The 2023 renewal of Royal Ascot is just around the corner, with the prestigious five-day extravaganza taking place between 20-24 June. For many, it is considered to be the blue riband event on the British flat racing calendar — as racing of the highest quality is mixed with glitz and glam, while punters are also in the presence of royalty.
For the majority of trainers and jockeys, having a winner or two is an annual goal at Royal Ascot. But the biggest honour of all is getting their hands on the Top Jockey or Leading Trainer award — given to the rider or handler with the most wins over the course of the week.
Last year, the prestigious accolades went to the master of Ballydoyle Aidan O’Brien and his stable jockey Ryan Moore — who are both serial winners of the awards. Both will be up there to retain their titles in the betting odds, but let’s take a look at who will be in contention for the trainer’s trophy this time out.
Aidan O’Brien – 5/4
Named Leading Trainer 11 times since his first success 21 years ago, including five times in a row between 2015 and 2019, it’s hard to overlook O’Brien as the short-priced favourite to win the accolade again this year. The 53-year-old will, of course, have plenty of leading chances across the five days as he’s set to send a massive contingent of horses across the Irish Sea.
Some of his more likely winners at Royal Ascot 2023 include Coventry Stakes favourite River Tiber, Irish 2000 Guineas champion Paddington in the St James’s Palace Stakes, multi-time Group winner Little Big Bear in the Commonwealth Cup, Luxembourg in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and Drumroll in the Hampton Court Stakes.
O’Brien will also be keen to extend his record in the Gold Cup to nine wins and his best chance of landing this year’s feature is with Emily Dickinson, who is a 5/1 chance in the Royal Ascot odds.
On her chances in the race, the Irishman said: “We always thought this race would suit her well, because we think she stays very well.” Obviously, she handles some ease in the ground well and when there is ease in the ground, stamina comes into it more.
“We think the trip will suit her and even though she handles soft ground, we don’t think she minds fast ground.”
Charlie Appleby – 5/1
Crowned Champion Trainer for the last two years in a row, Charlie Appleby has one of the best jobs in the sport operating as the head man at Godolphin’s Moulton Paddocks in Newmarket. But with that comes a lot of pressure and he will be keen to keep Sheik Mohammed happy with enough Royal Ascot winners to land his first Leading Trainer award and he has potentially found form at the right time.
Appleby will have plenty of chances as well, with Modern Games fancied for the Queen Anne Stakes and Tagabawa in contention for the King George V Stakes, while Bold Act and Castle Way are both 6/1 shots for the Hampton Court Stakes and the King Edward VII Stakes respectively.
2021 Derby winner is still going at the age of five and he will go head-to-head with the aforementioned O’Brien runner Luxembourg in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.
On his chances in Wednesday’s top-level contest, Appleby said: “Any of these Group 1 races are hard to win, and if you think we’ve just got Luxembourg and Bay Bridge to worry about then more fool you. Whoever turns up, we will respect them.”
John and Thady Gosden – 5/2
John Gosden is about as experienced as they come and his son Thady has been learning from one of the best in the business since they confirmed a joint operation at Clarehaven in 2021, even becoming the first duo to win the Royal Ascot trainer’s title in their first year together.
Their top chances this year include Inspiral, who is the market leader in the Queen Anne Stakes, Saga in the Listed Wolferton Stakes, Laurel in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes, Al Asifah in the Ribblesdale Stakes and 5/1 chances Torito and Epictetus — who are both entered in the Hampton Court at the time of writing.
With so many short-priced entries and a jockey in inspired form such as Frankie Dettori, who will be appearing at Royal Ascot for the final time before retiring at the end of the season after over 30 years in the saddle, it would be foolish to rule out the Gosdens regaining their title.
Andrew Balding – 18/1
The man currently second in the Flat Trainers’ Championship to the Gosdens, Andrew Balding has been in inspired form this season as he hunts down that lucrative title for the first time and the return of Oisin Murphy will be a massive bonus on big occasions like Ascot.
The Kingsclere man was runner-up to the father-son duo in 2021, but has a good chance of enjoying another successful Royal Ascot this year. His shortest-priced runner of the week will likely be Chaldean, who won the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket back in May, in the St. James’s Palace Stakes.
Balding’s other leading hopes include Gold Cup favourite Coltrane (5/2) and Teumessias Fox in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes. But it is going to take a lot of his longer-priced horses to cause a fair share of upsets if he is to land the Leading Trainer award.
William Haggas – 18/1
While William Haggas might not have the great Baaeed to win him some of the biggest races on the calendar this year, as the Shadwell star has been retired to stud after winning four Group 1s in a row last year, the 62-year-old will still have plenty of other top-class thoroughbreds and a jockey to match in the form of Tom Marquand. His best chances at Ascot include Sacred in the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes on Saturday and My Prospero in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.