06/11/2011 11:41AM

Royal Ascot: Goldikova provides big test to Canford Cliffs in Queen Anne Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Goldikova is back to defend her title in Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne.

Canford Cliffs has youth. He is just 4, and with only nine starts, has room still to improve. He has won four races in a row, all Group 1’s, dating back to the 2010 Irish 1000 Guineas, and with an impressive 2011 debut score in the Lockinge Stakes last month, Canford Cliffs solidified his standing as England’s top miler. But on Tuesday at Royal Ascot, in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, Canford Cliffs, for the first time, runs headlong into the force of nature called Goldikova.

Goldikova, 6, made her first start when Canford Cliffs still was a foal. She has won 16 of her 22 races, including victories in 13 Group or Grade 1’s. She has won the last three Breeders’ Cup Miles, and her Group 1 winning streak stands at three. It’s fair to say that the Queen Anne matchup, in the first race of the 2011 Royal Ascot meeting, has become the most compelling story so far this European flat-racing season.

Goldikova, trained by Freddie Head and to be ridden as always by Olivier Peslier, won the 2010 Queen Anne by a neck, and she is following the same race pattern this year, having for the third year in a row won the Prix d’Ispahan at Longchamp in her seasonal debut. Goldikova’s winning margin in the May 22 Ispahan was only a neck, but the nine furlongs of that race stretch Goldikova’s distance limitations. Goldikova is best over one mile on good-to-firm ground, exactly the conditions she should find Tuesday at Ascot. Head also has entered Flash Dance, who made the pace for Goldikova in the Ispahan and will do so again Tuesday.

Goldikova typically does her racing closer to the lead than Canford Cliffs, who generally is held up near the rear until the final quarter-mile. Canford Cliffs has a powerful late run and high ratings, but he has never faced a horse as good as Goldikova, his best win in 2010 coming by a neck over Rip Van Winkle. Canford Cliff’s win over the Ascot course a year ago in the St. James’s Palace Stakes came over the turning one-mile course, while the Queen Anne is contested down a straightaway. Canford Cliffs did win the Irish 1000 Guineas over a straight course at The Curragh.

Cape Blanco is being turned back to a mile from longer distances by trainer Aidan O’Brien and has enough class to factor in the race, if he is able to accelerate with the two favorites. Dick Turpin is Canford Cliffs’s stablemate and was his equal early last year, but he was no match for Canford Cliffs in the Lockinge and may need softer going to show his best. A win by any of the others would constitute an epic upset.