St James’s Palace Stakes

The St James’s Palace Stakes is one of the top mile races of the season for three-year-colts. It is the last of three Group 1 races on the opening day of Royal Ascot and often attracts 2000 Guineas winners from across Europe. Famous past winners include Giant’s Causeway (2000), Rock Of Gibraltar (2002), Frankel (2011) and Dawn Approach (2013).

St James's Palace Stakes

The Race

The St James’s Palace Stakes is run on the round mile at Ascot so provides a different test to the straight mile of the Newmarket 2000 Guineas. The runners are still relatively inexperienced and need to settle in the early stages if they are to finish the race strongly. The race can be quite tactical but it is invariably won by the top miler of their generation.

Famous St James’s Palace Stakes Winners & History

The St James’s Palace Stakes was first run in 1834, although it was actually a walkover for Plenipotentiary. The first competitive renewal was won by a horse appropriately named Ascot the following year. The race was originally graded as a Group 3 in 1971 before being promoted to Group 1 level in 1988.

The 1971 winner was Brigadier Gerard who had won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and would only be beaten once in his 18-race career. Kris atoned for his narrow defeat by Tap On Wood in the 1979 Guineas by beating Young Generation at Ascot. He also had an illustrious career with fourteen wins and two second places from his 16 career starts.

The high class winners have continued throughout the race’s history with the likes of Chief Singer (1984), Marju (1991), Giant’s Causeway (2000), Rock of Gibraltar (2002) and Shamardal (2005). Giant’s Causeway had finished runner-up at both Newmarket and the Curragh before winning his first Group 1 in the St James’s Palace Stakes. It was the first of five consecutive top flight wins for the horse who would later be dubbed “the iron horse” for his battling qualities and will to win.

Frankel added his name to the roll of honour in 2011, inevitably starting odds-on favourite after his astonishing performance at Newmarket. The superstar colt was not at his brilliant best in the St James’s Palace, overhauling the pacemaker with three furlongs to run before idling and only beating 20-1 shot Zoffany by three-quarters of a length. He would go on to establish himself as the greatest champion of modern times during an unbeaten 14-race career for the late Sir Henry Cecil.

Key St James’s Palace Stakes Trials

The two obvious form guides for the St James’s Palace Stakes are the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh. Half of the last twenty winners ran in the Irish Classic last time out and seven of them had been successful. 2021 winner Poetic Flare ran in both Guineas races, winning at Newmarket and finishing a close second at the Curragh.

The French 2000 Guineas (Poule d’Essai des Poulains) has also provided clues to the outcome here, although the last horse to win both races was Shamardal (2005). Horses that ran in the Derby should not be ruled out of calculations either. Dawn Approach (2013) and Circus Maximus (2019) both failed to say the mile and a half at Epsom but bounced back over a mile at Royal Ascot.

St James’s Palace Stakes Betting Trends

Seven of the last twelve St James’s Palace Stakes favourites have been successful. Frankel started at 30-100 in 2011 while Kingman (2014) and Gleneagles (2015) also started odds-on. Dawn Approach was a well-backed 5-4 favourite in 2013 with Canford Cliffs (11-4 joint favourite) in 2010, Without Parole (9-4) in 2018 and Poetic Flare (7-2) in 2021 other winning market leaders.

Circus Maximus (10-1 in 2019) was the only double-figure priced winner in the last twenty years. Most Improved was one point shorter at 9-1 in 2012. Shock results are rare in the St James’s Palace Stakes.

St James’s Palace Stakes Stats

Six of the last twelve winners had won on their previous outing and all but two had raced within the past month. Winning form over a mile is almost a pre-requisite for the St James’s Palace Stakes and a rating of at least 109 is normally needed to win here.

The John Gosden-trained pair, Without Parole (2018) and Palace Pier (2020), were both on the lower mark and taking a big step up in class to win this race. At the top end of the scale, the great Frankel went into the St James’s Palace Stakes with a rating of 130. A minimum of three previous racecourse appearances have been the order of the day and seven of the last twelve had already won at Group 1 level.

Top Trainers and Jockeys

Aidan O’Brien is the leading trainer in the history of the St James’s Palace Stakes with eight victories. These include three English 2000 Guineas winners in Rock of Gibraltar (2002), Henrythenavigator (2008) and Gleneagles (2015). John Gosden has been the only trainer to rival O’Brien’s record here in recent seasons, winning with Kingman (2014), Without Parole (2018) and Palace Pier (2020).

O’Brien’s former stable jockey Mick Kinane is the leading jockey with six victories. His first came aboard Dara Monarch in 1982 and his last on Azamour for His Highness The Aga Khan in 2004. Frankie Dettori has four victories to his credit; Starborough (1997), Galileo Gold (2016), Without Parole (2018) and Palace Pier (2020).

Betting on the St James’s Palace Stakes

The ante-post betting on the St James’s Palace Stakes opens shortly after the 2000 Guineas. Running plans are usually decided soon after that race with the winner heading for either the Irish Guineas, Royal Ascot or the Epsom Derby. History shows that Classic form holds up well in this race with remarkably few shock results.

Summary

The St James’s Palace Stakes is one of the most fascinating races of Royal Ascot, potentially bringing together the top colts from Britain, Ireland and France. There is usually some debate over which was the better Guineas and it takes a very smart colt to follow up Classic success with victory at this meeting.

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