With the Guineas Festival recently taking centre stage at Newmarket, the 2022 flat racing season is now officially underway. Fans of the sport don’t have long to wait until the next big meetings either — with the Dante Festival at York and Newbury’s Lockinge Stakes Day still to come in May before the Derby Festival at Epsom Downs and the prestigious Royal Ascot take place throughout June.
It’s the latter we are going to focus on today. One of the most iconic meetings on the flat racing calendar, Royal Ascot plays host to eight Group 1 races over the course of its action-packed five days. So, as the excitement begins to build for the Berkshire-based meeting, let’s take a look at the Royal Ascot feature races.
Day One – St James’s Place Stakes
Those lucky enough to be attending the opening day of Royal Ascot truly are spoiled, as Her Majesty the Queen traditionally arrives at the course via carriage before the racing gets underway with three Group 1s on the card — the Queen Anne Stakes, the King’s Stand Stakes and the St James’s Palace Stakes.
The latter is the feature race of the curtain-raiser and is contested over a distance of one mile by some of the best three-year-old colts in the sport. 2000 Guineas hopeful Native Trail is the outright favourite for this year’s renewal in the ante-post Royal Ascot betting markets.
Day Two – Prince of Wales’s Stakes
The second day of the meeting might not boast as many Group 1s, but it still promises to be a thrilling day of action — with the three consecutive Group 2s (Queen Mary Stakes, Queen’s Vase and Duke of Cambridge Stakes) setting the tone nicely for the feature race, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
One of the premier races of the campaign for horses aged four years and up, the mile-and-quarter contest was upgraded to a Group 1 in 2000 and has been won by some fantastic horses since. Adayar, defending champion Lord North and Shahryar are the co-favourites at the time of writing, with Baaeed and Mishriff just a point behind.
Day Three – Gold Cup
The most prestigious race of the year for long-distance specialists, the Gold Cup is not only the highlight of day three’s (or Ladies’ Day’s) card, but it is, in fact, the feature race of the entire meeting.
First contested in 1807, the Gold Cup is run over a marathon distance of two-and-a-half miles. Subjectivist denied Stradivarius a record-matching fourth-successive victory last year, but a new piece of history could be written in June should Hollie Doyle become the first female winner of the race aboard favourite Trueshan.
Day Four – Coronation Stakes
The penultimate day of Royal Ascot features two Group 1s, with the six-furlong Commonwealth Cup taking place earlier in the card. But it is the Coronation Stakes that is the standout race of the day, with the best fillies from around the world ascending on Ascot’s hallowed turf.
This year’s favourite is the John and Thady Gosden-trained Inspiral, who was being heavily tipped for the 1000 Guineas before being ruled out of the British Classic due to missing a crucial part of training.
Day Five – Platinum Jubilee Stakes
Last, but certainly not least, the Platinum Jubilee Stakes takes centre stage as the curtain is drawn on the meeting. Formerly the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, being rebranded for the Queen’s 60th anniversary in 2012, the race has been rebranded this year as she celebrates her 70th year as Monarch next month.
Nature Strip’s recent victory in the Group 1 Furphy T J Smith Stakes at Randwick in Australia has given the Chris Waller-trained horse the advantage in the six-furlong race’s ante-post market.