Royal Ascot is now just around the corner and it is certainly time for the excitement to build, with seven Group 1 races taking place across five days of high-class action.
However, it is a pair of two-year-old Group 2 contests that also whet the taste buds in 2016 as a couple of the most talented juveniles in training are set to descend on Berkshire.
Aidan O’Brien has been responsible for two of the last five winners of the Coventry Stakes and seven victors since 1997.
Caravaggio is the most exciting of the trainer’s two-year-old brigade this term, although there is still some difference in opinion over whether he will tackle the Coventry over 6f or the Norfolk Stakes over the ultimate 5f speed test.
It’s two victories from two for Caravaggio so far, with the latest coming over 5f in a Listed contest at the Curragh. However, the fact this came on a soft surface suggests that a step up in trip should pose no problem.
O’Brien has also previously indicated that he has no concerns over the horse having the stamina for 6f and he comfortably beat six previous winners at the Curragh.
US trainer Wesley Ward has previously saddled five Royal Ascot winners and is certainly highly respected for his string of speedball sprinters.
The Queen Mary Stakes over 5f has unsurprisingly proved a lucrative contest, with Acapulco’s success last year following that of Jealous Again in 2009.
Ward has also trained 2013 runner-up Sweet Emma Rose and Spanish Pimpernel, who was fourth the following year after being uncharacteristically slow out of the starting gates.
Lady Aurelia is on track to be Ward’s Queen Mary Stakes raider this year and the filly’s only start to date was in a low-runner maiden back in the States. The contest was a very similar one to that which Acapulco finished third in on her sole start before arriving at Royal Ascot.
Remarkably, the race was over less than 5f and Lady Aurelia won by further than seven lengths.
She has to be at the top of any ante-post Queen Mary Stakes shortlist.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.