Frankel goes for his 11th straight victory as he bids to get Royal Ascot off
to the best possible start in Tuesday's Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes. Sir Henry
Cecil's superstar colt has carried all before him so far and heads into the
first race of five glorious days as the long odds-on favorite.
He made an impressive reappearance as a four-year-old in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury last month to register his sixth Group 1 success. Owner Khalid Abdullah's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe isn't getting carried away, despite the 1-6 odds.
"Everyone thinks everything is a penalty kick, but I don't know of a Group 1 that is a penalty kick, even for Frankel," Grimpthorpe said.
Excelebration, who has been beaten four times by Frankel including in the Lockinge, is second in the betting but Richard Hannon believes Strong Suit is entitled to get just as close to the favorite. The multiple group winner is making his seasonal reappearance here.
"Hughesie (jockey Richard Hughes) reckoned that his last bit of work up at Everleigh was the best he has ever done, and obviously the more the ground dries out the better our chance," Hannon said. "Realistically, we are all chasing second spot behind Frankel, but we won't be thinking that way."
Excelebration got closest to Frankel when the champion was given an aggressive ride over this course and distance in last year's Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes and has now moved from Marco Botti to Aidan O'Brien.
The trainer's son Joseph rode him on his winning reappearance at the Curragh in April and when five lengths adrift of Frankel at Newbury last month.
"Obviously it's going to be difficult to turn the form around as Frankel is an exceptional horse, but if you're not in, you can't win," Joseph O'Brien said "He hasn't done a lot since his last race but hopefully he'll come on for it."
"Obviously with Frankel running we are part of the race for second," said Charlie Hills, the trainer of Queen Anne entrant Red Jazz. "'Jazz' has run well at Ascot before, both on the straight course when second in the (Group 3) Jersey and on the round course when a close third in the (Group 1) Queen Elizabeth II."
Power is the number one hope for the Aidan O'Brien stable as the Ballydoyle trainer bids for a seventh win in Tuesday's renewal of the St James's Palace. Last year's Group 2 Coventry Stakes hero put a poor performance in the Group 1 Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket behind him when winning the Group 1 Irish equivalent. He was ridden that day by the trainer's son Joseph O'Brien, who is in the saddle once again.
"He ran a blinder at the Curragh and we're hoping for a good run," the young jockey said. "The ground won't be ideal, but there's nothing you can do about it."
Foxtrot Romeo raised a few eyebrows when finishing a length second to Power at odds of 33-1 in the Irish Two Thousand Guineas on his first run of the season.
"He ran a cracker in Ireland and he seems to have stepped up from that on his homework," trainer Bryan Smart said. "We'll have to see how he backs up and I couldn't be more pleased."
Born to Sea has another chance to come out of the shadow of his illustrious half-brother Sea the Stars. The three-year-old colt has just one success to his name, but while he was well-beaten in the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket, he finished as well as anything when fifth in the Irish equivalent, where he had the benefit of a hood to help him settle. Connections still regard him as a classy type and he will be sporting the hood again.
"Born to Sea ran a bit keen at Newmarket but he settled better the last day and I think he can step up again," jockey Johnny Murtagh said. "He's a horse I've always liked. We view him as a Group 1 horse and I think Ascot could be the ideal track for him."
Brian Meehan saddles a promising colt in Cogito, winner of both his starts, most recently in what looked a good renewal of the Heron Stakes at Sandown.
"He's got a really good finishing style, he grinds it out. He looked good in his maiden but the way he did it at Sandown the other day was really impressive," he said.
John Gosden thinks highly of The Nile, who has shown promise but is taking a big step up in class.
"I like the horse a lot. He's got a good profile, lovely stride and balance," the Newmarket trainer said. "He could go and give a very good account of himself in a race like that."
As Australia watches the every move of Black Caviar at Royal Ascot this week, the Antipodean raid on the big meeting gets underway on the opening afternoon with Ortensia in the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes.
Behind Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes-bound Black Caviar at Flemington in November 2010, the mare has hit the headlines in her own right since joining trainer Paul Messara, winning the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai on World Cup night. Messara feels the five furlongs at Ascot should be fine for the seven-year-old but, like quite a few trainers in the race, would prefer a sound surface.
"She was the best she had been before Dubai and I feel she is coming into this race in the same sort of form," Messara said. "The ground is a concern, she has mixed form on rain-affected tracks and is better on top of the ground. She has a devastating turn of foot on a quick surface. I've had a really good look at the form and I think we have most of them covered."
Roger Charlton has been at pains to stress he is likely to make a late decision on Bated Breath's preparation, with concerns lingering over ground suitability.
"His work had been good and I thought he was fit and ready to go and I was impressed (at Haydock)," said Charlton, in reference to the colt's victory last out in the Group 2 Temple Stakes. "At the moment he's an intended runner. I hope the ground will be good by (Tuesday).
Connections of Joy and Fun are praying for better luck than two years ago when the Hong Kong raider suffered a serious injury in the Golden (now Diamond) Jubilee Stakes.
"My horse likes a firm track or good to firm but I think he will handle ground that is yielding or just a bit on the soft side," trainer Derek Cruz said. "He seems to be striding out well in his work and has acclimatised well to Europe. I think Ortensia is again the one to beat, but if mine runs up to his normal races then he should be in the firing line."
Australian-born Newmarket trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam would be happy with a first four finish for Secret Asset, whose best run came when he was second in the Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye.
"Obviously he's been to Meydan and then ran third in the Group 1 in Singapore," she said. "I'm very pleased with him. He's eating and training well, so he goes there and at a big price. You just need a bit of luck in running. To be in the first four would be great."
Eddie Lynam is pessimistic about the chances for Sole Power on the surface. The 2010 Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes winner was second to Ortensia in Dubai and most recently to Bated Breath in the Temple.
"He's in good form and he came over on Sunday night but I'd say 50-50 (to run) is as good as he is, and he's less than that to produce his best," Lynam said. "Last year they said the ground was good and I thought it was slow. I don't think it will be as good as that, so we're hoping for a miracle really."
Tangerine Trees trailed in last 12 months ago but was seen in a much better light when winning the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp in October.
"He's done two exceptional pieces of work and he seems really well. I'm looking for a big run from him," Brian Smart said. "He ran badly in the race last year basically because he wasn't right."
There is further group action with the Coventry Stakes for two-year-olds, run over six furlongs; the 2 1/2-mile Ascot Stakes, a handicap which is often won by a jumps yard; and the Windsor Castle Stakes, a listed event for two-year-olds over five furlongs.