Royal Ascot: St James’s Palace Stakes and more on day one – live!

Racegoers have arrived at the track.

It’s almost that time … the royal procession down the track is back at about 2pm (for the first time since 2019) and we can expect the details of who will be in it at midday. The Queen is a doubtful runner at Ascot given her mobility issues and is expected to arrive by car if she does attend the first day.

I attended a Serpentine gallery exhibition by artist Mark Wallinger back in 1994 when one of his installations, called ‘Royal Ascot’, consisted of a series of video monitors on top of wheeled flight cases, each isolating the royal carriage’s leisurely progress down the track on the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (respectively, as it was then) of the meeting with the added TV commentary.

The British Council described the work thus: ‘Simultaneous footage exposes precise choreography: the Queen’s frozen smile and rigid curls, the tilt of her head, her gloved wave, the Duke of Edinburgh raising his top hat, the national anthem striking up. Appropriately for an event whose media coverage focuses on the parade of hats and dresses rather than the sport, here we have a close-up on clothes, on the Queen’s dolly mixture of pinks, tangerines, limes; the difference from day to day is barely discernible, just as the four BBC commentaries merge in a confused blather. This repetition of imagery, all backed by bright green turf, brings into play Andy Warhol’s late screenprints of Elizabeth II from his ‘Reigning Queens’ series (1985), a quartet of the postage stamp icon in camp conjugations of Hollywood make-up and bubblegum colours.’

This is the 2018 opening day procession, presented by Mike Vince. See if you can spot the difference this year (aside from Her Majesty not being on board) …

The Royal Procession in 2018.

Non-runner news

Don’t back these, they’re not turning up

4.20pm St James’s Palace Stakes
5 Checkandchallenge

6.10pm Copper Horse Handicap
7 Benaud (Self Certificate – Not Eaten Up)

Racegoers have arrived at the track. Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

Going news

It’s fast out there and with a “Scorchio” forecast for the next few days it can only get quicker. The official going for day one of Royal Ascot is Good to Firm, Good in places. with the GoingStick readings at 8am recorded as: Stands side: 8.8; Centre: 8.6 Far side: 8.6; Round: 7.4. In plain English that means the stands side is the quickest (the higher the reading the faster they go), just … and as is usual the round course (where you find Swinley Bottom) is slower.

The current forecast for the week indicates a dry week through to Saturday with temperatures of 23c on Tuesday due to rise to 26c on Friday. There is currently a risk of thunderstorms on Saturday. It is likely, as long as the forecast remains settled, that the course will water after racing each evening.

The sun is shining as racegoers line up to get into the track.
The sun is shining as racegoers line up to get into the track. Photograph: David Davies/PA

Preamble

Greg Wood

Greg Wood

Good morning from Royal Ascot, where the sun is beating down (as it may well do all week) and tens of thousands of racegoers are humming the Ascot Gavotte to themselves as they stroll around the lawns. Or perhaps that’s just me.

Anyway, it’s the first opening day at the Royal meeting for three years with no Covid restrictions to reduce or, indeed, lock out the crowd altogether, which is a thought to lift the spirits of racing fans everywhere despite everything else that’s going on in the world. And the Tuesday card is, by fairly recent tradition, the purists’ day, with three Group One events – nearly half the total for the entire week – on what is now a seven-race card.

It all kicks off, as it did 10 years ago, with the world’s official top-rated horse going to post for the Queen Anne Stakes. In 2012, it was Frankel, this time around it is Baaeed, the first horse in a decade who can even be mentioned in the same breath as the wonder horse himself.

Frankel put up the best single performance of his career in the 2012 Queen Anne, enough to see his Timeform rating rise to 147, the highest in that operation’s history. Baaeed’s current Timeform mark is 134, thanks to a ruthless dismantling of his field in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury last month, which is none too shabby, but also shows the gap that will need to be bridged if he is to even approach Frankel’s unprecedented standard.

Elsewhere on today’s card, the eyes of the racing world will be on the King’s Stand Stakes at 3.40 as Golden Pal and Nature Strip, the fastest turf sprinters in the US and Australia respectively, scorch down the five-furlong course alongside 16 opponents. Coroebus, the 2,000 Guineas winner, attempts to back up his Classic-winning form in the St James’s Palace Stakes at 4.20, while the two-and-a-half mile Ascot Stakes Handicap will see several of jump racing’s leading names, including Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Dan Skelton, attempting to stick it to their Flat-based counterparts.

Add in the Group Two Coventry Stakes at 3.05, the first big juvenile event of the season, and it’s quite an afternoon in prospect.

There is no sign as yet of any relaxation in Royal Ascot’s strict dress code as a result of the warm weather, but the horses will all get the benefit of the high-temperature regime both before and after their races, so hopefully there will be no issues there.

There is no news as yet on whether the Queen will be able to attend the opening day, but while we are waiting to hear, thoughts (and tips) for the card are here. The best place to get all the news, results and reactions will be right here on the blog, so keep refreshing, folks.

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