Dubai: Royal Ascot, Britain’s most prestigious race meeting, which kicks off today, has attracted some of the world’s finest racehorses to compete for prize money in excess of £6.58 million (Dh30.8 million).
Often referred to as the Olympics of horse racing, with a feast of 18 Group races, the five-day extravaganza has been a happy hunting ground for horses with Dubai connections, and in particular the Godolphin Stable. Godolphin’s long-serving handler, Saeed Bin Surour has amassed 35 victories at the Royal meeting with Charlie Appleby picking up a pair.
However, with Godolphin now tapping into more trainers than its retained duo, the stable will be looking forward to having a successful week at the historic racecourse.
North Yorkshire-based Richard Fahey can give Godolphin the perfect start by saddling Ribchester to victory in the curtain-raising Queen Anne Stakes (G1) on Tuesday.
Fahey’s colt, an impressive winner of the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on his most recent start, is one of three representatives for Godolphin along with his stablemate and pacemaker Toscanini and the Charlie Hills-trained Dutch Connection.
Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minsiter of Finance, a two-time winner of the mile contest, is represented by the William Haggas-trained Mutakayyef, while Roger Varian sends out Ennaadd for Major General Shaikh Ahmad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Chief of Dubai Police and Public Security.
Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne, who will doubtless be one of the star attractions at the five-day extravaganza, has her first Royal Ascot ride aboard Jane Chapple-Hyam-trained Kaspersky.
Kaspersky has won 12 of his 21 races, including twice at Group 2 level.
“Jane has Kaspersky in great order and he’s peaking perfectly for the big day,” Payne said.
“I’ve been riding him in his recent work and he is a quality galloper who is in great order. Just trotting off on him, you can feel his quality. There’s some fantastic horses lined up against him but it will be very exciting to have a go and hopefully he can make his presence felt.
“Who knows what can happen in racing? The possibilities are endless. If you work hard, you never know. Royal Ascot is a fantastic occasion and it’s a dream to be involved.
“Everyone at home is excited for me as well and setting their alarms to be up early to watch.”
Meanwhile, the Godolphin duo of Barney Roy and Thunder Snow are set to have another go at Churchill, the world’s best miler, in the St James’ Palace Stakes (G1), the second of three outstanding Group 1 contests that embellish a mouthwatering opening day’s card.
“I am very happy with Barney Roy and the way he has progressed since the Guineas. I’m confident he is ready to do himself justice in the St James’ Palace,” said trainer Richard Hannon, in his guest column on the Godolphin website.