The eyes of the world will be on Royal Ascot 2022 and what better way to start off the five-day extravaganza than with two of the world’s best horses sharing the spotlight.
With three Group One races on Tuesday, the most famous meeting on the planet always begins with a bang but this year’s showcase is elevated to a whole new level thanks to two stars from different hemispheres.
Baaeed is one of the northern hemisphere’s leading lights and is expected to get the meeting off to a flier by landing the opening race, the Group One Queen Anne Stakes (1,600m).
Rated the sixth-best horse in the world in 2021 alongside Hong Kong’s superstar Golden Sixty, the four-year-old is on course to take an even higher ranking this year, having achieved the highest rating (125) of any horse to have raced in 2022 when winning the Group One Lockinge Stakes by three lengths last month.
That imperious victory was his third at Group One level, extended his unbeaten run to seven and means he will head to post as the shortest-priced favourite of the meeting with bookmakers quoting him at around $1.29 to be the first horse to grace the winner’s enclosure.
It will be a huge surprise were he to get beat and punters could be well advised to concentrate on finding the ones to chase him home, with Order Of Australia one who could make his way into second if he bounces back to form for Aidan O’Brien.
While the northern hemisphere star has what appears to be a penalty kick, one of the southern hemisphere’s best faces some tough competition in his quest to take the Group One King’s Stand Stakes (1,000m) trophy back to Australia.
Nature Strip is rated just one pound behind Baaeed this year and is one of the best sprinters in the world, winning 20 of his 37 races and eight of his 14 Group One assignments.
International raiders have a decent record in the King’s Stand Stakes, with Hong Kong’s Little Bridge in 2012 and runners from Australia (four) and the United States successful in the past 20 years.
Nature Strip’s biggest threat appears to come from American challenger Golden Pal, who has won his past three Group races in the US and has Royal Ascot experience after finishing second at the meeting as a two-year-old.
The final Group One on the card is the St James’s Palace Stakes (1,600m), a race contested by some of Britain and Ireland’s best three-year-old colts.
Coroebus is likely to be another short-priced favourite after his stunning win in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in April and the form of that race has since been franked by runner-up Native Trail, who went on to win the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
However, it could be worth keeping a close eye on the market in relation to My Prospero. He has improved in every start for Baaeed’s trainer William Haggas, has a pedigree littered with top-class performers and easily beat a proven Group performer in only his third start last time.
The top juvenile colts get their chance to showcase their potential in the Group Two Coventry Stakes (1,200m) and it’s always worth paying attention to O’Brien’s runners. O’Brien has won this race seven times since the turn of the century and fields Age Of Kings and Blackbeard.
Three ultra-competitive races round off the first day of the carnival, with one of the longest races in the world, the Ascot Stakes (4,000m), featuring a host of jumps trainers trying to gatecrash the biggest flat party of the season.
The jumps boys have won the last 12 runnings of this race and anything trained by Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, Gordon Elliott and Alan King is worthy of close consideration.