Breeders' Cup Challenge events among must-see clashes at Royal Ascot 2023
As the show-stopping summer racing festival, Royal Ascot invariably serves up compelling fare. North American fans have an added incentive to watch the four Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” (WAYI) events, but the top-drawer action spans the entire five days from June 20-24.
Here are the top 10 Breeders' Cup related clashes on the horizon:
Tuesday – Modern Games vs. Inspiral in BC WAYI Queen Anne (G1)
Reigning Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) champion Modern Games will try to earn a free pass to Santa Anita in the Queen Anne (G1). Honoring the Stuart monarch who founded Ascot, the straight-mile affair fittingly serves as the meeting kickoff as Tuesday’s first race. Modern Games comes off a win in the key stepping stone, the Lockinge (G1), but star filly Inspiral is now challenging him for favoritism in her seasonal reappearance. Adding to the intrigue is Modern Games’s stablemate from the Charlie Appleby yard, last year’s 2000 Guineas (G1) hero Native Trail.
Tuesday – A female-dominated BC WAYI King’s Stand (G1)
Distaffers head the market in the five-furlong King’s Stand (G1), which offers a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Highfield Princess, who racked up a Group 1 hat trick last term, meets multiple Australian Group 1 victress Coolangatta and three-year-old filly Dramatised. Less popular in the antepost betting is one of Wesley Ward’s speedsters, 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) queen Twilight Gleaming.
Tuesday – Guineas winners square off in St James’s Palace (G1)
The meet’s marquee prize for three-year-old milers, the St James’s Palace (G1) pits 2000 Guineas (G1) hero Chaldean against the winner of the Irish equivalent, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Paddington. Yet the established classic performers could have a fight on their hands with the progressive Cicero’s Gift and Mostabshir. Not to be lost in the shuffle is Isaac Shelby, who just missed in the French 2000 Guineas (G1).
Wednesday – All-star showdown in BC WAYI Prince of Wales’s (G1)
A spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) is on the line in the Prince of Wales’s (G1), which shapes up as a vintage renewal. The 1 1/4-mile feature could be billed as an old-fashioned Ballydoyle-versus-Godolphin duel, with the global empires represented by Luxembourg and Adayar, respectively. But that would be too reductionist, for Bay Bridge and up-and-coming My Prospero are also engaged. In a barometer of the strength of this field, a campaigner the quality of Mostahdaf is 25-1 at the moment.
Thursday – Lady Aurelia’s son in BC WAYI Norfolk (G2)
After conquering Royal Ascot in both of her visits in 2016-17, Lady Aurelia could bestride the meeting once again, this time through her first foal, American Rascal. A Stonestreet Stables homebred by Curlin, American Rascal is trained by Wesley Ward, like his dam. In another point of commonality, American Rascal delivered a superb performance in his debut on the Keeneland dirt. But the Norfolk is also attracting one of the most impressive British two-year-olds, the aptly-named Elite Status, with a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) up for grabs.
Thursday – New generation of stayers to the fore in Gold Cup (G1)
With 2022 Gold Cup (G1) winner Kyprios on the sidelines, and the venerable Stradivarius now at stud, a new staying star is likely to be crowned in the 2 1/2-mile marathon. Coltrane is favored following his romp in the local prep, but last year’s St Leger (G1) victor Eldar Eldarov also has past course form. So does the 2021 Gold Cup hero Subjectivist, who just might be back on song in his third start back from a career-threatening injury. The same applies to old warrior Trueshan, who could return to top form after a wind operation, if he gets ease in the ground. Interestingly, the top two from the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Turf, Godolphin’s Yibir and Ballydoyle’s Broome, are expected to renew rivalry – over an extra mile. Emily Dickinson is well fancied, with O’Brien certain that she will stay, while the Gosdens’ unbeaten Courage Mon Ami takes a dramatic class and distance hike.
Friday – 1000 Guineas (G1) rematch in Coronation (G1)
Mawj and Tahiyra, separated by a hard-fought half-length in the 1000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket, get their eagerly-awaited rematch in the Coronation (G1). While senior Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor has freshened little Mawj in the meantime, Tahiyra has moved forward to win the Irish equivalent. The market is in favor of a fully-cranked Tahiyra gaining revenge on Mawj. But a few will try to upend the narrative of a two-filly race, notably 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) star Meditate, who improved from a sixth at Newmarket to second at the Curragh.
Friday – Bear attack in Commonwealth Cup (G1)
Little Big Bear, last year’s European champion two-year-old, rebounded from a 2000 Guineas flop to win on the cutback to six furlongs in the Sandy Lane (G2). Now the O’Brien pupil aims to keep the momentum going in the meeting’s major event for sophomore sprinters. But market rival Sakheer has a similar profile, as a devastating juvenile who didn’t stay the mile in the Guineas. The same could be said of the filly Lezoo, shortening up after an eighth behind Mawj. Appleby’s Noble Style is another fitting the paradigm, having finished sixth in the Guineas, but he muddied the picture when subsequently third to Shaquille.
Saturday – Sprint summit in Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee (G1)
Australia’s Artorius, a dead-heat third here last year, is favored to get his resume-gilding Northern Hemisphere Group 1 this time. But he’ll have to deal with a world-class Hong Kong shipper in Wellington, as well as a few re-opposing rivals from a year ago. Among them are Sacred, Kinross, and the aforementioned Highfield Princess, who could wheel back from the King’s Stand.
Saturday – Humdinger of a Hardwicke (G2)
The course-and-distance springboard to the July 29 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) is coming up deep, especially if the ground is riding easy enough for Hukum to take part. Injured in the wake of his stunning victory over Pyledriver in last year’s Coronation Cup (G1), Hukum just resumed to topple Desert Crown at Sandown. Pyledriver, not seen since his emphatic win in last summer’s King George, is finally ready to return to action, while Deauville Legend is resurfacing for the first time since his valiant fourth in the Melbourne Cup (G1). The Gosdens’ streaking mare Free Wind is set to tackle males, and Godolphin’s reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Rebel’s Romance is another big name on the list of eligibles.