Friday 22 March 2019

Flat Season 2019 Preview

The 2019 flat season will begin in earnest with the Guineas Festival on May 4-5 and punters are excitedly counting down the days. It features the 1,000 Guineas and 2,000 Guineas, the first two Classics of the year, and the meeting ushers in months of spectacular action. There are 915 flat fixtures in total this year and fans can look forward to all manner of intriguing Group 1 contests before the season draws to a close on October 19. Here are the key meetings to look out for: 

Guineas Festival 

All eyes will be on Aidan O’Brien at this year’s Guineas Festival at Newmarket, as the Ballydoyle maestro has dominated this meeting of late. He landed the 1,000 Guineas in 2016 and 2017, and he has won the 2,000 Guineas in three of the last four years. However, much of the hype this year surrounds John Gosden’s Too Darn Hot, who is the clear ante-post favourite for the 2,000 Guineas. He is also favoured to win the other two legs of the Triple Crown – The Derby at Epsom and St Leger. Last year saw Saxon Warrior clinch the 2,000, while Billesdon Brook triumphed in the 1,000. 

Dante Festival

Racegoers can enjoy three days of high-quality action at York in May, including the Musidora Stakes, the Dante Stakes and the Yorkshire Cup. The victors of the Dante and the Musidora will be among the favourites for the Classics, while the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup is always ferociously competitive. Last year, Stradivarius romped to victory and that win marked the start of an epic winning streak. He went on to claim the Ascot Gold Cup, the Goodwood Cup, the Lonsdale Cup and the British Champions Long Distance Cup to cement his superstar status. 

Epsom Derby Festival

The Derby is considered by many to be the greatest and most prestigious race in the world. It has spawned a huge number of imitators, including the Kentucky Derby, but this is the biggest of them all and the most prestigious of the five Classics. It is the centrepiece of two excellent days of racing at Epsom, but you should also look out for the Oaks and the Coronation Cup. Masar won The Derby in 2018, and Too Darn Hot is the favourite to follow in those illustrious footsteps, but the likes of Dubai Warrior and Anthony Van Dyck are expected to provide stern competition. 

Royal Ascot 

The Royal Family will be out in full force at the richest and most famous race meeting in the British racing calendar. This year it takes place from June 18-22 and a total prize pool of £7.3 million will attract many of the world’s finest racehorses. It features eight Group 1 races, more than any other meeting of the year, and the Ascot Gold Cup is the biggest of the lot. Stradivarius is sure to be a big focus for any punters looking at the betting lines, but big hitters like Kew Gardens should also line up and it promises to be another gripping contest. The Queen Anne Stakes, King’s Stand Stakes, St James’s Palace Stakes, Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Commonwealth Cup, Coronation Stakes and Diamond Jubilee Stakes will also command huge attention. 

Eclipse Summer Festival 

The next Group 1 race of the season is the £750,000 Eclipse Stakes, named after a legendary 18th-century racehorse. It takes place at Sandown Park in Surrey and it is the centrepiece of a two-day festival on July 5-6. In 2017, the venerable Sir Michael Stoute tied the record for the most wins in this race when Ulysses landed, while jockey Oisin Murphy claimed his first ever Group 1 winner last year in the Eclipse. 

July Festival 

Attention shifts back to Newmarket later in July for three days of fun. The 6 furlong July Cup is Europe’s leading spring race and the roll call of recent winners includes US Navy Flag, Harry Angel and Limato. Lester Piggott won this race a record 10 times during his glorious career. 

King George Weekend

The £1.25 million King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is the highlight of the second most important meeting at Ascot. Poet’s World edged Crystal Ocean in a thrilling duel last year and it always provides a great spectacle. 

Glorious Goodwood

This is a magnificent meeting at one of the world’s most beautiful racetracks, nestled in the heart of the Sussex countryside. This year it takes place from July 30 to August 3 and fans can look forward to five wonderful days of racing. The three big races are the Goodwood Cup, the Sussex Stakes and the Nassau Stakes, but there is top-notch action throughout the festival. Stradivarius will attempt to defend the Goodwood Cup this year and that will be one of many highlights at Glorious Goodwood. 

Ebor Festival

This four-day bonanza begins with York’s richest race of the season, the Juddmonte Stakes. Previous winners include the legendary Frankel, while Stoute is the most successful trainer. Roaring Lion went on to win this race last year and an extremely strong field is expected in 2019. Also, look out for the Yorkshire Oaks and the Nunthorpe Stakes at this August meeting. 

St Leger Festival

Twenty-five thousand racing fans will pack into Doncaster to watch the best in the business battle it out for glory in St Leger in September. O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore are bidding for a hat-trick this year after Capri won in 2017 and Kew Gardens last year. 

British Champions Day

The season will wrap up in style at the British Champions Day at Ascot, which will be the most valuable day of racing in British history. Prize money across the six-race card for 2019 will be a record £4.35 million. Four of the races are Group 1 contests: the British Champions Fillies’ and Mares’ Stakes, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, the Champion Stakes and the British Champions Sprint Stakes. Cracksman and Roaring Lion were among the superstar winners last year and new legends are sure to be crowned this time around.