Royal Ascot 2021 headline entries
A look at the headline entries for 12 top races at Royal Ascot 2021, including the eight Group 1 races
Unbeaten Breeders’ Cup heroine Aunt Pearl, joint-champion European two-year-old filly Campanelle and Group 1 winning sprinter Extravagant Kid look set to form a formidable transatlantic challenge at Royal Ascot in 2021.
In total, there are eight US-trained runners with entries, plus strong representation from France, Germany and Ireland for 12 top races including the eight Group 1 contests.
Aunt Pearl, who is entered for a potential tilt at the Group 1 Coronation Stakes on Friday, 18 June made her seasonal return for trainer Brad Cox in the G2 Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs, but the odds-on favourite could only finish fifth in the field of seven
The daughter of Lope De Vega has looked imperious until then, winning all three of her starts , including dominating from the front in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland in November.
Liz Crow, who manages the partnership of Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Peter Deutsch, Michael Kisber and The Elkstone Group that owns Aunt Pearl, said before the Churchill Downs engagement:
“She is doing great at the moment. She has been training really well and we are excited to see her back out.
“Hopefully, she comes back and wins well, and then we will be able to move forward with the plan of running at Royal Ascot.”
Trainer Brendan Walsh has not totally ruled out the idea of allowing Extravagant Kid to contest both the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday, 15 June and the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes on Saturday, 19th June.
Australian trailblazer Choisir plundered both races in 2003, a feat repeated by Godolphin star Blue Point in 2019.
Form of his life
Extravagant Kid, a lightly raced eight-year-old, is in the form of his life having secured a first Group 1 success in the six-furlong Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan, UAE, on 27 March.
Walsh said: “Everything has been good with Extravagant Kid and Royal Ascot is the target if all goes well between now and then.
“It was a proper performance from the horse in Dubai. We were lucky enough to win the UAE Derby a couple of years ago and to go back and win another big race was fantastic. It is hard to describe how good it is to have horses capable of competing at these big international meetings.
“Extravagant Kid has entries in the King’s Stand and Diamond Jubilee. Both races have their appeal and it made sense to enter for both as he is quite versatile. We will see how each race is shaping and make our minds up nearer the time. I would not write off him running in both just yet, although I would say it is unlikely.
“Although this will be my first runner at the meeting, I have been to Ascot many times. When I worked for Mark Wallace, we came very close to winning the King’s Stand with a horse called Benbaun, who was beaten in a head bob by Takeover Target. It will be lovely to get back over there, all being well.”
Campanelle provided trainer Wesley Ward with an eleventh Royal Ascot success in last year’s G2 Queen Mary Stakes. The daughter of Kodiac, who subsequently defeated the boys in France’s Group 1 Prix Morny, is one of two entries for Ward in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup on Friday, 18 June alongside Illegal Smile.
Ward is also responsible for Bound For Nowhere, who could make his fourth appearance at Royal Ascot in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, and Maven in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes.
Did us proud
The trainer said: “Campanelle did us proud last year and the owners are really excited about bringing her back for the Commonwealth Cup.
“I have had my eye on this for some time as I think the stiff six furlongs on the straight course will suit her really well.
“We are looking to give her a prep race about a month out from Ascot, although where that will be I am not sure yet.
“Our other filly in the Commonwealth Cup, Illegal Smile, will be out soon in a valuable five-and-a-half-furlong race on the grass at Churchill Downs. How she gets on there will determine whether she travels.
“Bound For Nowhere made a really exciting comeback at Keeneland recently. With him, we are jostling over bringing him to Ascot again or going for a Group 1 sprint on Belmont Stakes day. It will be a while before we make a decision on that.
“Maven has always been a very talented horse. He travelled over to Ascot in 2019 but we pulled him out because of the soft ground. Then he won a Group 3 over in France, but since then he has had some minor issues.
“He had a problem with an undescended testicle, so we gelded him and gave him a long time off and then he fired a bullet on his comeback win at Keeneland a couple of weeks ago. I know it was just an allowance race, but his numbers were through the roof – he essentially ran the same race as Bound For Nowhere – and that told me that he warrants an Ascot entry.
“He ran so big in that effort that I am thinking about training him for Ascot rather than running again beforehand. We are really excited by this guy.”
Ward also singled out Ruthin, a daughter of the 2017 Queen Anne Stakes victor Ribchester, as his main fancy for the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes on Wednesday, 16 June, a race the trainer has won four times.
Ward continued: “The filly by Ribchester, Ruthin, produced an eye-opening performance at Keeneland last week.
“We expected her to run well going into the race. Not all horses produce in the afternoon what they show you in the morning, but she did, and it was great to see.
“She is on a direct course for the Queen Mary Stakes.”
An array of European stars with entries include today’s Longines Sagaro Stakes favourite, the John and Thady Gosden-trained Stradivarius, who will attempt to emulate Yeats by winning the Gold Cup for the fourth successive year on Thursday, 17 June.
His stablemate Palace Pier made a pleasing return at Sandown Park recently and last season’s St James’s Palace Stakes hero is the headline act in the opening race of the Royal Meeting, the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes over a mile.
Some of the best middle-distance performers in the world are likely to face off in the 10-furlong Group 1 Prince Of Wales’ Stakes on Wednesday, 16 June. The entries include last year’s winner Lord North from the Gosden uyard, dual Classic-winning filly Love, trained by Aidan O’Brien, and globetrotter Addeybb for William Haggas.
Battleground, another Aidan O’Brien representative, winner of the Listed Chesham Stakes in 2020, features among a host of promising colts engaged in the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes over a mile on Tuesday, 15 June.
All eight Group 1 races at Royal Ascot are part of the QPICO British Champions Series. Four Royal Ascot contests are part of the Breeders’ Cup Win & You’re In Programme – The Queen Anne Stakes, The Prince of Wales’s Stakes, The Norfolk Stakes and The Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
Royal Ascot runs from Tuesday, 15 June to Saturday, 19 June, with total prize money of £6 million – a 66% increase on the £3.61m offered in 2020.