By Tom Peacock, courtesy of Racing UK.
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What, when and where? The Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes, about 11:20 a.m. ET at Royal Ascot on June 20.
What Grade? Group 1
What Course? Round course
What Distance? One mile, one furlong and 212 yards
What Prize Money? £750,000 ($987,921)
Ages: 4-year-olds and older
Weights and Allowances: 3 pounds for fillies and mares, 3 pounds for Southern Hemisphere 4-year-olds
Key statistics and trends:
21 favorites or joint favorites have been successful in the 50 runnings.
Four winners have been sent off at odds of 8-1 or longer in the last 20 runnings.
Only two winners (So You Think in 2012 and Muhtarram in 1995) have been older than 5 years old.
19 of the last 20 winners had won over at least a mile and a quarter before.
15 of the winners since the race became a Group 1 had already won at the top level.
Longest-priced winner: Bob Back 33-1 (1985).
Shortest-priced winner: Royal Palace 1-4 (1968).
The championship middle-distance event at the meeting for older horses was first staged over a mile and in 1862 and named after the Prince of Wales of the time, who was later to become King Edward VII.
It was originally for 3-year-olds and over a mile and five furlongs, more in the mold of what is now the King Edward VII Stakes and it was taken by the outstanding English Derby and St. Leger winner Hyperion in 1933.
The race was discontinued after the war, as there was no Prince Of Wales, and it only returned in 1968, a year before the title was bestowed upon Prince Charles. It became a mile and a quarter contest, which was raised to Group 1 level in 2000.
Famous winners of the race include greats such as Brigadier Gerard (1972), Mtoto (1987 and 1988), Bosra Sham (1997) and Dubai Millennium (2000) – both by an impressive eight lengths – Fantastic Light (2001) and the globetrotting mare Ouija Board (2006). The Fugue established a new track record time when beating Magician and Treve in 2:01.90 in 2014.
There have been three dual winners – Connaught (1969 and 1970), Mtoto (1987 and 1988) and Muhtarram (1994 and 1995).
Of current practitioners, Godolphin are much the most successful owners with five wins to date – Faithful Son (1998), Dubai Millennium (2000), Fantastic Light (2001), Grandera (2002), Rewilding (2011). Trainer Aidan O’Brien has won three times, all in the last 10 years.
Past five winners:
2017: Highland Reel
What a magnificent horse this was, and one who only began to receive the credit and affection he deserved during his final season.
A free-sweater, world traveller and European record-breaking prize-getter, Aidan O’Brien’s horse had already added the Coronation Cup to his haul that year despite a delay in his flight to Epsom. This was an even stronger race and Highland Reel answered every question posed by Ryan Moore, taking the lead with a furlong to run and thrusting ahead of fellow smart Group 1 horses Decorated Knight and Ulysses.
It was a sixth Group One, taking his earnings beyond £6 million.
“He’s concrete,” said O’Brien. “He’s passed every test you’d ever wish a thoroughbred to go through since he was two. Every day he turns up in a big race. He’s full of courage, tactically very quick and we’ve travelled him everywhere. Ryan asked him for courage today and he gave it to him.”
Highland Reel was banging his head against the wall against Enable and Cracksman but finished his career in style by claiming the Hong Kong Vase.
2016: My Dream Boat
A race which centered upon the Japanese runner A Shin Hikari, a devastating winner of the Prix d’Ispahan, had a bit of a surprising result.
With the favorite a bitter disappointment as he flattened out and back to last, there was still a barnstorming finish as 16-1 outsider of the field challenged wide and late to stick his head in front of Found on the line.
While Found was to have her moment in the sun in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, this was actually My Dream Boat’s final win despite staying in training for another season. My Dream Boat had been well beaten by the Japanese challenger in France and bringing him back to the boil was a huge feather in the cap of jockey Adam Kirby and trainer Clive Cox, who had the soft-ground lover spot on here.
"I'm absolutely blown away,” said Cox. “I had admiration for A Shin Hikari when we ran against him in France but I knew we hadn't quite run our race. He found a perfect rhythm today and really found for Adam when he asked him to stretch. I wasn't quite sure if he had won as they were poles apart but I was so pleased that we got the victory.”
2015: Free Eagle
There will not have been many more lightly-raced winners of this race than Dermot Weld’s charge, who missed the majority of his three-year-old season and had run a cracker to finish third behind Noble Mission in the Champion Stakes.
This was only his fifth career star, and his first of 2015 as he had missed an intended start in the Tattersalls Gold Cup with illness. However, Free Eagle had been nursed back to health on the day that mattered and was tenacious from the front in an international field, standing his ground on the rail despite a final challenge from The Grey Gatsby.
“He’s a very good horse and when you’ve a brilliant horse like him, it makes the training easy,” said the trainer. “But he has had a lot of problems. He had a heavy head cold a couple of weeks ago and I thought today was going to be in doubt, but we got him right on the day that matters. He was just underdone, you can’t force fitness.”
Free Eagle nonetheless failed to win in three more starts and is now standing at the Irish National Stud.
2014: The Fugue
Unlucky to finish only third in the 2012 Oaks, the Lloyd-Webber family’s homebred had more than made amends in the intervening period, winning a Nassau Stakes, Yorkshire Oaks and an Irish Champion Stakes.
The Fugue had filled the same third spot behind Al Kazeem in the 2013 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and had failed to show her best on her reappearance in Dubai, yet trainer John Gosden was prepared to be brave once again as he pitched her into a field headed by the sparkling Arc winner Treve. On her preferred lightning fast ground, though, it was remarkably straightforward as she danced a length and three-quarters clear of her rivals. She ran only once more before injury intervened.
“You have to believe in your horse and I did,” said jockey William Buick. “They can’t win every time but wherever she has gone, she has performed with credit. I have ridden her from the start and she was probably the first good horse I ever rode.”
2013: Al Kazeem
A tribute to the patience and skill of trainer Roger Charlton, Al Kazeem had been a work in progress at two and three and missed almost his entire 4-year-old season through injury.
He had returned in 2013 an improved horse again in the Gordon Richards Stakes before turning over Camelot for a Group 1 breakthrough in the Tattersalls Gold Cup.
Part of Al Kazeem’s re-emergence was surely due to his partnership with James Doyle and he was given a ride of maturity beyond the young rider’s years here, chasing down the aggressively-ridden Mukhadram in the shadow of the post.
Doyle said: "I thought Paul Hanagan gave Mukhadram a fantastic ride, he got his fractions right. He got a couple of lengths on me turning in and I had to make them up. He's a very tough horse and I'm lucky to be sat on him.
"It's magical really, to get a Royal Ascot winner. It leaves you speechless, it's what it is all about. Hard work pays off and when it does it's fantastic."