every race from Royal Ascot Trials Day on Sky Sports Racing on Wednesday, May 3