Big two set to get Royal Ascot underway

ROYAL Ascot 2011 will start with a clash of the titans as Goldikova takes on Canford Cliffs in the Queen Anne Stakes on Tuesday.

The star milers are among a field of seven declared for the contest that opens the five-day extravaganza at the Berkshire track.

Freddie Head’s Goldikova, winner of 13 Group Ones including this race last year and the Prix d’Ispahan on her return, will be accompanied by her pacemaker Flash Dance.

Canford Cliffs, who has won at the last two Royal meetings, started off this season with success in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

His trainer Richard Hannon has, however, taken out Dick Turpin, who was the only absentee at the final declaration stage.

Aidan O’Brien’s Cape Blanco, last year’s Irish Derby and Irish Champion Stakes victor, drops back to a distance below a mile and a quarter for the first time since his two-year-old days.

Godolphin’s Rio De La Plata, the Barry Hills-trained Ransom Note and Cityscape from Roger Charlton’s stable complete the field.

* ELZAAM is to be given his chance in Group One company in the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot on Saturday.

The Roger Varian-trained sprinter was just touched off in the Coventry Stakes at this meeting last year before losing his way slightly but bounced back to form with a six-length Listed success at Newbury last month.

“Hopefully Elzaam will run in the Golden Jubilee. It’s a big step up and he’s one of those horses for which things sometimes haven’t gone to plan,” Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, told At The Races.

“We tried him in headgear at Newmarket in the spring but that didn’t work. He’s a happy horse and doesn’t need it.

“We took them off and dropped him out at Newbury and things worked out much better. We’ll be riding him that way again.

“He was impressive that day, he showed a good turn of foot which we always thought he had from his homework.

“What impressed me was the sheer speed to pass those horses and maybe looking back to Ascot last year we ended up going too soon with him.

“Maybe he’s a horse that needs holding on to and using for that turn of foot.

“It’s a relatively open race and well worth giving it a go.”

* CONNECTIONS of Maqaasid are hoping the filly will prove conclusively she stays a mile when she lines up for the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday.

After finishing third in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and drawn badly when eighth in the French equivalent in two previous attempts at the trip, Maqaasid will try to make it third time lucky.

“I thought she ran a fabulous race at Newmarket in the Guineas, but possibly she didn’t get home in the last 80 to 100 yards,” Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, told At The Races.

“She seemed to come out of that race very well so we took her to France, but we pretty much knew our fate with that draw (14 of 16), you need to have all the luck in the world.

“It just didn’t work out and she never had a race at all. She was the one filly who did make up some ground of those drawn badly. I thought she finished off the race pretty well and John (Gosden) has been happy with her since.

“Any filly that has the speed to win a Queen Mary you doubt whether she can truly stay a mile. We don’t know that but she has settled down mentally and is a high-class filly.

“If she gets the trip I think she will go close. She’s been very consistent and has hardly run a bad race.

“Last year she was a bit buzzy, but now she takes things much more in her stride and she certainly gives herself a chance of staying.”

* AUSTRALIAN sprinter Star Witness heads a global field of 19 for the the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot tomorrow. Danny O’Brien’s speedster Star Witness, the mount of Steve Arnold, will start from stall 18 in the five-furlong dash.

The two American raiders, Wesley Ward’s Holiday For Kitten and Todd Pletcher’s Bridgetown, have been drawn 17 and 11 respectively.

Hungary’s ace Overdose is in stall 15 as the ’Budapest Bullet’ attempts to atone for his disappointing run in the Temple Stakes at Haydock on his British debut.

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