The Prince of Wales’s Stakes is another race to have undergone plenty of changes in recent years and has evolved to become the centrepiece of the Wednesday of Royal Ascot.
The race takes place over a mile and a quarter and was open to three years olds up to the year 2000, when the conditions made it exclusive to horses of 4 years and older. As such, that took away some of the race’s intrigue, as the race was often the first official test of the relative strengths of the highest class of middle distance 3 year olds against their older contemporaries, giving plenty of insight ahead of the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park in early July.
However, what the race lost in terms of age comparisons it gained in class, as the Prince of Wales’s Stakes became a Group 1 race.
The event was established in 1862, and it was named after the Prince of Wales at that time, the future King Edward VII. The original version was restricted to three-year-olds, and it was contested over 1 mile and 5 furlongs.
The race was discontinued after World War II, when there was no Prince of Wales. It returned in 1968, a year before the investiture of Prince Charles. The distance of the new version was 1 mile and 2 furlongs, and it was now open to horses aged three or older.
The present system of race grading was introduced in 1971, and for a period the Prince of Wales’s Stakes was classed at Group 2 level. It was promoted to Group 1 status in 2000, and at this point the minimum age of participating horses was raised to four.
The Prince Of Wales’s Stakes used to form part of a terrific trilogy of races on the opening day; the Queen Anne Stakes, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and then the St James’s Palace Stakes. But it was felt that the Wednesday card would be bolstered by moving the race and it has taken place on the Wednesday since 2000.
Three horses have won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes twice: Connaught (1969 and 1970), Mtoto (1987 and 1988) and Muhtarram (1994 and 1995).
The inaugural race was won by Carisbrook in 1862 and it did not take long for the race to establish itself as a quality contest. The American horse Iroquois landed the 1881 Derby at Epsom before pulling off a remarkable double, winning the St James’s Palace Stakes and the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at the Royal meeting.
That decade also saw the start of trainer John Porter’s domination of the race; in all he trained the winner on eight occasions thanks to: Ossory (1888), Watercress (1892), Matchmaker (1895), Shaddock (1896), Manners (1899), Simon Dale (1900), Rydal Head (1904) and Plum Centre (1905).
The last six of those winners were partnered by jockey Monry Cannon and made him the most successful rider in the race’s history.
In 1902 there was controversy as the Derby winner Ard Patrick was awarded the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on the disqualification of Cupbearer.
In 1909 the race went the way of the outstanding colt Bayardo, as part of an 11 race unbeaten sequence, which included an Eclipes Stakes, St Leger and Champion Stakes later in the year .
The masterful Hyperion was another notable winner in 1933, not long after his Epsom triumph and six years later his son Heliopolis won the last renewal before the race ceased.
The Prince of Wales’s Stakes was resurrected in 1967 and the top class 4 year old Royal Palace won the inaugural running under the new conditions. Connaught then made his mark with his back-to-back victories the next two years.
A couple of years later the imperious Brigadier Gerard landed the race in brilliant style and is arguably the best horse to win the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
Disqualifications became quite a feature in the mid-Seventies and in 1976 the French colt Trepan was disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance and the race was awarded to Anne’s Pretender. Two years later the ever-popular Gunner B landed the spoils.
Ela Mana Mou proved a classy winner in 1980 and used this race as a springboard for success in the Eclipse Stakes and King George VIth and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes in a glorious summer.
Kind of Hush won the race in 1983 and a year later the remarkably tough Irish mare Stanerra pulled off a memorable double as she won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on the Tuesday and then followed-up in the Hardwick Stakes on the Friday.
Morcon was a popular winner in 1985 but a year later there was a shock result as Bob Back, a future outstanding stallion, upset the previous year’s Classic winners Pebbles and Commanche Run.
The Prince of Wales’s Stakes was really the race where Mtoto landed in the big time. He had won the Brigadier Gerard Stakes but showed a tremendous turn of foot to win this race in 1987, before winning two Eclipse Stakes and a King George. He also added a second Prince of Wales’s Stakes in 1988 and was cruelly denied victory in the Arc de Triomphe by the shortest of short heads.
The three year old colt Two Timing beat the Lockinge winner Most Welcome in 1989 but few would have taken much notice of the horse in fourth place that day: future Breeders’ Cup winner Opening Verse.
Batshoof was successful in 1990 and the following year the exciting Stagecraft completed a four-timer with an impressive victory over Zoman and Terimon.
The 1992 renewal was a particularly strong one and had a controversial outcome. Kooyonga, the crack Irish filly who had won the Irish 1,000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes the previous year, finished first past the post in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, only to be disqualified and placed third, behind Young Buster. The race was awarded to Perpendicular. Kooyonga would gain some compensation with victory in the Eclipse Stakes a couple of weeks later. Also in the line-up that day were Terimon, Champion Stakes winner Tel Quel and future Eclipse and King George winner Opera House.
The last 3 year old to win the Prince of Wales’s Stakes was Placerville, another Henry Cecil inmate, who was successful in 1993. In what proved to be his final race, the son of Mr Prospector beat subsequent Arc heroine Urban Sea by a neck.
For the next two years the race belonged to John Gosden’s popular Muhtarram, who beat Ezzoud by a neck in 1994 and then short-headed the 3 year old Eltish in 1995, in a race which saw the disappointing return to action of the previous year’s superstar filly Balanchine.
The classy First Island won the race in 1996 and further down the field on that occasion was future superstar Pilsudski. Another outstanding winner was Bosra Sham in 1997 and she quite simply routed her rivals.
In 1998 there was a thrilling finish as Faithful Son beat the 3 year old Chester House by a neck, with a neck back to the majestic grey Daylami in third. Kieren Fallon had carried a pound overweight on the second but Daylami would later establish himself as the major force to come out of this race.
Another 3 year old went down by a head in 1999 – the last year the Prince of Wales’s Stakes was open to the Classic generation and run on a Tuesday. The horse in question was the outstanding Fantastic Light who was denied victory by David Elsworth’s Lear Spear, with former two year old superstar Xaar in third ahead of Chester House.
The Prince of Wales’s Stakes entered the new Millennium with a mighty bang as the aptly-named Dubai Millennium set the seal on his outstanding career in the new Group 1 contest. Dubai Millennium had already proved a special colt and his performance in winning the Dubai World Cup that March had been stunning. However Royal Ascot was set to give him a stern test with Derby third Beat All and the mighty French colt Sendawar in opposition. Sadly Dubai Millennium’s regular jockey Frankie Dettori had been sidelined through injury after an horrific plane crash which had cost the life of the pilot. But Frankie was at Royal Ascot to lend his support to his favourite horse and replacement rider the American Jerry Bailey.
In the race Dubai Millennium took his rivals apart, slamming the German horse Sumitas by 8 lengths with Beat All back in third. The world appeared to be at Dubai Millennium’s feet and a clash with the superstar colt Montjeu was muted but injury sadly made the Prince of Wales’s Stakes one long tantalising look at what might have been.
Tragically by the time Fantastic Light was winning the 2001 renewal of the race Dubai Millennium had succumbed to colic. Fantastic Light was a son of Rahy and seemed to get better with age. Having been denied in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes as a 3 year old, he made no mistake aged 5, slamming the smart Kalanisi.
A year later Godolphin landed a hat-trick of successive wins in the race when Grandera got the better of Indian Creek and two outstanding horses in Banks Hill and Nayef.
However Nayef was himself still improving and in 2003 he won another cracking contest, beating the top class Rakti, Islington, Falbrav, Grandera and Moon Ballad in a strong renewal. Rakti would go on to land the Champion Stakes but was a terrifically headstrong individual who took enormous work to get to settle. Often he was almost impossible to ride.
However Michael Jarvis managed to unlock the secrets to Rakti’s temperament and in 2004 the ex-Italian colt was a brilliant winner from another class field that included Powerscourt and Sulamani.
Rakti dropped down in trip for the 2005 Royal Ascot at York, taking in the Queen Anne Stakes. However the field assembled for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes was well up to scratch and truly international. In the event the race went to the horse of the season Azamour, who beat Aidan O’Brien’s colt Ace. The Australian horse Elvstroem finished third ahead of French horse Touch Of Land. Also down the field were Warrsan, Norse Dancer and Ouija Board.
The latter named had won the Breeders’ Cup Fillies and Mares’ race the previous year but returned from injury when disappointing in 2005. However a year later Ouija Board was a different mare, having enjoyed a full preparation. She duly landed the Prince of Wales’s Stakes with a brilliant performance, defeating a vintage field of Group 1 winners including Electrocutionist, David Junior, Manduro, Notnowcato and Ace.
In 2007 Manduro was back and lit up Royal Ascot with a performance that sounded a warning to all the best horses in Europe. He defeated subsequent King George and Arc hero Dylan Thomas with relative ease, with Notnowcato, Red Rocks and Derby winner Sir Percy well beaten. Here truly was a champion, but sadly injury robbed him of a tilt at the Arc.
Duke Of Marmalade had endured an injury-hit career prior to 2008 but Aidan O’Brien and Coolmore had persisted with the son of Danehill and their patience was duly rewarded. Victories in the Prix Ganay and Tattersalls Gold Cup were merely the appetiser to a 4 length demolition of the smart Phoenix Tower in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and Duke of Marmalade would later win the King George and the Juddmonte International in a glittering 2008.
In 2009 the previous year’s French Derby winner Vision D’Etat proved he retained all of his ability as a 4 year old, defeating the smart Tartan Bearer in a race which also featured Twice Over. This was a golden era for French trained runners in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the Andre Fabre colt Byword beat Twice Over in 2010.
Twice Over was back again in 2011 but failed to make an impact as an enthralling but controversial finish saw the hard-driven Rewilding beat ex-Australian colt So You Think in an immense battle down the Ascot home straight. Frankie Dettori was subsequently banned for his use of the whip but needed all his efforts to finish a neck to the good. Very sadly Rewilding broke a leg in the King George in his next race just as his talent was beginning to blossom.
So You Think made no mistake the following year in a race which signed off his career with success from the Queen’s colt Carlton House and the top class Farhh.
Then in 2013 the improving Al Kazeem illustrated his talent with a hard fought success from Mukhadram, with The Fugue in third ahead of triple Classic winner Camelot.
2014 saw a fantastic clash with the 5 year old mare The Fugue finally earning a major victory as she defeated Classic winner Magician and Arc heroine Treve.
In 2015 there was a terrific tussle which saw Free Eagle land his first Group 1 victory, just holding off the late finish of the previous year’s Prix du Jockey Club winner The Grey Gatsby.
The following year saw a surprise as My Dream Boat finished late and wide to deny subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Found, to complete a memorable week for trainer Clive Cox and jockey Adam Kirby.
In 2017, Aidan O’Brien’s globetrotter Highland Reel was at the peak of his powers and landed a vintage renewal from Ulyssess, Decorated Knight and Breeders’ Cup winner Queen’s Trust.
A year later, Sir Michael Stoute’s improving five year-old Poet’s Word beat the much-vaunted Cracksman comprehensively. It gave the Newmarket trainer a 76th Royal Ascot winner, giving him the all-time record.
Poet’s Word went on to beat stable mate Crystal Ocean in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
The Prince of Wales’s Stakes has over time forged its way to become a significant factor in defining the champion middle distance horse of the year, as its illustrious list of former winners testifies.
Winners of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes since 1979:
|1982||Kind of Hush||4|
|2008||Duke of Marmalade||4|
|2012||So You Think||6|
|2016||My Dream Boat||4|