Excellent entries are unveiled today for the five Group Two contests for three-year-olds and upwards at Royal Ascot, which is staged from Tuesday, June 20 through to Saturday, June 24.
Miss Temple City (Graham Motion USA) has performed very well at Royal Ascot for the past two years, finishing fourth, beaten two lengths, in the G1 Coronation Stakes in 2015 and occupying the same position again last year when going down by just over three lengths in the G2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes, both over a mile on turf.
Now a five-year-old, Miss Temple City went on to win G1 contests at Keeneland (Shadwell Turf Mile) and Del Mar (Matriarch Stakes) following her latest fine effort at Royal Ascot in 2016, adding to her previous G1 success in the Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes at Keeneland in the spring of last year.
The mare holds entries this time around in both the G1 Queen Anne Stakes on the opening day Tuesday, June 20, and the £175,000 G2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes on Wednesday, June 21, for which she is one of 40 engaged – the second highest level of entries ever for the race.
Trainer Graham Motion is looking forward to seeing how the daughter of Temple City performs this Saturday, May 6, when she makes her seasonal debut in the G2 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile at the Kentucky track.
Motion said: “Miss Temple City is going to run on Derby Day at Churchill Downs – the race which Tepin won before she won at Royal Ascot last year.
“To come to Royal Ascot, I really don’t want to run much later than this weekend. Miss Temple City had a little setback over the winter when she got loose one day. She got some inflammation in a leg which caused me to back off her for two to three weeks.
“Otherwise, she would have run at Keeneland like she did last year. So Saturday is sort of Plan B but she has had a couple of good workouts and is close enough to being ready to run.”
Reflecting on Miss Temple City’s two previous efforts at Royal Ascot, Motion continued: “The ground (soft) slightly went against her last year.
“Looking back to her two previous runs there and also Animal Kingdom (who was 11th in the 2013 Queen Anne Stakes), we tried to ride our horses in the European style, whereas last year Tepin’s connections were smart in that they just let her run her race.
“I think it is best just to let horses run their race and try not to get too fancy in trying to adapt to a European style. That’s my personal feeling looking back at our previous trips to Ascot – I really kicked myself with Animal Kingdom for trying to get clever and cover him up. We should have just let him run.
“I thought Miss Temple City’s effort as a three-year-old in the Coronation Stakes was a really good performance. Last year, she perhaps got a bit too far back but still ran very well.
“She has handled the travelling very well and her owners have wanted to come back for a third shot.
“To me, she is physically a bigger, stronger mare this year.”
Also among the entries for the Duke of Cambridge Stakes are three-time G1 scorer Alice Springs (Aidan O’Brien), Furia Cruzada (Sachiaki Kobayashi, France), a G2 winner at Meydan in February and a multiple G1 victor in South America, and the lightly-raced So Mi Dar (John Gosden), who performed well when third in the G1 Prix de l’Opera on her final start of 2016 following an interrupted season.
This year sees the first staging of the Queen’s Vase as a G2 event over a mile and six furlongs, having been run previously at Listed level over two furlongs further.
Taking place on Friday, June 23, there are 77 entries for the £150,000 contest, with 31 hailing from Ireland. The Coolmore team has won five renewals in the past 10 years and accounts for 23 of the Irish-trained aspirants, including G2 winner Capri. O’Brien’s son Joseph, who rode the 2013 winner Leading Light, has entered Rekindling who landed the G3 Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown on April 8.
An intriguing entry is Haripour (Dermot Weld IRE), a half-brother to 2016 Epsom Derby hero Harzand, while the British-trained contingent includes Cunco (John Gosden), Intern (Ralph Beckett) and Frankuus (Mark Johnston), who were separated by just over a length when filling the first three places in G3 Classic Trial at Sandown Park on April 28.
The £225,000 Hardwicke Stakes (Saturday, June 24) is run without penalties and the 12-furlong race frequently attracts some of the best older middle-distance horses.
The 54 entries in 2017 (up from 42 last year) are headed by Godolphin’s Jack Hobbs (John Gosden), the 2015 Epsom Derby runner-up who showed he was right back to his best when landing the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March. Godolphin also has recent G1 Prix Ganay winner Cloth Of Stars (Andre Fabre) and last year’s G1 Eclipse Stakes victor Hawkbill (Charlie Appleby) among its Hardwicke Stakes entries.
A typically strong Aidan O’Brien-trained hand includes last season’s G1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Sponsored by QIPCO) winner Highland Reel, 2016 Gold Cup victor Order Of St Order plus US Army Ranger and Idaho, second and third in the 2016 Epsom Derby.
Dartmouth (Sir Michael Stoute) overcame Highland Reel by a neck in the 2016 renewal of the Hardwicke Stakes, giving Her Majesty The Queen a third success in the contest and 23rd overall winner at the Royal meeting. Dartmouth subsequently finished third to Highland Reel in the King George and could make his seasonal reappearance in the G2 Yorkshire Cup on May 19.
The two other Royal Ascot G2 races over a mile and a half are the £225,000 King Edward VII Stakes (Friday, June 23, 97 entries) for three-year-old colts and the £200,000 Ribblesdale Stakes (Thursday, June 22, 57 entries) for their female counterparts.
The runnings of the 12-furlong Classics at Epsom in early June should make the picture for these two races clearer.
There is interest for The Queen in the King Edward VII Stakes, courtesy of Call To Mind (William Haggas), an impressive winner on debut at Newbury in April, and Frontispiece (Sir Michael Stoute), who made a winning debut over seven furlongs at Ascot last year on his only start to date.
Exciting entries were revealed last week for the eight Group One races staged at Royal Ascot.