06/15/2014 5:08PM

American influences all over English Royal Ascot meet


There are American influences from start to finish on Tuesday’s opening day of the Royal Ascot meeting in England, the most highly anticipated week of flat racing on the English calendar.

The six-race program is highlighted by three Group 1 races worth $636,375 – the Queen Anne Stakes over a mile, the King’s Stand Stakes over five furlongs, and the St. James’s Palace Stakes for 3-year-old colts over a mile.

Tuesday’s final race, the $101,800 Windsor Castle Stakes for 2-year-olds over a straightaway five furlongs, has a field of 25, including the American runner Hootenanny.

Hootenanny is the first of six American-based runners trained by Ward for Royal Ascot races. Victor Espinoza, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes on California Chrome, has the mount and will ride a majority of Ward’s horses this week.

Hootenanny was third May 16 in the Rollicking Stakes at Pimlico.

The field is led by Merdon Castle and Mind of Madness, both winners of their first starts this spring.

The Queen Anne Stakes drew a field of 10 and is led by Toronado, the 4-year-old who won the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last July and was second in the 2013 St. James’s Palace Stakes. The biggest threat to Toronado is Verrazano, who won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial and Grade 1 Haskell Invitational last year when trained by Todd Pletcher.

Verrazano, who races for Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Susan Magnier, was transferred to Aidan O’Brien over the winter. In his first start in Europe, Verrazano was third to Olympic Glory in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in May.

The King’s Stand Stakes has 17 runners over a straightaway course.

Hot Streak, the winner of the Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock last month, is expected to be favored over Sole Power and Shea Shea, the first two finishers of the 2013 King’s Stand Stakes. There is an American-trained runner in Ancil, a longshot from the Kentucky stable of Joan Scott. Ancil was eighth May 2 in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes at Churchill Downs.

The St. James’s Palace Stakes is a rematch of the English 2000 Guineas on May 3, when Night of Thunder scored an upset at 40-1 over Kingman, the 6-4 favorite. For Tuesday’s race, Kingman was the even-money favorite as of Sunday afternoon. Trained by John Gosden, Kingman won the Group 1 Irish 2000 Guineas on May 24. Night of Thunder has not raced since the English 2000 Guineas.

The St. James’s Palace Stakes field includes Outstrip, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita last November. Outstrip was last of 14 in the English 2000 Guineas.