06/11/2010 12:00AM

Two U.S. hopes in Ascot opener


Inspired by the history-making exploits of Wesley Ward at Royal Ascot last year, two American horses will line up on opening day of the Royal Meeting on Tuesday in the hope that lightning can strike again. Ken McPeek will saddle Noble's Promise in the Group 1, $367,000 St. James's Palace Stakes, and Ward is back with Metropolitan Man in the listed $73,000 Windsor Castle Stakes.

Noble's Promise faces the more difficult task. Fifth last time in the Kentucky Derby when he led briefly early in the stretch, he is probably better suited to the mile of the St. James's Palace Stakes than the 1 1/4 miles of the Kentucky Derby. The St. James's Palace, however, will be Noble's Promise's first try at a mile, although he did win his maiden in his only previous try on turf going 5 1/2 furlongs at Ellis Park. He will be ridden by Kieren Fallon, who is familiar with Ascot, but Noble's Promise finds himself in one of the hottest St. James's Palace Stakes in recent memory.

The selection is Makfi, a French-trained horse who has won all three of his starts, most recently the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, in which he came late to defeat Dick Turpin by 1 1/4 lengths.

Dick Turpin, trained by Richard Hannon, returns in the St. James's Palace after finishing second in the French 2000 Guineas to Lope de Vega, who went on to win the French Derby. Another Hannon trainee, Canford Cliffs, was third in the Newmarket Guineas and followed with a sharp score in the Irish 2000, a performance that has led William Hill to install him as its 3-2 favorite. But Makfi has more room for improvement. Trained by Mikel Delzangles, he will be ridden by Christophe Lemaire as Hill's 9-4 second favorite.

Godolphin's Shakespearean, recent winner of the Group 3 Diomed Stakes against older horses, is a longshot threat.

Metropolitan Man gave nobody else a chance when he led throughout to take his maiden debut by 7 1/4 lengths on the Keeneland Polytrack on April 22. Ward won the five-furlong Windsor Castle last year with the front-running Strike the Tiger under John Velazquez, and he is hoping Elvis Trujillo can produce similar magic this year with Metropolitan Man. British sprinters are notoriously slow out of the gate, so if Trujillo can steal an early lead, Metropolitan Man may have an edge.

Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Kinsale King has passed on Tuesday's Group 1, $440,000 King's Stand Stakes at five furlongs in favor of the six-furlong Golden Jubilee Stakes on Saturday. In his absence, the King's Stand may fall to an Australian invader, as it has in four of the last seven years.

Nicconi, winner of the five-furlong, Group 1 Lightning Stakes at Flemington three back, is the 4-1 favorite, but he has been unplaced in his last two starts in Australia. Gold Trail was a Group 1 sprint winner at Ellerslie in New Zealand in New Year's Day but was fourth last time in the KrisFlyer Sprint in Singapore. Starspangledbanner is a two-time Group 1 winner in Australia now trained by Aidan O'Brien. He looked sharp when a close fifth last time in a weight-giving performance in the six-furlong, Group 2 Duke of York Stakes.

The selection, however, is Kingsgate Native, a Michael Stoute-trained horse who is coming of a win in the five-furlong, Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock Park.

All 30 races at Royal Ascot's five-day meeting will be televised by TVG and HRTV. Post time for the first race each day, Tuesday through Saturday, is 9:30 a.m. Eastern.