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Big guns primed for magical opening to Royal Ascot

12 Jun 2011

Three exceptional QIPCO British Champions Series races in the space of an hour and a quarter will get the world's greatest race meeting off to the most sensational of starts.

The eye of a champion. French superstar Goldikova has won no less than 13 Group 1 races. Image courtesy of racingfotos.com.

The final fields have been declared for the three QIPCO British Champions Series races on the first day of Royal Ascot on Tuesday and the mouth-watering clashes that had been anticipated are on!

In the opening race, the Queen Anne Stakes at 2.30pm, Canford Cliffs and Goldikova, the two best older milers in Europe, will clash for the first time in their careers.

It promises to be a magnificent contest up Ascot’s straight mile, with Canford Cliffs likely to stalk the French-trained mare Goldikova before trying to pounce at the last possible moment.

To add spice to the contest, last year’s 1 ½ mile Irish Derby and 1 ¼ mile Irish Champion Stakes winner, Cape Blanco, will take them on, but will he have the pace for a mile?

The other four runners include Goldikova’s pacemaker, Flash Dance, but it is hard to see the winner coming from outside the big two.

The second race on the card at 3.05pm is the King’s Stand Stakes, race two in the QIPCO British Champions Series sprint category, a truly international contest over five furlongs in which there are runners from the USA, Australia, Hong Kong, Hungary, France, Germany and Ireland, as well as a strong home contingent.

Those that take the eye include Hungarian superstar Overdose, who flopped on the quick ground at Haydock Park in the betfred.com Temple Stakes, but who will relish every drop of rain that falls at Ascot before Tuesday afternoon (Sunday has already seen constant rain all day).

The Australian-trained favourite, Star Witness, whose trainer, Danny O’Brien, is very bullish about his chances, has to be high on any shortlist.

Top Irish sprinter, Sole Power, won the betfred.com Temple, the first sprint race in the Series, from the well fancied Kingsgate Native, while the main USA challenger, Bridgetown, could pose a big threat to all.

If that doesn’t whet the appetite, then the 3.45pm race will!

It’s the St James’s Palace Stakes in which the awesome Frankel will look to enhance still further his massive reputation.

Some thought he might scare off the opposition, but not a bit of it. He must again take on the two horses he beat in his first two races this season – Excelebration, whom he defeated in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury and who then went on to win the German 2000 Guineas with contemptuous ease, and Dubawi Gold, who was unlucky not to win the Irish 2000 Guineas following his second place to Frankel in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Two other potentially even stronger opponents are also in the field – Dream Ahead and Grand Prix Boss.

Dream Ahead was, with Frankel, the joint top-rated two-year-old of last season. He has been waiting for soft ground to make his eagerly anticipated three-year-old debut, so the recent rain is all in his favour.

Grand Prix Boss is Japan’s top three-year-old miler and they never send their horses to Europe if they don’t think they have a big chance.

To add even more spice, the highly rated Wootton Bassett, who was undefeated last season and who went too fast for his own good when a beaten favourite in the French 2000 Guineas, is also in the line-up.

What a race! What a day! Don’t miss it!

Tickets start at £26 and are still available – visit www.ascot.co.uk – or catch all the races live on BBC TV and BBC Radio 5 Live.