A record number of overseas entries from eight countries feature among a total of 394 entries for the eight Group One highlights at Royal Ascot in June this year.
There are 164 overseas entries in all, as against a previous best of 156 in 2013, including a record 35 from outside Europe (previous highest 27 in 2011).
There is representation from Ireland (81), France (44), the USA (18 – the highest ever level – previous highest 13 in 2011), Australia (9), Germany (4), Hong Kong (4), Japan (2) and Singapore (2), plus 230 British-trained entries.
Star American-trained mare Tepin is under consideration for the opening race of the meeting (Tuesday, 14th June), the £600,000 Queen Anne Stakes (41 entries) over the straight mile. Trained by Mark Casse, the five-year-old comfortably defeated several European raiders, including fellow Queen Anne entries Mondialiste (David O’Meara) and Esoterique (Andre Fabre FR), in the Grade One Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland in October.
The Bernstein mare is unbeaten in three starts this year and was last seen out when gaining a most impressive five-length victory in the Grade One Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland on 16th April.
Casse said: “All is good with Tepin. The plan is to run her around the first Saturday in May here in America and then we will make a decision about Royal Ascot after that. We feel that is good timing with Ascot in mind.
“She continues to amaze me. I was so nervous during the Jenny Wiley Stakes that I did not watch much of it but she broke the stakes record and was a fifth off the track record. I think if Julien (Leparoux) had asked her for any effort she would have easily broken the track record.
“Royal Ascot is definitely going to be a little more difficult. You just never know when you try something new [Ascot’s straight mile]. I would have been a little more worried because a mile uphill is a lot more taxing than a mile in the US, but the way Tepin has run recently suggests that, now she is older and wiser, she doesn’t have the distance limitations she had early on.
“We may even run her in the Woodford Reserve Stakes, which is a mile and a furlong against the boys on Kentucky Derby Day (May 7). That would probably be a little more equal to a mile at Royal Ascot. I have never been to Ascot so I am only guessing.”
Tepin is likely to be joined at Royal Ascot by fellow female star miler, last week’s G1 Makers Mark Mile winner, Miss Temple City (Graham Motion USA), who was fourth in last year’s Coronation Stakes and is being geared toward the Group Two Duke of Cambridge Stakes, which closes next week.
The European challenge in the Queen Anne Stakes is led by last year’s winner Solow (Freddy Head FR) and Coronation Stakes scorer Ervedya (Jean Claude-Rouget FR). Australian import Vancouver is one of four entries for Ireland’s champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien, while A Shin Erwin (Hidemasa Nakao JPN) and Godolphin’s Australian-trained Bow Creek(John O’Shea, AUS) are two other possibles.
A Shin Hikari (Masanori Sakaguchi JPN) is set to fly the flag for Japan in the 10-furlong Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (39 entries), worth £750,000, on the second day, Wednesday, June 15. The five-year-old burst on to the world stage with an impressive front-running victory in the Group One Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin in December. He could have a prep run in the Group One Prix d’Ispahan at Chantilly, France, on 24th May.
Breeders’ Cup Turf heroine Found (Aidan O’Brien IRE) and QIPCO Champion Stakes victor Fascinating Rock (Dermot Weld IRE) head a strong European contingent in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. New Bay (Andre Fabre FR), the leading three-year-old colt in France last season, is also engaged.
The £600,000 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (44 entries) could see a fascinating clash between top Australian sprinter Chautauqua (John Hawkes AUS) and last year’s winner Undrafted(Wesley Ward USA).
The King’s Stand Stakes and Diamond Jubilee Stakes are the first two British legs of the Global Sprint Challenge. Chautauqua won the opening leg, the Lightning Stakes in Melbourne, and runs next in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize in Hong Kong on 1st May. That is also a challenge leg so if appearing at Royal Ascot, or in the Darley July Cup, Chautauqua would be running for the US$1-million bonus available to any horse winning three legs in three different jurisdictions.
Ward has also entered Green Mask, Hootenanny and The Great War, while Godolphin’s Holler (John O’Shea AUS), The Quarterback (Robbie Griffiths AUS) and Spalato (John O’Hara SING) are among other long-distance entries. Other possibles for the six-furlong dash on Saturday 18th June include high-class Hong Kong performers Gold-Fun and Giant Treasure (both Richard Gibson HK), plus US import Bobby’s Kitten (Dermot Weld IRE), the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint victor, who scored impressively on his Irish debut last month.
There is also very strong international interest in the opening day’s £400,000 King’s Stand Stakes (59 entries) over five furlongs, in which Irish stalwart Sole Power (Eddie Lynam IRE – also entered in the Diamond Jubilee) may bid for an unprecedented third victory. Group One scorer Japonisme (Chris Waller – also entered in the Diamond Jubilee) heads three Australian contenders, while Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint scorer Mongolian Saturday (Enebish Ganbat USA – also entered in the Diamond Jubilee) is among eight entries from the USA. There could be representation from the Far East courtesy of Not Listenin’tome (John Moore HK – also entered in the Diamond Jubilee) and Kiwi Karma (Michael Clements, SING).
The 59 entries for the £400,000 Commonwealth Cup, for three-year-olds over six furlongs, will be hoping to emulate last year’s winner Muharaar who went on to be crowned European champion sprinter following a Group One four-timer. Acapulco (Wesley Ward USA), a devastating winner of the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot last year, is one of three US-trained contenders, while Washington DC and Waterloo Bridge, also both winners at the meeting last year, are engaged for Aidan O’Brien. Cheveley Park Stakes winner Lumiere is an eye-catching entry for trainer Mark Johnston. Another transatlantic challenger is Manhattan Dan (Gary Contessa USA), who was twice placed in Grade Two company last season (is also entered in the King’s Stand Stakes).
Aidan O’Brien holds a strong hand in both the mile contests for three-year-olds, with Air Force Blue headlining 56 entries for the St James’ Palace Stakes (Tuesday 14th June) andMinding among 54 entries for the Coronation Stakes (Friday 17th June), with each having £400,000 in prize money.
Melbourne Cup runner-up Max Dynamite (Willie Mullins IRE), Order Of St George (Aidan O’Brien IRE) and St Leger heroine Simple Verse (Ralph Beckett) star among 42 entries for the £400,000 Gold Cup In Honour Of The Queen’s 90th Birthday over two and a half miles on Thursday 16th June.
Nick Smith, Director of Racing and Communications at Ascot, said: “It is gratifying to see numbers up generally and record international entries, but what really counts in the later respect is quality and spread.
“To have one of Japan’s leading middle-distance horses in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes once again is tremendous; Chautauqua is most people’s idea of the world’s top sprinter and headlines several high profile Australian entries; Tepin’s record speaks for itself and she is really picking up the public’s attention home and abroad; Wesley Ward has many more Group One entries than before including in the Commonwealth Cup, which was such a welcome addition to the card last year.
“Our thanks naturally go to all the owners and trainers with entries at Royal Ascot, for whom a warm welcome awaits.”
Ascot Racecourse announced in January that Royal Ascot prize money has been increased by £1 million (18% uplift on 2015) this year, bringing total prize money on offer to a record £6,580,000 over the week, Tuesday 14th June to Saturday 18th June.
The three main prize money boosts were for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes – £750,000 from £525,000, the Queen Anne Stakes – £600,000 from £375,000 and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes – £600,000 from £525,000.