|Dates: Tuesday 15 to Saturday 20 June Venue: Ascot Racecourse|
|Coverage: Commentary of feature race (16:20 BST) each day on BBC Radio 5 Live|
Royal Ascot will welcome British racing’s biggest crowd for 15 months as the five-day meeting starts on Tuesday.
The Queen is expected to attend on the opening day, with 12,000 spectators allowed daily as part of a test event.
Palace Pier, the mount of Frankie Dettori, and Battaash are among the equine stars in action on Tuesday.
Dettori, 50, will seek a record-equalling fourth Gold Cup on Stradivarius for trainers John and Thady Gosden on Thursday.
Meanwhile, jump racing trailblazer Rachael Blackmore – the first female jockey to win the Grand National in April – will have her first ride at the flat racing showpiece.
Blackmore has been booked by trainer Emmet Mullins to ride 8-1 chance Cape Gentleman in the Ascot Stakes on Tuesday.
The meeting starts with three top-level Group One races on the opening day.
Anticipation is high with the biggest British racing fixtures since the Cheltenham Festival in March 2020 – including Ascot a year ago – held without spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Racegoers must provide negative Covid-19 tests to gain admission as the meeting follows England’s cricket match against New Zealand as a pilot event for welcoming back crowds to sporting events.
Many of those will be in the Royal Enclosure, where top hat and tails remains part of the dress code for men.
Palace Pier is strongly fancied to land the opening Queen Anne Stakes for the Dettori-Gosden combination before Battaash seeks a second consecutive victory in the King’s Stand Stakes under Jim Crowley.
The 2,000 Guineas winner Poetic Flare runs in the St James’ Palace Stakes for trainer Jim Bolger, who dropped a drugs bombshell before the meeting.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, the 79-year-old said there would be “a Lance Armstrong” in Irish racing and he knew who the drug cheats were.
As the piece was written by Paul Kimmage, who helped expose cyclist Armstrong as a drugs cheat, there is likely to be more to follow on this.
Hoping for another fairytale
One man hoping to repeat Royal Ascot success is jockey Adam Kirby, fresh from winning the Derby on Adayar.
Last year he partnered Royal Ascot’s longest-priced winner, 150-1 chance Nando Parrado, and in 2016 sealed a remarkable Group One double shortly after partner Megan gave birth to their son Charlie.
“Hopefully this year will be as lucky,” he told BBC Sport.
“Our first child was born a couple of hours before the King’s Stand Stakes and we went and won with Profitable. It was a fantastic week.”
Tall for a flat jockey, at nearly 6ft, keeping his weight down is a constant challenge, but he is not letting up.
“Every jockey wants to win the Derby. You never know, I might win another one yet,” he said.
Kirby rides Rayapour in the Ascot Stakes for trainer Willie Mullins, who has booked Ryan Moore for M C Muldoon.
Stradivarius & Dettori go for gold again
Dettori starts favourite to be leading jockey at the fixture for the third year running.
He will be confident of adding to his tally of 73 Royal Ascot triumphs, and hoping Stradivarius can emulate Yeats by winning a fourth Gold Cup.
“They are a couple of old boys who get on rather well,” John Gosden told AFP.
“The two of them are not quite yet sitting in their deck chairs staring out to sea on Brighton seafront.
“They are good athletes despite their combined ages.”
A poignant Royal winner?
Other highlights of the meeting include Wednesday’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes where Lord North, Love, Armory, Addeybb and Audarya are set to feature.
Lord North won the race 12 months ago for the Gosden team, while the reappearance of last season’s 1,000 Guineas and Oaks winner Love is eagerly awaited.
This will be the first Royal meeting since the Duke of Edinburgh died two months ago.
The Queen is expected to attend the opening day, where she has an outside chance in the King’s Stand with her horse King’s Lynn.