2024 Royal Ascot: Top 5 favorites to watch

June 15th, 2024

Royal Ascot attracts star power of both the equine and human variety throughout its five-day meeting. Yet even strong favorites can get upstaged.  

Here are five high-profile market leaders at Royal Ascot, one for each day of racing. It’s not surprising that four are trained by Aidan O’Brien, who holds the record for 85 career wins at the festival. The other one represents a rival global empire, Godolphin.

Tuesday – Notable Speech in the St James’s Palace (G1)

After deploying a superb turn of foot to upset the 2000 Guineas (G1) at odds of 16-1, Notable Speech is no longer a dark horse for Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby. The homebred son of Dubawi rose through the ranks on the all-weather this season, making him a speculative question mark on the class hike, and switch to turf, at Newmarket. Notable Speech shredded every doubt that day, extending his unbeaten record in a race whose form has since stood up very well. 

One possible concern was rain in the initial forecast. Softish going could alter the equation, whether by blunting his late kick or by elevating an opponent. But the latest reports indicate more favorable weather.

Wednesday – Auguste Rodin in the Prince of Wales’s (G1)

Despite back-to-back losses, Auguste Rodin is currently favored to give O’Brien a record-tying fifth win in this feature. The Ballydoyle celebrity has looked brilliant on his day, perhaps most memorably in the 2023 Derby (G1) at Epsom and the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). But Auguste Rodin has become dependent on conditions, needing a quicker surface to produce his best. While the ground was blamed for his being eased in his only prior Ascot appearance last year, and for his latest reverse at the Curragh, he was never competitive in the March 30 Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) either. 

Royal Ascot was always the goal, however, and O’Brien is likely to produce Auguste Rodin in top form – if the colt is happy with the going, and life in general. 

Thursday – Kyprios in the Gold Cup (G1)

Kyprios has been backed into odds-on favoritism to regain the Gold Cup crown he won in 2022. The O’Brien trainee didn’t lose his title on the track. Rather, he had to abdicate because of a problematic injury that at one stage appeared possibly life-threatening, or at least career-imperiling. Kyprios did exceedingly well just to make it back to the races last fall. 

The son Galileo regained the winning habit in both of his preps this year, the same stepping stones he used two years ago. His proven stamina over the 2 1/2-mile distance is also an asset – if Kyprios still has his former strength. The odds reflect the degree of confidence in his camp. O’Brien has won eight Gold Cups, but his only multiple winner so far is the great four-timer Yeats.

Friday – Opera Singer in the Coronation (G1)

The market is also rallying around Opera Singer, who must move forward from her comeback loss in the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1). The daughter of Justify was a spectacular winner of the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) in her juvenile finale, but a setback earlier this spring affected her whole timetable. Ruled out of the 1000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket, Opera Singer was just able to resume in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh. When she managed to hold on for third, O’Brien was overjoyed that she could even hit the board despite suboptimal fitness. 

The question is whether Opera Singer is back to her peak already. At two, she improved over the course of the season, and ultimately stamped herself as the European divisional champion.

Saturday – Continuous in the Hardwicke (G2)

Last year’s St Leger (G1) hero Continuous is a hot favorite in his seasonal reappearance for O’Brien. Although his marquee win came in that longest classic, he’s not a dour stayer. Continuous was a clear second in the King Edward VII (G2) here before bolting up in the Great Voltigeur (G2) over the same 1 1/2-mile trip. Following the Leger, he reverted to this distance for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) and finished a creditable fifth. The son of Japanese star Heart’s Cry was slated for the Japan Cup (G1), until “stiffness” called off his voyage. 

In his comments on attheraces.com, O’Brien sounded bullish about his readiness for Ascot without a prep run. Normally, you’d expect Continuous to benefit from a tightener; all four of O’Brien’s past Hardwicke winners were race-fit. Yet his trainer believes that a couple of racecourse gallops suffice, and his sire’s progeny are known to improve with maturity.