Despite being staged behind closed doors this year – for the first time in its history – Royal Ascot gets underway this week, keeping its usual slot in the racing calendar, irrespective of the recent suspension to the sport. With so many changes being made to the 2020 edition of the prestigious meeting, there’s a lot for fans and punters alike to take on board, particularly when looking at the latest entries and odds. But with the fast racing results service online and ITV televising six races each day, it will be easy to be kept up to speed. Let’s take a look at some of the names to look out for during Royal Ascot.
Stradivarius goes into the Ascot Gold Cup looking to make it a hat-trick of wins in the race. The John Gosden-trained horse has dominated for the last couple of seasons, not only winning back-to-back Gold Cups, but successfully retaining the Lonsdale Cup at York, the Goodwood Cup and the Yorkshire Cup. While the six-year-old was recently beaten at Newmarket in the Coronation Cup, Frankie Dettori will be in the saddle and looking to make history as the duo seek out Yeats’ record.
Dubbed a bargain buy at just £2,800, Sceptical is the current hot pick for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes – particularly given his form. The four-year-old has won his last four races, all in Ireland and the most recent was at Naas in a listed race – but he has been described as “the fastest horse in Ireland”. With legendary jockey Dettori, the man booked for the ride, connections have decided to bypass the opening day’s King’s Stand Stakes, and instead plump for the final day’s main event instead. Victory would mark another rags-to-riches story in horse racing.
Of course, look no further than the most successful active jockey at Royal Ascot, Frankie Dettori. The Italian stands head-and-shoulders above the rest of the pack when it comes to winners at the prestigious meeting with 67 since his debut in 1990 – and 24 of those Group 1 winners. This year, Dettori has a full book of rides and is looking forward to the upcoming battle of landing leading rider again. Ahead of Ascot, he said: “I think it will be a lot tougher this year to win the leading jockey prize as I had a decent book of rides last year. Ascot has never let me down before and though it will be different, I’m very excited.”
But Dettori will find himself up against Ryan Moore, one of the great flat jockeys in recent years – and a three-time Champion Jockey winner. With 58 winners to date at Royal Ascot, and having won the meeting’s leading jockey award eight times in the last decade, Moore will undoubtedly be one to watch as the finish line is in sight. With success already this season in the 1,000 Guineas, the record-breaker will look to continue where he left off last year.
Royal Ascot’s top trainer last year was Aidan O’Brien, and the Irishman will look to be as successful this year – and he’s currently the leading favourite to bag the award. Having won the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Newmarket equivalent already since the resumption of racing, O’Brien has also seen plenty of success at Ascot over the years. With nine wins in the Coventry, eight in the St. James’ Palace Stakes and seven in the Gold Cup, there’s no doubt that O’Brien will be the man to back.