06/13/2011 8:29PM

Royal Ascot - Day 1

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The eyes of the global racing community turn from Belmont Park to Royal Ascot as the glorious British meeting opens tomorrow with a bang. 

In the initial race of the festival, three-time Breeders' Cup Mile champion Goldikova faces a stiff challenge from the sharp 4-year-old colt Canford Cliffs in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at eight furlongs on the turf. 

Frankel, the fabulous sophomore sensation, will seek to enhance his reputation when he starts as the odds-one favorite in the Group 1 St. James's Palace Stakes at a mile. 

American interests will be represented in the King's Stand Stakes, a five furlong turf dash.  Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez send out Bridgetown while Wesley Ward and Joel Rosario produce Holiday for Kitten.

Ward, a guru with juvenile performers, starts Italo in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at six furlongs and Gentlemans Gode in the listed Windsor Castle Stakes at five-eighths of a mile. 

It's a smorgasbord of stakes action at one of the loveliest, and most historic, racecourses in the world.  Here are some opinions for Opening Day:

QUEEN ANNE STAKES:
We all know GOLDIKOVA from her Breeders' Cup exploits, but it's possible that she will not even start favored in the Queen Anne. 
That role may fall to CANFORD CLIFFS, who swept the Irish 2,000 Guineas, the St. James's Palace Stakes and the Sussex Stakes last year at three. 
Canford Cliffs made a winning seasonal debut in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes, tracking the leaders while in between rivals before splitting foes a quarter of a mile from home.  He put away runner-up Worthadd in the waning strides and was flattered when that one returned to his home country of Italy to win the Group 2 Premio Carlo Vittadini. 
Although he beat the good group horses Twice Over and Dick Turpin in the Lockinge, it must be noted that Dick Turpin was humiliated by Goldikova when he returned to the races in France on May 22. 
This is obviously a huge step up for Canford Cliffs as he faces the reigning queen of the turf world, but he may be coming into his own and is the tepid selection. 
CAPE BLANCO (won Irish Champion Stakes and Irish Derby last year) and CITYSCAPE look overmatched, but can be exotic factors on their very best.
Selections:  Canford Cliffs, Goldikova, Cape Blanco

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KING'S STAND STAKES:
This should be a barn-burner with a wide-open 19-horse field.   Put a musket to my head and I'll pick SOLE POWER, who upset the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at odds of 100-1 last year.  Sole Power got back on the beam last time out in the Group 2 Temple Stakes, but there is concern the ground will be too testing for him. 
The Hungarian flash, OVERDOSE, attempts to bounce back following a seventh-place finish behind Sole Power in the Temple.  He has high early speed and should be prominent from the get-go. 
KINGSGATE NATIVE is a bit inconsistent, but can go better in his second start of the season.  In his 2011 debut, he finished a close second behind Sole Power in the Temple. 
The brittle ARCTIC won the first three starts of his career, but injuries have taken their toll and he is winless in his last four races.  He must improve off his current form, but if he gets up, healthy and happy, on the right side of the stall...
PROHIBIT steps up following a Group 2 placing in France while War Artist finished second in the Group 2 Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup evening.
BRIDGETOWN and HOLIDAY FOR KITTEN carry the Stars and Stripes.  The former can contend on his very best. STAR WITNESS, from Australia, has been chasing one of the top horses in the world, Black Caviar, and should appreciate the class relief.
Selections:  Sole Power, Overdose, Kingsgate Native

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ST JAMES'S PALACE STAKES:
The undefeated FRANKEL, so impressive in the English 2,000 Guineas, is expected to make it seven-for-seven in the St. James's Palace Stakes.  He has already taken the measure of several members of this field and figures to be on, or near, the lead from the starting stalls.
GRAND PRIX BOSS, the Japanese raider, will take his shot at Frankel following a score in the Group 1 NHK Mile Cup.  EXCELEBRATION, no match for Frankel in the the Group 3 Greenham Stakes on April 16, returned to dominate his competition in the German 2,000 on May 2 despite drifting in during the final furlong. 
Selections:  Frankel, Grand Prix Boss, Excelebration

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COVENTRY STAKES:
While it wouldn't be any sort of surprise if Wesley Ward's ITALO makes it two in a row, I'm leaning to Aidan O'Brien's POWER, an undefeated colt that won his debut at six furlongs before gutting out a tough battle in listed company at five panels on May 21.  He'll have to deal with fellow two-time winners FULBRIGHT and GATEPOST.  MEZMAAR was very impressive in his debut and is the proverbial "could be any kind."
Selections:  Power, Fulbright, Gatepost

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WINDSOR CASTLE STAKES:

FREDERICK ENGELS ran very fast in winning last time out and he may be sharp enough to take another.  GENTLEMANS CODE, the Ward-trained, American-based juvenile, looked to win with something to spare at Folkestone last month. CASPAR NETSCHER may appreciate cutting back to five furlongs.
Selections:  Frederick Engels, Gentlemans Code, Caspar Netscher

More importantly, who do you like at Royal Ascot tomorrow?  I want to know.

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The inquiry light is flashing for the Belmont HandiGambling contest.  I'll let tencentcielo, scorekeeper and head steward, make the final decision.