Not content with owning Cheltenham and the Grand National, standout jockey Rachael Blackmore will now tackle Royal Ascot on Tuesday’s first day of the five-day meet.
Blackmore takes the reins of Cape Gentlemen for the Listed Ascot Stakes, the finale of Royal Ascot’s seven-race opening day. Headlining the day are two Group 1 races: the Queen Anne Stakes, featuring Palace Pier taking on Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order of Australia and third-place finisher Lope Y Fernandez, and the King’s Stand Stakes, where star sprinter Battaash goes for two wins in a row.
And this assignment isn’t one of novelty. Cape Gentlemen is currently the second-favorite at anywhere from 6/1 to 7/1 at the European books. MC Muldoon is the favorite, trained by Willie Mullins, who won this race four times in 15 tries.
That the Ascot Stakes is Royal Ascot’s second-longest race at two miles, three furlongs plays right into Blackmore’s strengths. She’s well-versed riding long distances as one of Europe’s best jump riders, and a victory at Royal Ascot would give Blackmore one of the greatest seasons any rider has ever enjoyed.
How does Blackmore top herself?
It’s already been year to remember for Blackmore in 2021. She won six races at the Cheltenham Festival in March, making her the first female to win the festival’s top jockey award. A month later, she rode 11/1 Minella Times to the Grand National title, making her the first female rider capturing England’s most prestigious jump event.
Blackmore isn’t a stranger to flat racing, however. She piloted Oriental Eagle to a Listed Stakes title at Limerick last year in the Martin Molony Stakes. And Cape Gentlemen has a similar background. The 5-year-old gelding won the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton in February. But before he leaped to the jump circuit, he won the Irish Cesarewitch in 2020.
Emmett Mullins trains both Oriental Eagle and Cape Gentlemen. He said Ascot’s expected good turf should help Cape Gentlemen successfully tangle with the 19 others in the 20-horse field. “We’re very excited about him, fingers crossed he’ll run a good race,” Mullins told Sky Sports. “He’s gone up a fair amount in the weights since he won the Irish Cesarewitch, but he won it well and hopefully there’s a bit more improvement in him.”
Top sprinter, top miler top Royal Ascot’s Tuesday card
Elsewhere on Royal Ascot’s opening day, both Palace Pier and Battaash loom formidable in their respective races. Palace Pier won the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last year, and is 2-for-2 this year. He’s one of Europe’s top milers, not only on the track, but with bettors, who made him a 4/9 favorite to win the Queen Anne Stakes.
As for Battaash, the 7-year-old gelding hasn’t run in 298 days since winning the Nunthorpe Stakes at York last August. That’s no matter to bettors, however, who made him a 15/8 favorite to repeat in the five-furlong King’s Stand.
Waiting for him are a host of threats, led by Winter Power and Liberty Beach, both coming off victories. Then, there is Queen Elizabeth II’s King’s Lynn, who won his last race, the Achilles Stakes at Haydock in late May. The Queen’s horse hasn’t missed the board in his last four races (1-2-1), but makes a sizable class leap here.