Royal Ascot, running for five days in mid June of each year (Tuesday 16th June – Saturday 20th June in 2020), is one of the most highly anticipated events in UK racing. With its royal connections and history dating back to 1911, it’s one to watch for all ardent horse racing fans.
As is the nature of racing, it’s impossible to totally rule out big raced winners, and over the years outsiders have won even the most prestigious of Royal Ascot races. I recall Arcadian Heights winning the 1994 Gold Cup on his third attempt as outsider at 20-1.
2020 was no exception for big priced winners. There were several horses winning at big odds with bookmakers over the five days (Onassis and Scarlett Dragon both won as 33-1 outsiders). As often happens though, racing saves the best for last. On the final day not only did Frankie Dettori pull off an impressive treble (which as an accumulator would have been 150-1), but it also brought us the biggest odds winner in Royal Ascot history, co-incidentally also 150-1, Nando Parrado.
Coming in at only fifth on his Newmarket debut earlier this month, Nando Parrado simply wasn’t on the radar, and left punters and bookmakers stunned with a performance that earned him the title of biggest price Royal Ascot winner in modern times. He looked to have serious ambitions as he started the Coventry Stakes, featuring prominently. Qaader put down a challenge but there was only one winner on the day, Nando Parrado, ridden by Jockey Adam Kirby. Prior to this the longest-priced outsider winner in Royal Ascot’s history was Flashmans Papers in the 2008 Windsor Castle and Fox Chapel in the 1990 Britannia Stakes.
After the victory Trainer Clive Cox was more inclined to say he was shocked by the 150-1 price, rather than the win, “I was just saying it is not a shock. The price was a shock. He is a proper horse and we loved him from the start. It was always the plan to come here, it was just a sideways step on his first run.”. Before 2020, the biggest priced winner(s) in the Coventry Stakes was just 20-1 (Chief Singer (1983), Landseer (2001), War Command (2013)). At 150-1 with bookmakers – and much bigger on the exchanges – Nando Parrado has set a Royal Ascot record that’s going to be hard to top.
The most successful trainer, numerically, in the history of Royal Ascot is Sir Michael Stoute who, in 2019, took his career total to 80 winners at the Royal Meeting. His latest victory came courtesy of Crystal Ocean, who accounted for world-class opposition, including Magical and Waldgeist – subsequent winners of the Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, respectively – in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
Stoute, who hails from Barbados – in fact, was knighted for services to tourism in his native country in 1998 – had already won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes three times before, including with Poet’s Word in 2018. He began training, in his own right, in 1972 and saddled his first Royal Ascot winner, Etienne Gerard, in the Jersey Stakes five years later.
The veteran trainer, who turns 74 in October, 2019, won the last of his ten trainers’ titles in 2009 but, by his own admission, lacks the ‘firepower or the numbers’ to do so again. Nevertheless, Stoute remains as competitive as ever, granted the right ammunition – or, in his own words, ‘some class horses to go to war with’ – and his latest Royal Ascot winner, 42 years after his first, confirms that, at the Berkshire course at least, he remains a force to be reckoned with.
Run over 2 miles, 3 furlongs and 210 yards and, nowadays, open to horses aged four years and upwards, the Gold Cup was inuagurated in 1807 and, when the European Pattern Race system was introduced 1971, was the one and only Group One race staged during Royal Ascot. Prior to 2008, just one horse, Sagaro, trained by François Boutin in Lamorlaye, near Chantilly, had won the Gold Cup three times. However, on June 19 that year, Yeats, trained by Aidan O’Brien, was sent off 11/8 favourite to become the second horse to complete a hat-trick in what is the longest Group One race in the world and duly obliged, drawing clear in the closing stages to beat Geordieland by 5 lengths.
Not only that, but the following year, as an eight-year-old, Yeats returned to Royal Ascot to attempt an unprecedented fourth win in the Gold Cup. Sent off 6/4 favourite, ahead of Geordieland and Paktai, who had finished first and second in the Group Two Henry II Stakes at Sandown the previous month, Yeats never gave his supporters an anxious moment; having taken a commanding lead inside the final quarter-of-a-mile, Yeats galloped on resolutely to beat Paktai by 3½ lengths with his old rival Geordieland 15 lengths further back in third place. Yeats was retired from racing the following October as was subsequently described by Timeform as ‘a giant who will be virtually impossible to replace on the track’.
Bred and owned by Juddmonte Farms, under the auspices of Khalid Abdullah, and trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel won five times at Ascot in all, but just two of those victories came at Royal Ascot. Indeed, on the first occasion, as a three-year-old, on June 14, 2011, Frankel came as close to defeat as he did in his entire 14-race career. Fresh from an impressive 6-length win in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Galileo colt was sent off at 30/100 to win the St. James’s Palace Stakes at the Royal Meeting. However, having taken a 6-length lead with a quarter of a mile to run, Frankel was quickly coming back to his rivals inside the final half a furlong and had to be ridden out by jockey Tom Queally to beat 20/1 chance Zoffany, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore, by three-quarters of a length.
The following season, as a four-year-old, Frankel contested the opening Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, for which he started a hugley prohibitive 1/10. Nevertheless, his cramped odds proved entirely justified as he soon quickened clear, despite drifting slightly right in the closing stages, for an extremely impressive 11-length win over old rival Excelebration; in so doing, Frankel achieved the highest rating ever achieved by a Flat horse in the history of Timeform.