All-star cast limbering up for day one of Royal Ascot

Brilliant miler Modern Games, popular sprinter Highfield Princess and 2000 Guineas heroes Chaldean and Paddington are just some of the stars set to be in action on the opening day of Royal Ascot.

As usual the five-day extravaganza starts with a bang, with the Queen Anne Stakes the traditional curtain-raiser.

The Charlie Appleby-trained Modern Games, a dual Breeders’ Cup winner and successful on his reappearance in the Lockinge at Newbury last month, is the marginal favourite for the Queen Anne over John and Thady Gosden’s top-class filly Inspiral, who is set to make her belated reappearance.

Appleby has a second string to his bow in the form of Native Trail, while Richard Hannon’s Chindit will renew rivalry with Modern Games after finishing best of the rest at Newbury.

David Simcock’s pair of Cash and Light Infantry and Mutasaabeq from Charlie Hills’ yard also feature among 13 confirmations.

The second Group One on Tuesday afternoon is the King’s Stand Stakes, for which John Quinn’s mare Highfield Princess heads the market.

The six-year-old enjoyed a fantastic campaign in 2023, completing a hat-trick of wins at the top level, and she can be expected to improve from her comeback second at York last month.

Karl Burke’s Dramatised and John Ryan’s Manaccan are other contenders for the home team, as is the Archie Watson-trained Bradsell who has been supplemented for the race.

A strong international challenge includes a pair of Australian runners in Coolangatta and Cannonball, both of whom were put through their paces at Ascot on Wednesday morning.

James McDonald was one of the leading riders at Royal Ascot last year with three winners, headlined by Nature Strip’s dominant display in the King’s Stand, and the New Zealand-born rider is confident Coolangatta has what it takes to get him back in the famous winner’s circle.

“Royal Ascot is one of the greatest weeks in racing. I definitely circle it every year and, if I am lucky enough to come here, then I am on the plane straight away,” said the jockey.

“With the racing and the whole atmosphere, it is one of the best carnivals in the world. It is hard to get rides at Royal Ascot but I should have maybe 11 or 12 rides over the week.”

Reflecting on Coolangatta’s workout, McDonald added: “She handled the track beautifully. She ticked a lot of boxes and I was delighted the way she stretched and extended.

“I let her breeze through the line and she pulled up extremely well. She is a strong five-furlong horse and an extremely talented filly.

“She is a dual Group One winner and the quality she beat that day in the Lightning was simply sensational – any of those sprinters could travel anywhere around the world and be competitive.

“Nature Strip was a champion racehorse but Coolangatta is getting there and I have no doubt she will run well on Tuesday. This morning has given me a lot of confidence.”

Wesley Ward’s American challenger Twilight Gleaming is also on the list of 20 still in contention.

Perhaps the most mouthwatering of the three Group One races up for grabs on day one is the St James’s Palace Stakes, which is set to stage a clash between Classic victors Chaldean and Paddington.

Andrew Balding’s Chaldean provided Frankie Dettori with victory in his final 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last month, while Paddington won the Irish equivalent for Aidan O’Brien.

French Guineas runner-up Isaac Shelby (Brian Meehan) adds further intrigue, as does the presence of Al Riffa (Joseph O’Brien), not seen since winning last season’s National Stakes, as well as progressive colts Cicero’s Gift (Charlie Hills) and Mostabshir (John and Thady Gosden).

A total of 32 juveniles have been entered for the Group Two Coventry Stakes, with George Boughey’s Asadna, O’Brien’s River Tiber and Ward’s Fandom three of the leading contenders.

The 43 entries for the two-and-a-half-mile Ascot Stakes include last year’s runner-up Bring On The Night, whose trainer Willie Mullins also has top-class hurdler Vauban as one of 56 entered for the Copper Horse Handicap, with Ryan Moore booked to ride both.

Sandwiching those two races is the Listed Wolferton Stakes, which has attracted 23 possibles.

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