Royal Ascot 2024: International Challengers

Together with the Royal procession, the sheer quality of the racing, and unrivalled millinery efforts, one of the key aspects which makes the Royal Ascot Festival stand out from the crowd is its international flavour. France, the USA, Australia, and Hong Kong, are amongst the nations to have tasted success at the Berkshire showpiece over the years.

Heading into the fixture, UK punters will understandably know a little less about the form of these overseas raiders, but history has taught us to ignore them at our peril. With that in mind, here we present a snapshot of the most fancied overseas contenders set to add a cosmopolitan edge to the most anticipated fixture of the flat racing year.

Facteur Cheval – Queen Anne Stakes

  • Country – France
  • Trainer – Jérôme Reynier
  • Sire – Ribchester

The French are no strangers to success in the festival opener, with Valixir, Goldikova, and Solow all crossing the English Channel to land the Queen Anne in the 21st century. Leading the charge this year is this son of the 2017 Queen Anne winner, Ribchester. Second in a soft ground edition of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at this track in October, he arrives on the back of a career-best effort to win the Group 1 Dubai Turf out in Meydan.

Big Rock – Queen Anne Stakes

  • Country – France
  • Trainer – Maurizio Guarnieri
  • Sire – Rock Of Gibraltar

Six lengths ahead of Facteur Cheval in that Queen Elizabeth II Stakes was this son of 2002 St. James’s Palace Stakes champ, Rock Of Gibraltar. Appearing impossible to catch on the soft ground that day, he may be the one to beat should the rain arrive, but he needs to bounce back from a subpar display in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

Ramatuelle – Coronation Stakes

  • Country – France
  • Trainer – Christopher Head
  • Sire – Justify

By the most talked about sire of the past couple of seasons and out of a group-winning mare, Ramatuelle makes stacks of appeal on paper. Whilst yet to land a Group 1, she has largely delivered on that potential in winning three of her seven starts. Getting a taste for Britain last time out, she ran a cracker to finish third in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Horizon Dore – Prince of Wales Stakes

  • Country – France
  • Trainer – Patrice Cottier
  • Sire – Dabirsim

Another French contender set to have their second experience of the track is the dual Group 2 winner, Horizone Dore. Zero from four in Group 1 company, he came closest to breaking his top-level duck when going down by just a short head in the Prix d’Ispahan last time out. Third behind King Of Steel and Via Sistina in the Champion Stakes, he won’t have those rivals to worry about this time, with the former out through injury and the latter unlikely to make the trip over from South Africa.

Metropolitan – St. James’s Palace Stakes

  • Country – France
  • Trainer – Mario Baratti
  • Sire – Zarak

With the 2000 Guineas 1-2 of Notable Speech and Rosallion, and one of last season’s most impressive juveniles, Henry Longfellow, all in the mix, the St. James’s Palace Stakes promises to be one of the races of the meeting. That trio dominate the market, but bidding to upset the party is French 2000 Guineas champ, Metropolitan. Looking value for more than the 1/2l winning margin that day, he may go close to becoming the first French-trained winner since Sendawar in 1999.

Darlinghurst – St. James’s Palace Stakes

  • Country – France
  • Trainer – Jérôme Reynier
  • Sire – Dark Angel

Notable Speech isn’t the only runner headed into the St. James’s Palace Stakes seeking a five-timer. Also successful on his four most recent starts, Darlinghurst has progressed at a rate of knots this season. Impressive in a Group 3 at Chantilly last time, this demands more, but there may well be further improvement to come from this striking individual.

Asfoora – King Charles III Stakes

  • Country – Australia
  • Trainer – Henry Dwyer
  • Sire – Flying Artie

Home to many of the finest sprinters on the planet, Australian trainers regularly target the meeting’s leading events for the speedsters. The race formerly known as the King’s Stand Stakes has fallen to our antipodean cousins five times since the turn of the century – Nature Strip the most recent Australian winner, having led the field a merry dance in 2022. Flying the Australian flag this year is the four-time Group-winning mare, Asfoora. Having disappointed on soft ground on her British debut in the Temple Stakes, connections will hope the rain stays away.

Ultima Grace – Queen Mary Stakes

  • Country – USA
  • Trainer – Wesley Ward
  • Sire – American Pharoah

With 12 Royal Ascot wins, US handler Wesley Ward is among the most successful overseas visitors to the June fixture. Four of those 12 wins have come in this 5f sprint affair for the juvenile fillies. As ever, Ward looks set to be strongly represented in 2024, with Burning Pine, Saturday Flirt, and Ultima Grace all among the current entries. With all three winning impressively last time out, choosing between the trio isn’t easy. However, the vibes appear particularly strong about this daughter of the brilliant 2015 US Triple Crown winner.

Dark Trooper – Wokingham Stakes

  • Country – Qatar
  • Trainer – Alban De Mieulle
  • Sire – Dark Angel

Sharing a sire with Darlinghurst, Dark Trooper may be familiar to UK fans, having previously been based at the Lambourn yard of Ed Walker – picking up two wins over the Wokingham course and distance during his time in Berkshire. Purchased by Wathnan Racing in January and switching to Qatar, he recorded his first win for his new connections last time out at Saint-Cloud. In form and proven at the track, he’s the current favourite for this hugely competitive handicap on the closing day.