Royal Ascot – preview of Day One

Superstars abound at Royal Ascot this week but perhaps most eyes will be on Frankel when Sir Henry Cecil’s superstar defends his unbeaten record in the St James’s Palace Stakes on Tuesday.

The Group 1 contest over a mile (1600m) at 3.45pm (BST) is one of three at that level on the opening day of the five-day meeting – and you can see all 30 races on GBI Racing.

The Galileo colt left the racing world stunned when he made all in astonishing fashion under Tom Queally to claim the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May, having things wrapped up at halfway to spark applause from the crowd.

Cecil, who was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List at the weekend, said: “I’d love him to continue to be a champion because racing needs horses like Sea The Stars, Mill Reef and Arkle.

“I think it lifts the whole industry as people not really involved begin to catch on and show interest. I just hope that he’ll go on and continue doing it as well as he has been.”

His most interesting rival is Japanese raider Grand Prix Boss, who was a champion two-year-old in his native land and was a Group One winner in Tokyo’s NHK Mile Cup in May.

Koji Kubo, assistant to trainer Yoshito Yahagi, said: “His training has been strong and we have big hopes.

“I believe that Grand Prix Boss is the best mile horse in Japan and it is very exciting to have him racing against the best horses at Royal Ascot, the most prestigious meeting in Europe.”

In the opening Group 1 race on the day, Freddie Head knows his outstanding mare Goldikova will have to be at her very best if she is to overcome Canford Cliffs in a mouthwatering Queen Anne Stakes (2.30pm), run over a mile (1600M).

Thirteen-time Group One winner Goldikova recorded a narrow triumph over Paco Boy 12 months ago, a former stablemate of Richard Hannon’s Canford Cliffs, and her trainer is confident she remains at the peak of her powers.

Head said: “I think she is just as well as she was this time last year and, obviously, she is going to have to be at her very best to win.

“Having said that, Canford Cliffs is going to have to be at his very best to beat us.”

Hannon is full of respect for his opponent but is confident last month’s Lockinge winner Canford Cliffs can emerge triumphant.

The trainer said: “We are under no illusions how tough it will be to beat Goldikova, who is a 13-time Grade/Group 1 winner, but the French mare cannot possibly be getting any better at the age of six, and we will sit a bit closer to the pace and hope to do her for finishing speed, like we did Rip Van Winkle at Goodwood last year.”

In the other Group 1 race, Star Witness bids to continue the fine record of Australian sprinters at Royal Ascot when he struts his stuff in the King’s Stand Stakes (3.05pm).

Choisir (2003), Takeover Target (2006), Miss Andretti (2007) and Scenic Blast (2009) have all won the five-furlong dash in recent years and Star Witness’s trainer Danny O’Brien has had this target in mind for some time.

O’Brien said: “Coming to Ascot has been at the back of my mind ever since he won his second start and we’ve been pretty conservative with him this season because of that.

“He’s only raced twice since Melbourne Cup week in November and that has been by design because I was thinking that the races that would really suit him were up here.”

Sweet Sanette represents Hong Kong and the six-year-old mare is reported to be at the top of her game.

“Sweet Sanette can be a bit temperamental – she is not the easiest to work with and a fighter but that is often what makes a good mare,” said trainer Tony Millard’s wife Beverly.

“We think she has come on since her last race and that she will be there at the finish on Tuesday.”

The Todd Pletcher-trained Bridgetown is one of two runners from the United States.

“Bridgetown is a trier. He’ll give us his all, we just hope that’s 110% and not just 99% but we’re looking forward to it,” said Pletcher’s assistant Ginny DePasquale.

“It’s such a prestigious race and I think this, as well as Wesley Ward’s recent successes at Royal Ascot, could open the door to this beautiful place for more Americans.”

There is also international representation in the shape of Holiday For Kitten (US) Overdose (Hungary), Mar Adentro (France) and War Artist (Germany).

All three Group 1 races are part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.

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