The Mounting Yard is back for another blockbuster spring carnival!
You may think that Australian interest in Royal Ascot, the United Kingdom’s premier festival for flat racing which begins tonight our time, is merely focused on the two (or technically three) Australian runners in Shamexpress, Sea Siren and Animal Kingdom.
You’d be wrong.
There are 30 races to be run over five days this week. Over the last five years, horses to have run in Australia at some point in their career have contested 21 of these races.
Top sprinters Black Caviar, Takeover Target, Scenic Blast and Ortensia have represented Australia at this historic festival, while other Australian-trained runners have included Star Witness, Alverta, Nicconi, Gold Trail and Magnus.
But many other names notable to Australian punters have competed in front of the Queen and the extended Royal Family for international trainers either before or after they competed down under.
The last two Melbourne Cup winners, Dunaden and Green Moon, both ran at Royal Ascot – Dunaden contested last year’s Hardwicke Stakes, after his Melbourne Cup success but before his Caulfield Cup triumph, while Green Moon ran midfield in the 2010 King Edward VII Stakes.
Other Melbourne Cup runners over the last five years to have competed at England’s equivalent to the Melbourne Cup Carnival include placegetters Fiorente, Jakkalberry, Red Cadeaux and Purple Moon, while another 18 horses to have contested the race were seen in action at Royal Ascot.
These include four time Gold Cup winner Yeats, who finished seventh in the Melbourne Cup in 2006.
Two time Cox Plate winner So You Think will be missing at Royal Ascot this year, having contested the last two renewals of the Prince of Wales’ Stakes for Aidan O’Brien.
After a shock defeat when second to Rewilding in 2011, he atoned last year in defeating Carlton House – now also in Australia.
O’Brien also won with another former Australian when Starspangledbanner won the Golden Jubilee Stakes – now the Diamond Jubilee Stakes – in 2010.
Other Australian Group 1 winners to have run at Royal Ascot over the last five years include Haradasun, Speed Gifted, Glass Harmonium, My Kingdom of Fife, Helmet, Manighar, Glencadam Gold and Reliable Man, while Australian Group 1 place-getters include Seachange, Fravashi, Dysphonia, Drunken Sailor, Marching and Happy Zero.
Others of note include Shahwardi, Moriarty, Muir and Gatewood, while exciting Lloyd Williams imports Sea Moon, Thought Worthy and Masked Marvel all appeared at last year’s Royal Ascot.
Outside the two main sprints, the King’s Stand Stakes and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, the most prominent races for horses who would one day race in Australia have included:
– The Tercentenary Stakes, a 1m 2f (a2000m) set weights and penalties race at Group 3 level for three year olds who have not won a Group 1 or Group 2 – Thursday.
– The King George V Stakes, a heritage handicap for three year olds run over 1m 4f (a2400m) – Thursday.
– The King Edward VII Stakes, a Group 2 for the classier three year olds over 1m 4f (a2400m) – Friday.
– The Wolferton Handicap, a heritage handicap for horses aged four years and older over 1m 2f (a2000m) – Friday.
– The Hardwicke Stakes, a Group 2 for horses aged four years and older over 1m 4f (a2400m) – Saturday.
Clearly, the lack of depth in Australia over distances beyond a mile have made these races an audition of sorts for Australian buyers, with a strong dollar over the past five years contributing to the influx of imports we see today.
This is obvious in the types of races which have produced Australian runners. Only two of the six two year old contests have produced an Australian runner: the peculiarly named 2010 Albany Stakes fourth-placegetter Radharcnafarraige failed in two starts in Sydney in the middle of last year, while 2011 Chesham Stakes ninth-place-getter Goldoni ran second in Melbourne earlier this year.
Also, races for three year old fillies like the Coronation Stakes, Ribblesdale Stakes and Sandringham Handicap are yet to produce a horse for Australia.
If you do make the effort to stay up this week to watch some of the world’s top racing from the spacious Berkshire course, perhaps jot down some horses that catch your eye – they may be an Australian Group 1 winner within a year or two.
It’s well worth the sleepless nights.