Royal Ascot is a five-day race meeting like no other in that it has a presence on the global stage. With thirty races across five days, it’s generally considered to offer the best quality racing in the British Flat Racing calendar. It takes place next week from Tuesday June 19 to Saturday June 24 and, for the second year running, prize money will be worth more than £4 million. Here, Bobby Hall talks to his friend and leading racehorse trainer, Charlie Hills, about the meeting:
When do you start preparing for Royal Ascot?
Ascot is pretty much at the forefront of our minds as soon as the season starts. Most of the two-year-olds will need a couple of runs prior to the meeting to gear up to it and not all the horses we have in mind will make the grade. For the older horses, it’s not up to us. The handicaps are extremely competitive and they will need to have either have won or been placed in their last race to get a run at Ascot.
How do you decide which horse will run in which race?
It pretty much goes on their previous run and what distances they’ve covered. For the two-year-olds, it depends on how they are bred and whether we think they can cover five or six furlongs or even 7. We base the decision on which horse we think will suit which race.
Which has been your most successful meeting so far?
Back in 2015, I had a couple of Group 1 winners. That was probably my best year yet. As a trainer, you really want to come away with a win in a Group 1 or Group 2 race but it’s a really competitive—probably the most competitive meeting of the year. It attracts a massive global audience, too. These days, horses are coming from America, Australia and Japan which is making it even more challenging.
What makes Royal Ascot special for you?
It’s really about the tradition. I love the British summer season and this is one of the defining events in the calendar and a sporting highlight of the year. Ascot stands alongside other prestigious sporting and summer events such as Wimbledon, the Grand Prix and the Chelsea Flower Show and I enjoy being part of the history that’s made there each year.
What are you looking forward to this year in particular?
We’ve got three really strong horses running: Battaash [a four-year-old with 6 previous wins] who is running in the King’s Stand Stakes; Equilateral, who is due to run on Friday in the Commonwealth Cup; and Mutawaffer, who is running in the Windsor Castle Stakes at 3.40 on Saturday.
Which horses do you fancy for the week?
Wesley Ward has a few good runners—I’m looking forward to watching Chelsea Cloisters in the Queen Mary on Wednesday. Cracksman [ridden by Frankie Dettori and trained by John Godsen] will also be one to watch in the Prince of Wales Stake. And another highlight will be the Godolphin-owned Harry Angel who will run on Saturday in the Diamond Jubilee at 4.20.
Charlie Hills (01488 71548; charleshills.com)