06/10/2010 11:00PM

Goldikova can rule on opening day at Royal Ascot


Royal Ascot starts with a bang on Tuesday with a scintillating renewal of the Group 1, $367,000 Queen Anne Stakes. A straight mile for older horses, it has attracted dual Breeders' Cup Mile winner Goldikova, defending champ Paco Boy, two-time Group 1 mile winner Rip Van Winkle, and Dalghar, a late-blooming colt who set a track record at Longchamp last week.

The winner of seven Group 1 or Grade 1 miles, four of them against males, Goldikova is arguably the best female racehorse in the world. She exceeded expectations last time when setting a track record of her own as she once again beat males at the top level in Longchamp's 1 1/8-mile, 55-yard Prix d'Ispahan, but her early season target has always been the Queen Anne. Trainer Freddie Head will have Goldikova, a 5-year-old daughter of Anabaa owned by the Wertheimer brothers, firing on all cylinders on Tuesday as Olivier Peslier rides her for the 17th time in her 17th career start.

Paco Boy won last year's Queen Anne by 1 1/2 lengths but was beating a much easier field. That said, he is a much-improved horse this year, having cruised to victory in the Group 2 Sandown Mile and the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes. A 5-year-old son of Desert Style trained by Richard Hannon, he will have Richard Hughes on board, but if Goldikova runs her race, he will be hard-pressed to find a path to victory.

Rip Van Winkle, a son of Galileo treined by Aidan O'Brien, is returning from a long winter's rest that has had him on the sidelines since his 10th in the Breeders' Cup Classic. The best 3-year-old miler in the world last year when he won both the Sussex Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Rip Van Winkle is William Hills's second favorite at 5-2 despite his absence of more than seven months. Meanwhile, Hills offers Goldikova at 3-2 and Paco Boy at 11-4.

Dalghar is the Queen Anne wild card. While he is stepping up in class from his win in the Group 3 Prix du Palais-Royal on June 5, when he broke Longchamp's seven-furlong track record by a half-second, he looks ready for the challenge. Trained by Alain de Royar-Dupre for the Aga Khan, he is an Anabaa half-brother to eight-time Group 1 or Grade 1 winner Daylami and to Arc winner Dalakhani, but unlike those two, he appears more adept at a mile or thereabouts. Christophe Lemaire will ride.

The Godolphin Mile winner Calming Influence and Lockinge Stakes runner-up Ouqba will be hoping that the favorites falter, but that is an unlikely occurrence as Goldikova should become the first female winner of the Queen Anne since Kandy Sauce in 1956.