ACCORDING to Wikipedia, the King’s Stand was created back in 1860 as a result of bad weather when heavy rain made it impossible to run the Royal Stand Plate over its usual two-mile distance, with the race shortened to five furlongs instead.
There are unlikely to be such problems this afternoon with baking-hot weather expected at Ascot and all eyes will be on Wesley Ward’s flying three-year-old filly LADY AURELIA.
The daughter of Scat Daddy arrived at this meeting last year on the back of just a maiden win at Keeneland.
Despite her trainer having concerns about both her inexperience and the soft ground, she scorched clear of her rivals to win the Queen Mary Stakes by seven lengths
It was an astonishing display and even though she went on to suffer defeat over six furlongs in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket, her performance at last year’s meeting will live long in the memory.
Her reappearance win at Keeneland in April was impressive and Ward, who has trained seven Royal Ascot winners, thinks she’s back to her best.
She certainly has a big chance, especially on the quicker surface, but only two three-year-olds have won this race since the turn of the millennium.
Drawn in stall 18, she looks certain to travel up with the pace against the stands side rail and may take plenty of catching.
If she is to be caught, it may well be by another very fast filly in the shape of the four-year-old MARSHA.
Trained by Sir Mark Prescott, she finished off last year’s campaign with victory in the Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly and returned this season with victory in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket last month.
What made that performance even more impressive was that not only was it her first start of the campaign, but she also carried a 4lb penalty for her French success.
There were some decent horses behind her that day and now without that penalty, she will be very hard to keep out of the frame.
This prize hasn’t gone to France since 2005, but it could do this year as SIGNS OF BLESSING looked top class on his reappearance at Deauville.
The six-year-old is unquestionably improving with age and beat Profitable, the winner of this race 12 months ago, by two lengths carrying a monster penalty at the same time.
Even though he will encounter very different ground conditions this afternoon, he impressed with the way he travelled from the front at Deauville and he looks sure to run well.
Don’t forget, he was only headed in the last 50 yards in last year’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes over six furlongs, so this drop back to five furlongs should suit.
With speedballs like Lady Aurelia, Take Cover and Just Glamourous all berthed around my selection in stall 13, he looks sure to be given the perfect lead into the race.
If there is one niggling concern, it is that he is yet to race on ground quicker than good, but hopefully plenty of water will have been put on the course.
Looking at the others and last year’s winner Profitable looks to have been drawn away from the action in stall one and also would probably want a bit more cut in the ground.
Plenty have run well in this race before, including Charlie Hills’ Cotai Glory who was a close second 12 months ago.
He hasn’t been in the best form this season, but a return to Ascot could help him bounce back.
Goldream won this race in 2015 with Muthmir not far back in third and both will enjoy the fast ground.
The Temple Stakes at Haydock has been a good trial for this race in recent years and Clive Cox’s Priceless will also have her supporters.
However, you often get some big priced outsiders that hit the frame in this race and that could well be Bryan Smart’s ALPHA DELPHINI in the first-time visor.
He’s another sprinter improving with age for his connections and wasn’t beaten far at Haydock in the Temple Stakes last time.
If they go too fast up front, which seems more than likely, he’ll be there to pick up the pieces.
Bill Esdaile’s King’s Stand 1-2-3-4
- SIGNS OF BLESSING
- LADY AURELIA
- ALPHA DELPHINI