Welcome to Royal Ascot, one of the most anticipated week-long events of the racing season! With the United States having winners at the meet the past few years, the British race meet has garnered more attention from this side of the pond from horsemen and fans alike, especially after Tepin’s amazing win in the Queen Anne Stakes in 2016.
This year, NBC Sports makes it even easier to tune in with the channel airing the races from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET the first four days of the meet (June 19-22) on NBCSN. On June 23, NBC will air the final day of the meet starting at 9 a.m. ET. Each Royal Ascot race day starts with the Royal Procession, as the royal family arrives at the track and bets are cashed on which color the Queen is wearing daily.
Four of the Royal Ascot races are part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, and the winner of each race will receive an automatic berth to the World Championships at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2-3. The races are: the Queen Anne Stakes (held Tuesday, June 19, a qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Mile); the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (held Wednesday, June 20, a qualifier for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf); the Norfolk Stakes (held Thursday, June 21, a qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint); and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (held Saturday, June 23, a qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint). For the full schedule, click here.
The U.S. is well represented this year with 11 runners throughout the week, starting in the opening race on Tuesday, the Queen Anne Stakes. Here are all the U.S. runners and a few others that are worth paying attention to this week.
Note: Many of the five-day meet’s entries were not yet final as of June 18 so it is possible some horses go into different races or scratch altogether, although every U.S.-based runner is already in the country, so it’s doubtful they will not run at all.
After winning his first Grade 1 race last month in the Old Forester Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve undercard, Yoshida kicks off America’s week at Royal Ascot in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes. Yoshida has only been off the board in one start, that coming in the Belmont Derby Invitational last year. Owned by many of Justify’s connections, Yoshida looks to become the second U.S. winner of this race after Tepin in 2016.
A regular traveler to North America, Deauville is also entered in the Queen Anne after finishing third last year. The winner of the 2016 Belmont Derby Invitational, Deauville was slated to run in the Old Forester Turf Classic along with Yoshida but was scratched due to the torrential downpour at Churchill Downs that day. He is joined by another U.S. Grade 1 winner in Suedois, who won the 2017 Shadwell Turf Mile before finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. This will be Suedois’ second start of the year after a seventh-place finish last month in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes behind Rhododendron. That mare, who was runner-up in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, will run in the Queen Anne after defeating males in the Lockinge.
Two races after the Queen Anne, America’s most successful Royal Ascot runner in recent history goes for her third victory at the meet in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes. Owned by Stonestreet Farm and Peter Leidel and trained by Royal Ascot whiz Wesley Ward, Lady Aurelia has made the trip to Royal Ascot every year of her racing career. The 4-year-old filly seems to love the course, never winning by fewer than three lengths – including last year’s King’s Stand. If she can win the race twice, she’ll join 11 others who have pulled off the feat, starting with Woolsthorpe in 1895 and 1897.
One of the most consistent U.S. turf sprinters is Bucchero, who is taking his show on the road for the first time in the King’s Stand Stakes. After winning three straight races, including the Grade 2 Woodford Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select last fall, Bucchero was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint – just 1 length behind winner Stormy Liberal – and hasn’t been worse than third in three starts this year. His owners Ironhorse Racing Stable are chronicling his journey to England on Twitter, so if you want to see some behind the scenes content click here.
If you loved U.S. champion Honor Code, his half-brother Declarationofpeace will probably be your pick in the King’s Stand. The winner of the Qatar Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes on the Saturday undercard at last year’s Breeders’ Cup, he was a $2.6 million purchase by Coolmore as a weanling in 2015.
Looking for a connection to Triple Crown winner Justify at Royal Ascot? Look no farther than Without Parole. Bred by Justify’s breeder John Gunther and his daughter Tanya and still owned by the family, Without Parole is another undefeated superstar from their 3-year-old crop of runners, winning his first three races by a combined 12 ¾ lengths. Without Parole also has quite the U.S. pedigree behind him as a half-brother to Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Tamarkuz and out of a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Stay Thirsty and Belmont Stakes runner-up Andromeda’s Hero. He is entered in the Group 1 St. James's Palace Stakes on Tuesday.
It wouldn’t be a Royal Ascot meeting without Wesley Ward 2-year-olds running, and Wednesday is the first day we’ll see his future stars on the track. The first 2-year-old of the week for Ward is Chelsea Cloisters, who contests the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes after breaking her maiden by eight lengths at Keeneland in April. Ward has won this race three times, including back-to-back victories with Acapulco and Lady Aurelia in 2015 and 2016.
The U.S.-bred Hawkbill, who was second in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine in September, makes his fourth start of the year in the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday. He won his first two starts of 2018, including the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic, but looks to bounce back after finishing second to last in a Group 1 earlier this month.
Wesley Ward and Ryan Moore team up in the Royal Hunt Cup with Master Merion, a 4-year-old gelding who has comes into the race off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Hanshin Cup in early May. The gelding has hit the board in every race but his last start and is making his first trip abroad in this race.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey and Wesley Ward team up in the closing race on Wednesday in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes with Animal Kingdom Stakes winner Hemp Hemp Hurray. He won the Animal Kingdom by 11 ¾ lengths, and he is also Grade 2-placed and has raced in a stakes every start of his career after his maiden victory.
Another Triple Crown connection to the Royal Ascot event is American Pharoah’s full brother St Patrick’s Day, slated to make his first start for new trainer Aidan O’Brien in the Jersey Stakes. The colt was trained by Bob Baffert as a 2-year-old and finished second in his debut before winning his maiden over future Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher Instilled Regard in his second start. This will be his first attempt on turf.
Thursday starts with another Wesley Ward 2-year-old as he sends out Keeneland maiden winner Shang Shang Shang in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes. Wesley Ward won this race back in 2013 with No Nay Never, who also won a Keeneland maiden before shipping to Royal Ascot. Shang Shang Shang was a $200,000 2-year-old purchase a few months ago.
Wesley Ward sends out another Keeneland maiden winner in Stillwater Cove to race in the Group 3 Albany Stakes on Friday. The Quality Road filly won at Keeneland during the opening weekend of the track’s April meet by a nose and is out of a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf third place finisher Interactif and from the family of Delta Downs Jackpot winner Ocho Ocho Ocho.
Yet another U.S. Triple Crown connection can be found in Gidu, who races in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup on Friday. Purchased by American Pharoah’s owners Zayat Stables for nearly $460,000 in France two years ago, he is trained by seven-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher and comes into this race on a two-race winning streak. Overall, Gidu has never finished worse than second in five races, including a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Dania Beach Stakes.
Champion Uncle Mo’s half-sister Could It Be Love is entered in three different Royal Ascot races, starting with the Jersey Stakes on Wednesday and ending with the Group 1 Coronation Stakes on Friday, though it hasn’t yet been confirmed what race she’ll be going to. The filly comes to Royal Ascot off a second-place finish in the Irish 1,000 Guineas. If she does go to the Coronation Stakes, she’ll aim to become Aidan O’Brien and Coolmore’s fourth winner together, their most recent victory coming with Winter last year.
Moonlight Romance kicks off the final day of Royal Ascot for the U.S. runners in the Windsor Castle Stakes against males on the third race of the card. The filly has made two starts in her career, the first being a second place finish against stablemate and fellow Royal Ascot runner Shang Shang Shang. She punched a ticket to Royal Ascot after posting a 5 ½-length victory in a Belmont Park maiden last month, and she hopes to become Ward’s third winner in this race after Strike The Tiger (2009) and Hootenanny (2014).
The lightly-raced Bound For Nowhere is making his second trip to Royal Ascot to contest the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes for Wesley Ward after winning two straight races this spring. Last year, the Wesley Ward owned-and-trained colt finished fourth in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup and is coming into this race this year off a similar profile of two straight wins, his second victory coming in a Grade 2 stakes.
Eight-year-old veteran Undrafted is back at Royal Ascot in the Wokingham Stakes after skipping the meet last year. The winner of the 2015 Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, Undrafted has hit the board in 23 of his 35 starts for nearly $1.5 million in earnings. He is co-owned by former NFL player Wes Welker and is named after Walker’s status when entering the league before he signed with the San Diego Chargers as a free agent in 2004. Fittingly, after being the first U.S.-based Group 1 winner at Royal Ascot three years ago, Undrafted closes out the U.S. runners’ appearances at this year’s meet.