Never mind the pomp and pageantry, the top hat and tails, the fashionistas and the fascinators, it’s the horses that matter most at Royal Ascot this week.
The historic meeting, which begins on Tuesday, is regarded by many as one of England’s last bastions of tradition. In the royal enclosure, gentlemen are still bound by a ludicrously antiquated dress code.
But while many will use the event as a social occasion, the equine excellence on the track is the main focus for racing fans.
Thirty-five races, including eight Group Ones, spread across five days, with some of the best horses in the world competing for record prize money of £9.52 million. That adds up to the best week of racing on the planet.
The fields are peppered by international raiders from nations such as Ireland, Australia, the USA, France, Germany and even Sweden. Superb sprints, heritage handicaps, high-class two-year-old races and vintage staying contests add rich competition and variety.
It’s the first royal meeting since the death of Queen Elizabeth II. who was so passionate about the occasion. But it is also the last before the retirement of racing royalty, Frankie Dettori, who has ridden 77 Royal Ascot winners since his debut ride way back in 1989.
The action will be savoured by about 275,000 racegoers on track and millions more on TV around the world. You can watch every race on ITV or ITV4, and also Sky Sports Racing. And to give you a taste of what’s to come, we’ve picked out 12 of the best fancied or highest rated horses to look out for. Not tips, but horses primed to steal the limelight as the week progresses.
1. Modern Games (Tuesday 2.30)
As always, the meeting kicks off with the Group One Queen Anne Stakes over Ascot's straight mile, and the warm favourite is Godolphin's globetrotting 4yo Modern Games, trained by Charlie Appleby, ridden by champion jockey William Buick and a son of supersire Dubawi, whose progeny have a tremendous record at the royal meeting. Tough and talented, Modern Games has already pocketed £2.7 million in prize money during his career and, as our photo shows, he warmed up for this by winning the best trial, the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury,. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
2. Highfield Princess (Tuesday 3.40)
Under-rated northern jockey Jason Hart celebrates victory aboard Highfield Princess in the Group One Nunthorpe Stakes at York's Ebor meeting last season, one of five victories racked up by the amazing sprinting mare. Under the tutelage of shrewd trainer John Quinn, the 6yo has improved dramatically since 2020 when she was running off a lowly handicap mark of just 57. Now she is rated 119 and is fancied to land another major sprint, the King's Stand Stakes, on Tuesday. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
3. Chaldean (Tuesday 4.20)
Frankie Dettori treats the crowd to one of his famous flying dismounts after steering Chaldean to victory in the first Classic of the Flat season, the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last month. Will he be repeating the celebration after Tuesday's Group One St James's Palace Stakes for the best 3yo milers in Europe? Andrew Balding's son of the mighty Frankel is a hardy, consistent type and now faces an acid test against the Irish Guineas winner, Paddington, and the French Guineas runner-up, Isaac Shelby. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
4. Adayar (Wednesday 4.20)
It's very rare for a Derby winner to remain in training as a 5yo, but Godolphin's brilliant winner of the 2021 Classic at Epsom, and then the King George here at Ascot, missed most of last season because of injury. The son of Frankel looked as good as ever when cruising to victory on his seasonal reappearance at Newmarket last month and now aims to exact revenge on Bay Bridge for a narrow defeat in the Champion Stakes last October in a mouthwatering renewal of the Prince Of Wales's Stakes that also features Aidan O'Brien's top-notcher Luxembourg. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images