Wichita and Pinatubo, second and third in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket a fortnight ago, are set to renew rivalry at Royal Ascot after featuring among seven horses declared for the St James’s Palace Stakes.
The Group One contest is usually run on the first day of the showpiece meeting, but has this year been pushed back to the final afternoon on Saturday to give horses who ran in the season’s opening Classic the best opportunity to turn out again.
The move appears to have paid off – because although the Derby-bound 2000 Guineas winner Kameko will not be in attendance, the two horses who finished immediately behind him will do battle for top-level honours.
Aidan O’Brien’s Wichita was beaten just a neck by Kameko over the Rowley Mile, with the Charlie Appleby-trained favourite Pinatubo a length further back in third as last season’s champion juvenile lost his unbeaten record.
O’Brien will also saddle Arizona and Royal Dornoch in his bid for a record ninth St James’s Palace success.
The chief threat to the big two appears to be Palace Pier, who is three from three for John Gosden but faces a steep rise in class.
Clive Cox’s Positive and Threat from Richard Hannon’s yard complete the septet.
The Coronation Stakes has thrown up a similar scenario to the colts’ equivalent, with the 1000 Guineas second and third – Hannon’s Cloak Of Spirits and Roger Charlton’s Quadrilateral – two of seven contenders.
Strength in depth is added by Gosden’s hugely impressive Newmarket winner Run Wild and Jessica Harrington’s Debutante Stakes heroine of last summer, Alpine Star.
O’Brien’s pair of Love Locket and So Wonderful, and Graham Motion’s American challenger Sharing, are the other hopefuls.
The third and final Group One of the afternoon is the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, for which Denis Hogan’s Sceptical heads the market.
The Exceed And Excel gelding has won his last four starts and could not have been more impressive in a Listed event at Naas earlier in the month.
His nine rivals include last year’s runner-up Dream Of Dreams, from Sir Michael Stoute’s yard, Kevin Ryan’s Hello Youmzain, 2017 winner The Tin Man – trained by James Fanshawe – and William Haggas’ mare One Master.
O’Brien’s More Beautiful, Wesley Ward’s Campanelle and Haggas’ Sacred are three of 20 juvenile fillies set to face the starter in the Queen Mary Stakes – while 16 colts have stood their ground for the Coventry, with O’Brien’s Admiral Nelson edging favouritism ahead of Mark Johnston’s Qaader and Appleby’s Creative Force.
The Silver Wokingham, the Wokingham itself and the Queen Alexandra Stakes are the three fiercely competitive handicaps that make up the card as Royal Ascot 2020 draws to a close.