06/10/2011 4:32PM

Royal Ascot: Meeting will start strong with Goldikova

Barbara D. Livingston
Goldikova will be seeking a repeat in Tuesday’s Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.

As appealing as Royal Ascot might be to racing lovers worldwide, the five-day race meeting has nowhere to go but down after Tuesday’s opening.

Day 1 of Royal Ascot features the most esteemed 3-year-old in the world, the unbeaten Frankel, who will be heavily favored to win the St. James’s Palace Stakes. That is the third event on Tuesday’s program, but the most anticipated race of the Royal Ascot meet is the first race of the Royal Ascot meet, the Queen Anne Stakes, which pits Goldikova against Canford Cliffs in a showdown of top-class milers.

The Queen Anne is the first of seven Group 1 races to be contested at Royal Ascot, which will host 30 races between Tuesday and Saturday. Racing programs begin at 9:30 a.m. Eastern each day, with 35- to 40-minute breaks between heats. A hot, dry spring in England has given way to more typical conditions, and the forecast for the whole meeting looks similar – high temperatures in the mid-60s and a chance of showers most every afternoon. Ascot’s course supervisor said Thursday that he expected the turf to be rated no worse than good at the start of the meeting. Ascot is a right-handed track, the opposite of courses in the United States. Races between five and seven furlongs are run down a straightaway, while one-mile races can be contested over a straight or bending course. The St. James’s Palace will be run around one turn, while the Queen Anne goes down the long straightaway.

Goldikova will be seeking her second straight Queen Anne triumph in the meet opener. Winner of the Prix d’Ispahan last month in her 2011 debut, Goldikova captured the 2010 Queen Anne by a neck over Paco Boy, whose trainer, Richard Hannon, sends out Canford Cliffs – probably a superior miler to Paco Boy – in Tuesday’s race. Cape Blanco also is expected to start.

Frankel, a winner in all six of his races, bypassed the 1 1/2-mile English Derby last weekend in favor of a start in the one-mile St. James’s Palace, a race he will be expected to dominate. Frankel led all the way winning the English 2000 Guineas by six lengths in his most recent start. Last fall, Frankel won the Group 2 Royal Lodge at Ascot. As a mark of Royal Ascot’s international flavor, Frankel’s challengers Tuesday could include Grand Prix Boss, a Japanese horse who last raced May 8 in Tokyo.

A third Group 1 race Tuesday, the five-furlong Kings Stand, includes talented Australian invader Star Witness, who will be happy to see that the crack sprinter Black Caviar is not among his rivals in England.

The Wednesday program is topped by the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes, where Australian import So You Think will bid for his third win of the 2011 season. Aidan O’Brien-trained So You Think, one of the early favorites for the Prix de l’Arc d’Triomphe, has dominated lesser opposition making two starts in Ireland this spring. Twice Over may offer at least a slightly greater challenge.

The 2 1/2-mile Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup anchors the Thursday program. The race lost defending champ Rite of Passage this week, with the O’Brien-trained Fame and Glory now heading the betting. The Coronation, for 3-year-old fillies at one mile, is the Group 1 on the Friday program. The six-furlong Golden Jubilee is the Group 1 anchor on Saturday’s closing-day card.

Wesley Ward, who in 2009 became the first American trainer to win a Royal Ascot race, has several horses lined up for this year’s meeting. Several U.S.-based riders also will make an appearance at Royal Ascot.