Heat, Firm Conditions Mark Royal Ascot’s Opening Day

A year ago, Royal Ascot racegoers — as well as horseman — braced themselves for rain of biblical proportions and this year, everyone headed toward Berkshire, England, is bracing themselves for an unusual heat wave at least through Wednesday with highs reaching into the upper 80s. Anyone who knows anything about the London area knows that these kinds of temperatures and dry conditions are rare.

With the impending heat wave, it’s a good bet the course will be good to firm at least until the forecast calls for some rain on Thursday. Clerk of the Course Chris Stickles began watering the entire surface, both the straightaway and round courses, last week in anticipation of the dry conditions. One has to think the firmer conditions will favor the handful of Americans shipping in to attack Europe’s elite racehorses and their connections.

This year, the entire week’s festivities, from every royal procession to the last horse crossing the finish line in the last race of the day, will be on NBC Sports Network beginning each morning at 8:30 a.m. ET.

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Last year’s Royal Ascot meeting featured great horses and a variety of interesting hats.

Of the six races carded for Tuesday’s opening day, three are Group 1s and another is a Group 2. The curtain-raiser and co-feature of the day is the Queen Anne Stakes (GI), which was named for the founder of Ascot Racecourse and boasts an amazing list of winners over the history of the about one-mile event, including the legendary Frankel, Goldikova, Cape Cross, Kalanisi, Intikhab, Barathea, Warning and last year’s champion, the fan favored American invader Tepin.

Godolphin’s Ribchester will face 15 rivals and is the early favorite after winning last month’s Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (GI) at Newbury. He also won over this course, albeit a much softer course, in the Jersey Stakes (GIII) a year ago and was then second in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (GII) here in October. The Richard Fahey-trained 4-year-old is one of three representatives for Godolphin and will head postward with stablemate and pacemaker Toscanini and the Charlie Hills-trained Dutch Connection.

Trainer David Simcock sends out Lockinge runner-up Lightning Spear, while Aidan O’Brien will tighten the girth on both Group 2 winner Cougar Mountain and last year’s Belmong Derby (GI) hero Deauville.

Todd Pletcher will be in top hat and tails to send out WinStar Farm’s Makers 46 Mile (GI) hero American Patriot, who will break from the rail under champion jockey Frankie Dettori, and Maryland-based conditioner Graham Motion is back with Miss Temple City, who races for the first time since capturing the Dec. 4 Matriarch Stakes (GI) at Del Mar.

Other contenders include the William Haggas-trained Mutakayyef, Roger Varian’s Ennaadd and Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Kaspersky, who will be ridden by Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne.

The one-mile Queen Anne Stakes is set to leave the gate at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters, Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager. She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several race horse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull as her favorite horse of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, three Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.