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Racing Post Sizes Up America's Royal Ascot Runners

Four U.S.-based horses expected to compete at Royal Ascot.

Ultima Grace wins on debut April 18 at Keeneland

Ultima Grace wins on debut April 18 at Keeneland

Coady Photo

Royal Ascot always has an international feel to it, and this year promises to be no exception, with a plethora of overseas challengers poised to line up at the meeting. Here is a comprehensive analysis of the key contenders from the United States.

Keeneland-based trainer Wesley Ward is set to saddle three runners at this year's meeting, while John Sadler also has a contender.

Ultima Grace

Horse: Ultima Grace (by American Pharoah)
Trainer: Wesley Ward
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Race: Queen Mary Stakes (G2) 
Time: 9:30 a.m. ET, Wednesday, June 19
Odds: 10-1

Ultima Grace shed her maiden tag with ease in her sole start at Keeneland at 4 1/2 furlongs on dirt in April. The daughter of American Pharoah  set a brisk early pace and barely had to be asked a question by John Velazquez to keep up the gallop, running out a comfortable winner at odds of 1-10. 

Although the form of that race is questionable, Ultima Grace subsequently impressed Ward with her work on turf, and given five of American Pharoah's eight grade 1/group 1 winners came on grass, it looks as if Ultima Grace should be suited by the Queen Mary.

Saturday Flirt

Horse: Saturday Flirt (by Mendelssohn)
Trainer: Wesley Ward
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Race: Norfolk Stakes (G2)
Time: 9:30 a.m., Thursday June 20
Odds: 12-1

Saturday Flirt is arguably Ward's number one Royal Ascot contender and is already proven on turf.   

Saturday Flirt - MSW - R01 - KEE - 042624
Photo: Coady  Media
Saturday Flirt

In her early breezes on the turf the daughter of Mendelssohn  impressed Ward, who bred the filly recently purchased by Jim and Fitri Hay. She made a winning debut over 5 1/2 furlongs in a maiden at Keeneland, despite getting away slowly and taking the widest route at the top of the straight but still scorching past her 10 rivals to win by a length and a quarter. 

Those patient tactics are set to be repeated at Ascot as Saturday Flirt bids to give Ward his third Norfolk Stakes winner after Shang Shang Shang (2018) and No Nay Never (2013). 

Burning Pine

Horse: Burning Pine (by Nyquist)
Trainer: Wesley Ward
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Race: Albany Stakes 
Time: 9:30 a.m., Friday June 21
Odds: 12-1

Burning Pine's sole start came on the dirt at Keeneland and she could not have done much more over the 4 1/2-furlong trip. 
The Nyquist  filly set brisk fractions and made all to win under a motionless Rosario in April. The form of that maiden has been franked, with multiple winners coming out of it. 

Burning Pine - MSW - R02 - KEE - 042624
Photo: Coady  Media
Burning Pine

Although clearly speedy, she is being targeted at the Albany over six furlongs, with Ward believing the rangy filly will be more suited by the extra distance. On pedigree this decision seems justified, the $80,000 yearling purchase being a half sister to Neat, a grade 3 winner over 1 1/16 miles. That success was on turf, giving optimism that Burning Pine won't be inconvenienced by the surface switch.

Missed the Cut

Horse: Missed the Cut (by Quality Road)
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: TBD
Race: Hardwicke Stakes (G2)
Time: 10:05 a.m., Saturday, June 22
Odds: 12-1

Missed The Cut is already a Royal Ascot winner, having struck in the Golden Gates Handicap two years ago when trained by George Boughey. Since transferring to John Sadler, Missed The Cut has tried his hand at dirt, winning the Tokyo City Cup Stakes (G3) at 1 1/2 miles on the surface at Santa Anita Park.

Missed the Cut and jockey Antonio Fresu win the Grade III $100,000 San Luis Rey Stakes Saturday, March 23, 2024 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, CA. Benoit Photo
Photo: Benoit Photo
Missed the Cut

The 5-year-old son of Quality Road  has been kept busy over the winter, winning a pair of grade 3s on turf back at Santa Anita before being beaten a length and a half by the Charlie Appleby-trained Silver Knott in the Elkhorn Stakes (G2T), on turf at 1 1/2 miles at Keeneland in April. 

While not quite up to the top level, Missed The Cut is a consistent horse who would relish a sounder surface on the 1 1/2-mile trip of the Hardwicke.