06/11/2011 2:51PM

Royal Ascot: Frankel a heavy favorite in St. James's Palace Stakes


By Tuesday, the American Triple Crown will have wrapped up, and the cream of the 3-year-crop will be on their way to late-summer destinations and an eventual convergence with the older-horse set. But across the pond, all eyes will be trained on an English 3-year-old, the best-known sophomore in the world, Frankel, whose next stop in a so-far undefeated career comes Tuesday in the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The St. James’s Palace is one of three Group 1's at Royal Ascot on Tuesday, the first of a five-day, star-studded meet at the storied course about 30 miles west of downtown London. Seven Group 1 races are scheduled during the meeting, with at least one Group 1 event every day.

Frankel has started his career with six wins, four at age 2 and two more this year. Since he scored a half-length debut victory last August at Newmarket, no horse has gotten within two lengths of Frankel. His average win margin has been five lengths, and he exits a six-length mop-up of the English 2000 Guineas.

Either the rest of the European 3-year-olds are mediocre, or Frankel is making them look that way.

The competition does not figure to get any stiffer in the St. James’s Palace, which will be contested around one right-hand turn over one mile on turf expected to be rated good. Pending final withdrawals Sunday morning (the post-position draw for Tuesday’s races at Ascot takes place later Sunday), there were 13 horses left in the St. James’s Palace, and Frankel already has handily beaten five of them. His Guineas win came after an early burst of speed that propelled Frankel to a huge lead, which he never relinquished, but trainer Henry Cecil – recently knighted – has hinted at a chance of tactics Tuesday. Frankel has won from various running positions, but he is a hot-blooded horse who, at this stage of his career, is keen to get on with fast running. That tendency might work against him against better older horses later in the year, but Frankel, if he merely holds his form, will be a short-priced winner Tuesday.

The other Group 1 winners in the race are Dream Ahead, who may be distance-challenged; Japanese invader Grand Prix Boss; and Wootton Bassett, who disappointed in France last month while making his 3-year-old bow.

Two Americans in King’s Stand

The Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes will have a decidedly international flavor, with two horses from the United States and another from Australia expected to be among the starters in the five-furlong, straight-course dash. There were 21 horses still among the King’s Stand entries as of Saturday, with final declarations for the race to be made Sunday morning.

The Americans in the King’s Stand are Bridgetown, trained by Todd Pletcher, and Holiday for Kitten, one of eight Wesley Ward-trained horses expected to race during the five-day Ascot meeting. Bridgetown is the more accomplished of the pair, having won half his 12 starts. Bridgetown’s three 2011 starts, all at five furlongs, have produced two wins and a second.

Star Witness, the Australian, should have a decent chance. Australian sprinters, headed by Black Caviar, whom Star Witness has faced several times, are a talented group, and Star Witness has shown Group 1-winning form in the past.