Dubai: Royal Ascot has saved the best for last with the concluding day’s racing on Saturday highlighted by three Group 1 contests including the historic St James’s Palace Stakes, a seven-furlong contest for three-year-old colts which was first run almost 300 years ago.
The race traditionally attracts horses that have previously run in the English, Irish or French 2000 Guineas and this year’s renewal is no different with four runners who competed in the Newmarket Classic just two weeks ago among a classy field of seven contenders.
Godolphin’s Pinatubo, who was a close third in the race behind Kameko and Wichita, lines up as the ante-post favourite to atone for that defeat, his first in seven career starts.
Wichita is joined by stable companions Royal Dornoch (10th) and Arizona (11th), all of whom represent Aidan O’Brien, the most successful trainer in the St James’s Palace Stakes with eight wins.
Godolphin handler Charlie Appleby issued an upbeat bulletin about Pinatubo who he says has pleased him at home since the 2000 Guineas defeat.
“I am looking forward to the rematch with Wichita, who we respect,” Appleby said on the Godolphin website.
“I was disappointed Pinatubo lost his unbeaten status last time, but he finished a gallant third in a very strongly contested 2000 Guineas and that is to his credit.
“He showed his characteristic determination and proved beyond doubt that he has trained on from two to three. He adopted much the same running style as he did last year.
“We found he stepped up race by race as a two-year-old. He was progressing with more racing, and seeing that he has come out of the Guineas well, I expect him to have sharpened up even more this time.
“His key attributes are that he is relaxed and he has a good constitution. This mindset and body-set will allow him to back up only 14 days after a Classic. In a normal year, there would be six weeks between the two races.
“He was ridden by Aaron Jones (his usual partner) in an easy gallop yesterday morning (Saturday 13 June) and he pleased us very much.”
The first Group 1 race on Saturday is the Coronation Stakes, the filly’s equivalent of the St James’s Palace Stakes, where 1000 Guineas runner-up Cloak Of Spirits represents Sheikh Mohammad Obaid Al Maktoum.
The third of the Group 1 races is the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, the second big sprint race of the royal meeting which has attracted a field of 10 runners including Khaadem who represents the in-form stables of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance.