Entries for the eight group 1 races at Royal Ascot in June were revealed April 25, with representation from six overseas countries: Australia, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, and the USA.
The potential raiders include nine American horses (accounting for 12 entries), three each from Australia and Japan, plus one from Hong Kong.
Staged from June 19-23, Royal Ascot 2018 offers record prize money over the five days of £7,305,000 ($10,154,000), up 10% from last year.
"We're very pleased with the variety and quality of the Royal Ascot entries this year," said Ascot director of racing and communications Nick Smith. "Seven countries, including Britain, are represented, and amongst them a Hong Kong Chairman's Sprint Prize winner, two US-trained Breeders' Cup winners and a dual winner of the group 1 Newmarket Handicap in Australia.
"One of the great storylines of the 2017 meeting was the owners' title, which went to the final race, the Queen Alexandra Stakes, with Coolmore just pipping Godolphin.
"With a record 110 entries from Ireland, a large number of them naturally from the Coolmore team, and after the flying start to the year by Godolphin, it looks like the 2018 competition will be just as competitive."
The dozen U.S.-trained horses being pointed to the meeting include:
WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, SF Racing, and Head of Plains' Yoshida, trained by Bill Mott, Queen Anne Stakes, June 19
"Yoshida is in lovely form. He had a great year in 2017 and he won well at Belmont in the grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes on his last run," Mott said. "I have been very happy with how he has wintered and we are strongly considering heading to Royal Ascot for the Queen Anne Stakes.
"We have nominated him to run and the plan is to run once here in America before that. We are targeting a race on May 5th (grade 3 Fort Marcy Stakes, Belmont Park) so we are currently preparing him for that race. If all goes well there, then Ascot will certainly be on our agenda.
"Yoshida is in very good order and he is doing very well at the moment. I couldn't be happier with him. I think Ascot and the straight mile would suit him. I don't think he would be too inconvenienced by traveling. He's a big, strong horse and he has matured physically again over the winter. He has done most of his racing over nine and 10 furlongs, but we think the drop to a mile could actually be beneficial.
"We had a runner at Royal Ascot last year (Long On Value, finished 12th in the group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes) and everyone at Ascot took really good care of us. American horses have run well at Royal Ascot before, so it proves that it's not an impossible task to win there. From a trainer and owner's point of view, it is something we are really interested in.
"We have different owners this time around, but hopefully Yoshida will go to Royal Ascot. I really enjoyed the experience last year and it was wonderful to be involved with Royal Ascot.
"Yoshida has only raced on good to firm ground, but I wouldn't say he would be inconvenienced by soft ground. He has no real experience on that ground, but we'll just have to wait and see closer to the time what the ground is like - fast ground would probably suit us best."
Stonestreet Stables and Peter Leidel's Lady Aurelia, trained by Wesley Ward, King's Stand Stakes, June 19
Wesley Ward's Bound for Nowhere, trained by Ward, King's Stand Stakes, June 19
Ironhorse Racing Stable's Bucchero, trained by Tim Glyshaw, King's Stand Stakes, June 19
A strong U.S. challenge is led by last year's winner Lady Aurelia, who is seeking a third success at the Royal meeting, having also captured the group 2 Queen Mary Stakes as a 2-year-old in 2016. The 4-year-old Scat Daddy filly returned to action in the Giant's Causeway Stakes at Keeneland April 14th, when she came home second to Triple Chelsea.
Ward, who pioneered American Royal Ascot challenges, has also made a King's Stand Stakes entry for Bound for Nowhere, fourth in last year's six-furlong group 1 Commonwealth Cup and an impressive four-length winner of the grade 2 Shakertown Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland April 7th.
Ward revealed: "I am delighted with Lady Aurelia following her second-place finish in the Giant's Causeway Stakes at Keeneland. I'm very happy with how she has come out of the race and it was a very good run. She is an older mare now and had been training very well coming into the race. The initial comment from Johnny Velazquez was that one of the jockeys on the outside in the race was chirping to his horse and hustling his filly along. That basically meant that Lady Aurelia was not relaxed like she was when winning the race last year.
"However, looking at the race afterwards and with hindsight, she was racing against fillies who were race fit and had been running throughout the winter. They were tough, hardy, and fit horses, whilst Lady Aurelia was only just starting to come back into work.
"Lady Aurelia was therefore definitely not helped having to come off a long layoff, so we have to be pleased with how she ran. It is never easy, whether you are a fancied horse or not, to come from a layoff and beat horses who are race fit. After her disappointing run in the Breeders' Cup, we turned her out and brought her back to Keeneland, bringing her along steadily. She had plenty of time off and we were not able to do too much with her too soon, which meant she wasn't as fit as the others.
"Also, that race was over 5 1/2 furlongs and she is a real out-and-out five-furlong horse—that is the trip at which she is most effective. Watching that race again, she was in front at five furlongs, so if the race had been over a flat five furlongs, we would have won. The winner only put that extra kick in to score over the last half-furlong. Lady Aurelia kept battling and she just moved past her in the closing stages, which sort of proves that our filly really is one of the best five-furlong horses in the world and that final half-furlong just caught us out.
"At the same time, we can take nothing away from the winner who beat us fair and square, but we know how good our filly is and she's one of the best in the world over five furlongs.
"I couldn't have been happier with her now she's got that run under her belt. This year, she is definitely a bigger, stronger and more mature filly. She was quite keen in that race, but she seems to have settled nicely this year and we're delighted with her.
"We have been slightly compromised by the weather here as she only had one turf workout, prior to her latest run which dented her chances. However, she's come out of it in great shape and if you are going to get beaten, you'd rather get beaten in a listed event at Keeneland in her pre-race contest, rather than a group 1 event at Royal Ascot.
"She'll run in the King's Stand again at Royal Ascot and heads over to England on June 4th with the rest of our team for the meeting.
"There are some very good sprinters in England right now, but I'm confident that she can win the race again. She is so talented and given that she is a bigger and stronger filly this year, I think she will take all the beating. Her experience of the track will stand her in good stead and she likes the straight five-furlongs—it really seems to suit her style of running.
"It was a brilliant experience to win at Royal Ascot again last year, a year on from her win in the Queen Mary. Johnny Velazquez gave her a great ride last year and she went on to run another big race at York. We're looking forward to going back to Royal Ascot and hopefully she can win there again.
"Bound for Nowhere is a horse I'm really, really excited about. We will head straight to Royal Ascot with him and the King's Stand is also potentially the plan with him.
"I think one thing that did count against him going into that race was experience. He had only had two runs prior to heading to Royal Ascot and while he had won both of his starts impressively, particularly over a nice field at Keeneland, he just lacked the experience which is important coming into Royal Ascot.
"It was a really good run last year in a tough event. It was his first real run on a big stage and on a straight track and that is never easy for a horse with two runs under his belt. I felt he gave a good account of himself and I expect a really, really big run this year.
"I was excited about running him in France at Deauville in August in the Prix Maurice de Gheest, but he didn't really give his true running there and while there was no real excuse. I just don't think that was him. He traveled back with Lady Aurelia after her run in the Nunthorpe at York and we turned him out and he did really well over the winter.
"He was really impressive at Keeneland on his return to action over 5 1/2 furlongs earlier this month and I loved the way he beat a very smart field of American sprinters. I'm really, really excited about this guy and I always have been. For me, he was an expensive yearling purchase and he is now a bigger colt and that was a convincing win last time.
"In many ways, he could be like another of my sprinters Undrafted. He went to Newmarket the year before and finished fourth in the 2014 July Cup and that experience really helped him when he came back to Royal Ascot the year after and won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Therefore, with Bound For Nowhere, I think the fact that he has had an experience of a big race in Britain will really help him.
"He's a lightly raced colt with only six runs, but his speed figures have been good and I'm really hopeful of a big run at Royal Ascot this year."
Runner-up to Bound For Nowhere in the Shakertown Stakes was Bucchero, trained by Tim Glyshaw and another Royal Ascot contender. The Indiana-bred 6-year-old landed the grade 2 Woodford Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select at Keeneland in October prior to finishing fourth to Stormy Liberal (Diamond Jubilee Stakes entered) in the grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar.
The Kantharos horse boasts a remarkable tale. His dam, Meetmeontime, was rescued by the Marion County Humane Society in the summer of 2009 when she was found among 33 neglected horses on a farm in Ocala, Florida. Rescued back to full health, she went on to produce five foals, the second of which was Bucchero.
Harlan Malter, managing partner of owners Ironhorse Racing, revealed: "All is good with Bucchero at the moment. He worked on the turf on Sunday and we are targeting the grade 3 Twin Spires Turf on Kentucky Oaks Day with him (Churchill Downs, Friday, May 4th).
"I think Bucchero has run at 12 tracks in 26 races, which is obviously more common in Europe but pretty rare over here in the U.S. This will be one of the first races where he just walks over from his barn and races. The horse is a real trooper and we are looking forward to it.
"We are a very small operation in terms of the amount of horses we have. Bucchero was one of our more expensive horses and, with the things he has done, I have really wanted to soak it all in. I spent eight days with him when he ran at the Breeders' Cup and am looking forward to two weeks over in England with him.
"The horse is a really cool customer. Every time he has been to a new track he eats, settles down, and sleeps. He takes it all in his stride. It's pretty amazing.
"Once the casinos came around, regional breeding programs in the U.S. were flushed with money and there was a lot of support for state breeding programs as they obviously have the effect of supplying employment in the state. I am a financial planner in my day job, so every penny matters to me and this breeding program really appealed to me. Most people in racing and breeding don't care that much about how much they are losing or winning, so the breeding programs in places like Indiana and Pennsylvania are not that well-supported, despite being very lucrative, and most horses produced are of what I would call 'state quality.'
"It is therefore rare for a horse of Bucchero's quality to pop up from a place like Indiana. His dam has some quality about her and when she was bred to Kantharos he was only a regional stallion in Florida. He really has exceeded expectations for a state-bred horse.
"Bucchero won his first level allowance race on turf and looking at his speed figures it was nothing exceptional but visually it looked like he loved turf. I think he is probably a bit better on turf although he has also boasted impressive speed figures on dirt. Interestingly, Kantharos is getting very good results on turf, with 47 per cent on his turf runners in the money, with 17 per cent of them winners.
"We are excited to be able to run him on a straight track at Ascot. I have a ridiculously high respect for Wesley Ward and what he can do with turf sprinters and when I saw we were up against Bound For Nowhere last time out, I went back and watched last year's Commonwealth Cup. Bound For Nowhere got into a lot of trouble during that race and had three real racehorses in front of him that day. We didn't know how Bucchero would handle the soft turf last time and he didn't get the best trip, but Fernando de La Cruz gave him a great ride and he ran a great race to finish second to Bound For Nowhere. I think the Shakertown Stakes was one of the best turf races run for long time and we ran right up to our best.
"I am the sort of person who believes you have to think something can happen to make it happen. At the end of his 4-year-old season, I went out for the Hong Kong International races in December and I wrote to the Hong Kong Jockey Club saying I have this horse called Bucchero who I hope can run in one of your races one day. It wasn't in my wildest dreams that something like that could ever happen and now it is, that is just amazing.
"The horse is a Woodford winner which gives us hope that he can carry that sort of form over to Ascot. Of course, everything has to go right but we have the type of horse that will always run his race for you. I have spoken to Tim Glyshaw and we have always campaigned Bucchero carefully to run him in races where he is telling us we should run. We are coming to Ascot because we did the analysis and he has earned the right to be there."
Turning to Bucchero's background, Malter continued: "I have been in the business of horses for a long time. On the one hand, there is this unbelievable fragility of horses, which is one of the things that first drew me to racing, but there is also something special inside the best horses that just makes them run every time. It is so rare and so pure, it is really special. I always hoped that I could have a horse that could develop. To start from where Bucchero has come from, that pure unadulterated will to win is just exceptional.
"There are four other partners in the horse and we will all be coming over to Ascot. We are all great sports fans and to have a runner at Royal Ascot was on our bucket list. To have a horse that can come over to Royal Ascot with a chance is rarer than a (Kentucky) Derby horse and we all recognise how lucky we are to have a horse that will get us there.
"The plan at this point is to stable Bucchero in Newmarket. Everybody who thinks about horseracing would love to experience Newmarket sometime. I am a big history guy and looking forward to it."
Zayat Stables' Gidu, trained by Todd Pletcher, Commonwealth Cup, June 22
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Hemp Hemp Hurray, trained by Wesley Ward, Commonwealth Cup, June 22
Newtown Anner Stud's Beckford, trained by Brendan Walsh, Commonwealth Cup, June 22
Kaleem Shah's Run Away, trained by Simon Callaghan, Commonwealth Cup, June 22
A strong U.S.-trained entry for the Commonwealth Cup includes Gidu, a son of Frankel who runs in the famous colors of Zayat Stables, which were carried to US Triple Crown glory in 2015 by American Pharoah .
Gidu began 2018 with a good second in the mile grade 3 Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park in February prior to a comfortable success in the non-graded Dania Beach Stakes over the same distance at Tampa Bay Downs March 10.
Ward has entered Hemp Hemp Hurray, impressive when winning the Animal Kingdom Stakes over six and a half furlongs on Polytrack at Turfway Park in March.
Ward continued: "I'm excited for Kenneth Ramsey (owner of Hemp Hemp Hurray, along with his wife Sarah) to have a winner one day as it has been his goal and the plan is to run in the Commonwealth Cup.
"He's a very smart colt who won a couple of stakes contests at Belmont and Monmouth Park last season. I believe he is a group-level quality sprinter.
"Things didn't work out in the Breeders' Cup but I like him and he had won his two races convincingly on his first two starts. He was not racing against horses who had the same level of form as horses such as Caravaggio but I think he is a horse who could step hip his game.
"He might not be well fancied in the betting to do it on the day, but I've been impressed with how he is moving and I'm sure there is a lot more to come from him.
"He has been running over a mile but six furlongs on a straight track like Ascot is very similar to a mile trip in America given all the twists and turns on those type of tracks. You need a horse in the Commonwealth Cup who can go a little further and I think this guy is a six/seven-furlong horse who is bred for further.
"He is a lovely colt and I think he has a good chance. He might not be the most well-fancied but there is more to come from him and I'm looking forward to running him at Royal Ascot."
An intriguing US challenger is Beckford. The Bated Breath colt was trained in Ireland by Gordon Elliott last year when successful in the group 2 Railway Stakes at the Curragh and placed twice at group 1 level. Simon Callaghan, who began his training career in Newmarket, has put in Run Away, a grade 2 scorer at Del Mar last year.
e Five Racing Thoroughbreds' Rushing Fall, trained by Chad Brown, Coronation Stakes, June 22
U.S. interest comes from Rushing Fall. The unbeaten daughter of More Than Ready has proved herself the best of her generation in the USA, taking the grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies' Turf in 2017 and beginning this year with success in the mile grade 2 Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland April 8.
Bob Edwards of owner e Five Racing Thoroughbreds, which also consists of his wife Kristine and their three children, Cassidy, Riley and Delaney, commented: "We are excited about the future of our turf rocket and couldn't be happier than seeing her in our silks at Royal Ascot.
"We are 58 days out from Royal Ascot and 10 to go until the Kentucky Derby. This is all new territory for the Edwards family and e Five Racing Thoroughbreds."
Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen's Stormy Liberal, trained by Peter Miller, Diamond Jubilee Stakes, June 23
American-trained Bound For Nowhere, Lady Aurelia, and Bucchero are entered in this contest in addition to Tuesday's five-furlong King's Stand Stakes.
In addition, there is another American entry in Stormy Liberal. The 6-year-old led home a 1-2 for the trainer in last year's grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint and looked as good as ever on his return when just failing by half-a-length behind Godolphin's Jungle Cat in the group 1 Al Quoz Sprint sponsored By Azizi Developments at Meydan March 31.
All 30 races will be covered live on ITV1 and extensively globally, including by NBC in the USA, who will have several on course positions and provide live coverage of all group 1 races and more.