The annual Royal Ascot meet approaches, but the storied meeting will look very different in 2020. When the five-day festival begins on Tuesday, June 16, there will be no spectators or owners, and top hats and tails will not be required. Queen Elizabeth II, who usually graces Ascot each day of the meeting to much fanfare, will not be attending.
Despite the unusual circumstances, bettors will still be vying to wager on Ascot’s 30 stakes races and eight Group 1 events.
Tuesday, June 16
Buckingham Palace Handicap: A whopping 27 will go in this seven furlong contest, where Daarik is currently 9-2 for Frankie Dettori and trainer John Gosden. Firmament at 16 – 1 is a tough older campaigner with 61 starts to his name, and although he has only won five times he has been second or third in 19 efforts.
Queen Anne Stakes (G1): Top miler Circus Maximus, who won the rich St James Palace (G1) last year here for Aidan O’Brien and finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) last out is the obvious choice. Mohaather and Mustashry offer good odds and the latter is a multiple Group winner for Sir Michael Stoute.
Ribblesdale Stakes (G2): Trainer John Gosden a strong pair with Frankly Darling and Miss Yoda, the latter offering better value.
King Edward VII Stakes (G2): A short six-horse field has two Aidan O’Brien runners, Mogul and Arthur’s Kingdom. Mohican Heights for David Simcock is unbeaten in two starts, but has been off since August 23.
King’s Stand Stakes (G1): Battaash is one of the highlights of the Ascot meeting this year after running second in this spot last year. He took the Group 1 Coolmore Nunthorpe in August, and has won half his 20 starts. The Equilateral might be worth an upset look; the Juddmonte runner is currently 7-1.
Duke of Cambridge Stakes (G2): Nazeef has won four of five starts, and Lavender’s Blue was fourth in Group 1 company at Newmarket last fall. Jubiloso is another overlooked Juddmonte runner who will have Ryan Moore aboard.
Wednesday, June 17
Hampton Court Stakes (G3): O’Brien at 8 – 1 would be hard to resist with Mythical, but Berlin Tango is a classy runner and was in top form when victorious at Kempton two weeks back. Enemy was a juvenile winner at Ascot on debut last year, and will appreciate the longer trip. Hukum has an outside chance after a strong win over a mile at Kempton.
Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1): All eyes are on Japan and Barney Roy, the two top runners on the day with Japan winning a Group 2 at this meeting last year. Barney Roy was a Group 1 winner at the Meydan meeting over the winter and has won six of 12. O’Brien has also entered fillies Magical and Magic Wand; the latter won on June 13 in her return to the races.
Thursday, June 18
Gold Cup (G1): Some of the best marathon types in the world meet here with ultra-popular Stradivarius taking on Cross Counter and Prince of Arran. Stradivarius was disappointing in his comeback race June 5, finishing third in a Group 1 at Newmarket after winning 10 in a row over the past two years. That streak ended here last October, but he is the defending champion. Team Valor’s Technician might be the play after winning a Group 1 at Longchamp last fall.
Friday, June 19
Commonwealth Cup (G1): The actual field is not yet determined, but early entries include Wesley Ward’s speedy filly Kimari, winner of four of six starts including races at Saratoga, Keeneland, and Oaklawn. She was second over this course last year in a 25-runner Group 2, beaten just a head.
That’s my take on a 2020 Royal Ascot sans fans. Enjoy the racing!