06/19/2017 1:16PM

Royal Ascot: Highland Reel in tough in Prince of Wales's Stakes

Debra Roma
Highland Reel, winning the Breeders' Cup Turf last November, faces several other Group 1 winners in the Prince of Wales's Stakes.

Highland Reel won the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita last November and the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom Downs in his most recent start June 2.

Those are brilliant credentials but not enough to make Highland Reel a clear favorite in a tough running of the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot on Wednesday.

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In a field of nine, Highland Reel is far from a standout against runners such as Jack Hobbs, who won the Group 1 Sheema Classic in Dubai in March; Ulysses, who was fourth in the BC Turf and won a Group 3 prep in England in April; and Decorated Knight, the winner of the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland on May 28.

The field includes Queen’s Trust, who won the BC Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita last November but was last of four in the Group 2 Middleton Stakes at York Racecourse last month.

The Prince of Wales’s Stakes is run at about 1 1/4 miles on turf and is worth $955,000, making it the richest race of the five-day Royal Ascot meeting, which was to begin Tuesday and continues through Saturday. First post each day is 9:30 a.m. Eastern.

The Prince of Wales’s Stakes is the fourth of six races on Wednesday’s program.

Highland Reel, trained by Aidan O’Brien for the Coolmore team of Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor, and Susan Magnier, will be ridden by Ryan Moore. Despite his big-race wins at Santa Anita and Epsom, Highland Reel has shown vulnerabilities in the last seven months. He was second by a half-length in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase last December and last of seven in the Sheema Classic in Dubai, fading after setting the pace.

Jack Hobbs, who won the 2015 Irish Derby and has not raced since the Sheema Classic, is a danger as a stalker. Trained by John Gosden, Jack Hobbs is winless in two starts at Ascot, finishing third in the Group 1 Champions Stakes at 1 1/4 miles in 2015 and again last October. This will be the first start at the Royal Ascot meeting for Jack Hobbs.

The race primarily consists of runners from England and Ireland with the exception of Mekhtaal, who won the Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan at Chantilly on May 28 for trainer Jean-Claude Rouget. The Prince of Wales’s Stakes is the first start outside of France for Mekhtaal.

Ward has Queen Mary favorite

Earlier on the program, Happy Like a Fool, the four-length winner of a maiden race at Keeneland in April, will be favored to give American trainer Wesley Ward a third consecutive win in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes for 2-year-olds fillies at a straightaway five furlongs.

Happy Like a Fool, by Distorted Humor, will be ridden by Moore. Ward has won seven races at Royal Ascot, including three runnings of the Queen Mary.

Happy Like a Fool is part of a field of 24 in the $140,000 Queen Mary, but that is not the largest field of the day. There are 30 entries in the $222,950 Royal Hunt Cup, a one-mile handicap run on a straightaway as the day’s fifth race.

In the day’s final race, the $101,920 Sandringham Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at a mile, Ward starts Con Te Partiro, who was fourth in the Soaring Softly Stakes at Belmont Park on May 20 in her only start this year.

Last year, Con Te Partiro won the Bolton Landing Stakes on turf at Saratoga and was second in the Juvenile Turf Sprint on Breeders’ Cup weekend at Santa Anita.