The countdown is on! 10 Royal Ascot match-ups we can’t wait to see

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The countdown is well and truly on for the best week in the flat racing calendar as stars from around the world fight it out at Royal Ascot, all live on Sky Sports Racing.

Last year delivered all the usual drama and fanfare as Baaeed dominated, Inspiral was crowned and Kyprios claimed Gold Cup glory.

This time around there looks set to be a whole host of fascinating match-ups, including some mouth-watering rematches and a plane-load of international challengers.

Here is a look at 10 head-to-head battles that could light-up the five-day meeting…

Inspiral vs Modern Games (Queen Anne Stakes)

Inspiral was one of the stories of Royal Ascot last year as Frankie Dettori stormed back to form in the Coronation Stakes having previously failed to score in the opening three days and picking up a two-day riding ban in a frustrating Gold Cup defeat aboard Stradivarius.

Now four-years-old, John and Thady Gosden’s filly could well get Dettori’s final Royal Ascot off to a flying start in the Queen Anne Stakes.

As she did 12 months ago, Inspiral will head straight to Ascot, this time having bypassed the Lockinge at Newbury and another clash with Modern Games.

Connections of Inspiral insist all is well with the daughter of Frankel, but it leaves punters once again trusting that she will be fit and firing for her first start of the season.

Her main rival, meanwhile, will arrive in fine form after showing a smart turn of foot to win the Lockinge and leave trainer Charlie Appleby dreaming of Ascot glory en route to another Breeders’ Cup title.

How they bet…

Modern Games – 5/2

Inspiral – 3/1

River Tiber vs Asadna (Coventry Stakes)

Aidan O'Brien (left) is one Royal Ascot winner away from tieing Sir Michael Stoute's all-time record (82).

Image: Aidan O’Brien (left) is one Royal Ascot winner away from tieing Sir Michael Stoute’s all-time record (82)

Master trainer Aidan O’Brien has won a remarkable nine Coventry Stakes, dating all the way back to 1997, and looks to have a great chance of adding to his record tally with River Tiber.

The Wootton Bassett colt moved quickly to the top of the market after a dominant 10-length victory on debut at Navan before reinforcing his promise with another convincing win at Naas this month.

O’Brien was quietly bullish about his two-year-old after the latest success, describing it as “job done” before Ascot.

Just over an hour after River Tiber’s Naas run, an exciting rival emerged over at Ripon as George Boughey’s Asadna bolted up by 12 lengths on debut.

A 160,000gns buy at last month’s Breeze-Up Sale, the Mehmas colt was initially given a quote of 12/1 for the Coventry.

However, after being given a Racing Post Racing of 106 – the highest for a juvenile on debut since 2007 – and being tipped up by At The Races expert Hugh Taylor, that price soon crashed to 4/1.

How they bet…

River Tiber – 5/2

Asadna – 4/1

Coolangatta vs Highfield Princess (King’s Stand)

James McDonald (left) will come in for the ride of Coolangatta in the King's Stand

Image: James McDonald (left) will come in for the ride of Coolangatta in the King’s Stand

“The fastest filly in the land” is how jockey James McDonald described Australian superstar Coolangatta after she landed the Group One Black Caviar Lightning down under.

Ever since that day, the team has been aiming at the King’s Stand, a race McDonald dominated last year with fellow Australian sprinter Nature Strip.

The long journey to Ascot will be the first time Coolangatta has raced outside of her home country but she will be following in the footsteps of some very successful compatriots, with five Australian-trained horses winning the Group One sprint this century.

Coolangatta’s team may be confident but they face serious competition from the likes of Highfield Princess, who has been there and done it all before.

John Quinn’s talented mare rose rapidly through the handicap ranks, taking the Buckingham Palace Stakes at the Royal meeting in 2021, before going on to succeed at the very top level – scoring three times in Group One company.

Connections were delighted with her reappearance when second behind Azure Blue at York, setting up another exciting season competing against the best over five furlongs.

How they bet…

Coolangatta – 7/2

Highfield Princess – 4/1

Chaldean vs Royal Scotsman (St James’s Palace Stakes)

2000 Guineas first and third, Chaldean and Royal Scotsman, could face off again in the St James's Palace Stakes

Image: 2000 Guineas first and third, Chaldean and Royal Scotsman, could face off again in the St James’s Palace Stakes

After finishing first and third in the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, we could well see a fascinating rematch between Chaldean and Royal Scotsman in the St James’s Palace Stakes.

The former, trained by Andrew Balding, will add to what is shaping up to be an exciting afternoon for Dettori, having steered the Frankel colt to Classic victory last time.

That was very much a case of redemption for Chaldean after he unshipped the Italian at the start in the Greenham two weeks before.

Barring any similar stalls drama, he should be hard to beat but Paul and Oliver Cole have always thought very highly of Royal Scotsman and will fancy their colt to turn the tables.

The team has been delighted with Royal Scotman’s work since Newmarket, so much so they have supplemented him for Saturday’s Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh.

How they bet…

Chaldean – 5/4

Royal Scotsman – 3/1

American Rascal vs the rest! (Norfolk Stakes)

Wesley Ward's American Rascal looks hard to beat in this year's Norfolk Stakes

Image: Wesley Ward’s American Rascal looks hard to beat in this year’s Norfolk Stakes

American trainer Wesley Ward knows what it takes to win the Norfolk Stakes, taking the two-year-old prize in 2013 and 2018 with No Nay Never and Shang Shang Shang, respectively.

This year he sends over the regally-bred and appropriately-named American Rascal as he bids to upset the home team once more.

The colt is out of another of Ward’s super sprinters Lady Aurelia, who came to Royal Ascot three times in her career, twice heading back across the Atlantic as a winner.

“We’re coming for you” was the message from Ward as he previewed his travelling squad earlier this month and a quick look at the market suggests there may not be many who can serve it up to American Rascal.

Paddy Twomey has Ascot in mind for recent Cork winner Noche Magica, although he’d like to get another run into the Night Of Thunder colt in the interim.

Aidan O’Brien’s His Majesty is another looking for a second outing before heading to Ascot after impressing in the Listed First Flier Stakes at the Curragh at the start of May.

How they bet…

American Rascal – 2/1

Noche Magica & His Majesty – 8/1

Bay Bridge vs Adayar (Prince Of Wales’s Stakes)

Bay Bridge and Adayar could well meet again at Ascot next month

Image: Bay Bridge and Adayar could well meet again at Ascot next month

Bay Bridge was sent off 10/11 favourite for this race last year but was unable to match Joseph O’Brien’s State Of Rest on the day.

After disappointing again as favourite for the Coral-Eclipse, Sir Michael Stoute’s star bounced back in style to win the Qipco Champion Stakes, downing the previously unbeaten Baaeed, with former Derby hero Adayar in second.

The heavy ground conditions may not have suited as he returned in the Prix Ganay last month, finishing a close third, but the performance was enough to hold onto his place at the top of the Prince Of Wales’s market.

Adayar, meanwhile, proved he still has plenty of boot left as he easily saw off his rivals in the rescheduled Gordon Richards Stakes at Newmarket.

This could quickly become one of the hottest races of the week with French star Vadeni and last year’s Derby winner Desert Crown also short in the betting.

How they bet…

Bay Bridge – 7/2

Adayar – 9/2

Sakheer vs Little Big Bear (Commonwealth Cup)

Roger Varian could go head-to-head with Aidan O'Brien in the Commonwealth Cup

Image: Roger Varian could go head-to-head with Aidan O’Brien in the Commonwealth Cup

One of the more open betting heats of the big Group races at Royal Ascot, the Commonwealth Cup has been identified as the next stop for Roger Varian’s Sakheer.

The team were eager to test his stamina in last month’s 2000 Guineas but a combination of the mile trip and soft ground conditions saw Sakheer fade out of contention into seventh.

Varian described the race as a “non-event”, adding that a stiff six furlongs at Ascot will be more to Sakheer’s liking.

Little Big Bear is another who disappointed in the Guineas, finishing lame on his right hind after running into traffic early on, but could well benefit from a step back in trip.

Aidan O’Brien has yet to indicate where or when we will see last year’s Windsor Castle Stakes winner but a price of 8/1 for the Commonwealth Cup looks appealing.

How they bet…

Sakheer – 5/1

Little Big Bear – 8/1

Tahiyra vs Mawj (Coronation Stakes)

Mawj (right) and Tahiyra battle it out in the Qipco 1000 Guineas

Image: Mawj (right) and Tahiyra battle it out in the Qipco 1000 Guineas

Mawj and Tahiyra served up a thriller in the 1000 Guineas, pulling seven-and-a-half lengths clear of the rest of the field, and could renew the rivalry in the Coronation Stakes.

It was the former who came out on top at Newmarket for Saeed bin Suroor and Oisin Murphy and she is plotting a direct route to Ascot, while Dermot Weld sends his filly to the Irish 1000 Guineas.

A Royal Ascot winner or two will mean the world to Murphy after sitting out last year’s meeting while he served a 14-month ban for alcohol and covid breaches.

Weld may well rule that the Irish 1000 Guineas comes a little too close to Ascot for his filly to take in both targets, but the trainer is not a man to rush his big decisions so we can continue to dream about the big sequel.

How they bet…

Mawj – 6/4

Tahiyra – 7/4

Artorius vs Sacred (Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes)

Jamie Spencer (left) met traffic as he steered Artorius to be third in last year's Platinum Jubilee Stakes

Image: Jamie Spencer (left) met traffic as he steered Artorius to be third in last year’s Platinum Jubilee Stakes

Another heading over from Australia is Anthony and Sam Freedman’s dual Group winner Artorius, who will return to the Platinum Jubilee – now the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes – in an attempt to atone for a luckless defeat 12 months ago.

He flew largely under the radar for the race last year but weaved his way into it from the rear under Jamie Spencer before the pair just ran out of time behind Naval Crown and Creative Force.

Sam Freedman believes he has Artorius in “better form” this time around and expects his raider to be more tactically versatile with another year of experience under his belt.

Sacred is also being lined up for another shot at the race after finishing two places behind Artorius in fifth last year.

William Haggas’ mare enjoyed the perfect warm-up with a classy display in the Listed Chartwell Stakes at Lingfield this month.

How they bet…

Artorius – 7/1

Sacred – 10/1

Coltrane vs Eldar Eldarov (Gold Cup)

Coltrane and Eldar Eldarov will be aiming to take Kyprios' Gold Cup crown

Image: Coltrane and Eldar Eldarov will be aiming to take Kyprios’ Gold Cup crown

There are new members at the top table of the stayers’ division and an opportunity for a new Gold Cup king to be crowned following the unfortunate injury to defending champion Kyprios.

The first of those to emerge this season was Andrew Balding’s Coltrane as he ran out a dominant winner of the Sagaro Stakes on Ascot Trials Day.

It is a victory that left Oisin Murphy dreaming of a first Gold Cup success and he believes there is yet more to come from the six-year-old.

He faces a serious challenge though from last year’s Queen’s Vase victor Eldar Eldarov, who went on to Classic glory in the St Leger at Doncaster.

Last week’s Yorkshire Cup was always seen as a stepping stone to the Gold Cup for the four-year-old and he will have pleased Roger Varian with his effort in behind Giavellotto.

How they bet…

Coltrane – 3/1

Eldar Eldarov – 3/1

Watch every race from Royal Ascot live on Sky Sports Racing from Tuesday June 20 to Saturday June 24.

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