Veteran Newmarket trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who turns 75 in October, 2020, is no stranger to success at Royal Ascot. In fact, the victory of Crystal Ocean in the Prince of Wales’ Stakes in 2019 took his careeer total to 80 winners and confirmed his position as the leading trainer of all time at the Royal Meeting. One race in which Sir Michael has done particularly well is the Hardwicke Stakes, which has been staged in recent years on the and final day of Royal Ascot, but moved to the penultimate day in the revamped schedule for 2020.
Named after the Fifth Earl of Hardwicke, Charles Yorke, popularly known as ‘Champagne Charlie’, who was Her Majesty’s Representative at Ascot, the Hardwicke Stakes is a Group Two contest – that is, just one step below the top tier, Group One, in terms of quality – run over 1 mile, 3 furlongs and 211 yards and open to horses aged four years and upwards.
All told, Sir Michael Stoute has won the Hardwicke Stakes eleven times, with eight of those wins coming after the turn of the twenty-first century. Sir Michael first claimed the prize with Dihistan in 1986 but, after back-to-back victories with the Shareef Dance colt, Rock Hopper in 1991 and 1992 – courtesy of the Ascot stewards on the first occasion – he suffered a lengthy hiatus and did not saddle the winner again until 2006. However, his 2006 winner, Maraahel, followed up in 2007 and
has since been joined on the roll of honour by Harbinger (2010), Sea Moon (2012), Telescope (2014), Snow Sky (2015), Dartmouth (2016), and Crystal Ocean (2018).